Calling ZTE anything less than persistent would be deeply unfair, but it’d also be a tad tough to say that their current strategy is in any way misguided. 2016 has seen the company launch the Blade V7 handsets for the mid-range, which impressed us with smart design and solid specifications at a friendly price. That’s good enough for most people, but for those of us that like our smartphones to sit on the bleeding edge? For us, ZTE have made the Axon 7. The Axon 7 is the sequel to last year’s Axon Pro, and like that phone, it’s gone all in on the specification race. However, it’s also got an eye for design too. Starting with what keeps the phone ticking, you’ve got a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4 or 6GB of RAM, an Adreno 530 GPU and a 3140mAh battery unit with fast charging (100% in 100 minutes, we’re told). It’s also got a micro-SD card expansion for when that 64GB or 128GB of storage runs out on you, along with the usual suite of connectivity options and sensors (USB-C included). The screen is a (QHD) 1440 x 2560 5.5″ AMOLED unit, covered by Gorilla Glass 4, in case you were wondering. All of those specifications add up to the world’s first Daydream VR ready smartphone. Those specifications all mark it out as firmly high end, but ZTE have been keen to place the design in the same bracket. As such, they recruited the design team at BMW’s DesignWorks, the group behind a host of bold, futuristic designs. So, what did they come up with? Well, by the looks of things, a muscular redesign of HTC’s One M8 from 2014. Like that phone, it has a unibody metal chassis, two large front facing speakers and strikingly similar antenna lines. It is, however, a little more overdesigned than HTC’s phone, with a recessed insert leading to the rear-mounted fingerprint reader amongst other design flourishes. It’s on the rear of the phone where you’ll find the 20MP f/1.8 camera with phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization and dual-tone flash. ZTE are keeping mum about who built the sensor, but if early reports are to be believed, it’s capable of taking some nice shots. That’s complemented with a 8MP front facing camera. Like most phone manufacturers these days, ZTE are making some bold claims about their audio processing hardware. Internally, the phone is packing a dual-driver set up for the front facing speakers for increased volume and definition, whilst the phone has a dedicated audio ship and DAC capable of powering high-end headphones and playing hi-res audio files. Hey, it’s even been endorsed by ‘world renowned pianist Lang Lang’, so you know it’s going to be good. On the software side of things, the Axon 7 is launching with Android 6.01, but ZTE assure us that the phone will get Android N shortly after launch, although both will run underneath ZTE’s pretty unobjectionable MiFavor UI. The 4/64GB model will be available in China in both grey and gold colour options from next week, costing just £300. As for the 6/128GB model, we’re still waiting for confirmation on release date, but we know it’ll be around £430. Given all the VR talk, ZTE are also selling a VR headset for around £50 in China. Perhaps the best news of all though is that ZTE are planning on bringing these devices around the globe, including England. We’ll be running a review roundup as soon as the notices start coming in, so hold tight for that.