back to article ZTE Nubia Z20: It's £499. It's a great phone. Buy it. Or don't. We don't care

Are smartphones getting interesting again? For the longest time, handsets occupied the same tedious rectangular form-factor. The sole areas of differentiation were found in the components under the hood. But then Apple introduced the notch, which, although divisive, forced copycat Android manufacturers to see how much they …

  1. Steve K Silver badge

    Well played, sir

    more polish here than you'd find in a Kiwi shoe polish factory staffed by some lads from Gdansk

    Well played sir!

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: Well played, sir

      "More polish than a Pledge factory in Gdansk" would have been a more, erm, polished way of putting it.

  2. Buzzword

    Not a Yotaphone

    The clever thing about Yotaphone was that the second screen was e-ink, to save battery life. I'm surprised nobody else has copied that idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a Yotaphone

      yes, this was a great idea, that never got picked up by mainstream makers. Perhaps people had unrealistic expectations, i.e. e-ink screen with all the benefits of e-ink screens AND regular screens, but with no drawbacks of either...

    2. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: Not a Yotaphone

      That's what I was remembering. I still think that is a better idea so that the second screen can persistantly show data of your choice without overly draining the battery.

      This seems very much a gimmick.

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Not a Yotaphone

        Presumably the second screen is more battery efficient in this phone? Anyone got any numbers on powerdraw per screen type. I guess hard to measure because more pixel means more numbers to crunch gpu/cpu.

    3. Whitter

      Re: Not a Yotaphone

      I still use my Yota phone 2 and have no intention of changing any time soon.

      The e-ink rear screen is genuinely very useful, be it for low power drain (5 days if you avoid the main screen), seeing the time in day-light, reading books on the train, capturing the front screen to the e-ink for parcel / ticket bar scannable QR codes and so on.

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Not a Yotaphone

      Samsung has done something similar with the "always on" screens of its more recent phones and the Planet Cosmo incorporates a second screen where it needs one.

      1. sorry, what?

        Re: Not a Yotaphone

        Not the same thing at all - the Always On display had a noticeable impact on battery life - so much so that I immediately disabled it.

    5. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Not a Yotaphone

      I loved that idea.

      I do not see the point of this device at all. Here's a really great screen, if you want you can turn the phone the other way round and use a much worse version.

      If you could use both screens at once I could see some niche applications for gaming or something, but as it is I've got nothing other than the selfie screen so you can selfie with your main camera. Now that's handy I suppose but still a weird idea.

      1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Not a Yotaphone

        If both screens were available at once, you could play Battleship with your seat mate on the train.

      2. sorry, what?

        Re: Not a Yotaphone

        Surely the point of this device is to avoid the notch and have "wall to wall" screen on the main side (and to only need 1 camera on the device while still supporting selfies and video calling)?!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

    Worse?! How could it be worse?! It's a bargain, a steal! TWO screens, TWO fingerprint readers, 28 cameras, ALL YOURS FOR JUST £499!!! That said, connect it to a 32 inch monitor, a wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, a wireless charging pad, and you can replace your £499 laptop. AND you get to make calls too! :)

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

      I've never paid £499 for a phone in my life.

      Hell, I've only ever paid that once for a laptop, and that laptop is still my primary device and has been for the last 8/9 years - it's on 24 hours, for gaming, work, personal, travel, etc.

      Expensive is okay if there's value there too. For a phone that I might carry around and use only when I'm stuck somewhere and totally bored, or for the occasional phone call, and will *never* use when I'm at home... sorry, no.

      Stop with the stupendous camera shite and stupid-edge screens already.

      1. davenewman

        Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

        You can do a lot better ordering phones from Chinese companies on eBay. They ship from warehouses in the UK. Currently I use a Cubot Max 2 £140.

        1. CDEFG

          Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

          Be careful with these, they can ship with dodgy software. It's best to reflash them with an OEM image.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

            ...cue a rant about how the "new" HTC10 my wife bought wouldn't do the OTA upgrade to Android 9 due to a "corrupt file system" and also wouldn't re-flash the official stock image from HTC, crashing half-way through the update process. Bought from an eBay seller purporting to be in Leicester and then, when trying to return the phone as faulty, turns out to be in Singapore (and also turns out to have several eBay accounts all with very similar names, created on the same date).

            Dodgier than a Naruto-running Jerboa driving a Dodge Cherokee to its dodgeball match...

          2. quxinot Silver badge

            Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

            > they can ship with dodgy software. It's best to reflash them with an OEM image.

   install the dodgy software you're already aware of?

            Screw that. LinneageOS or you're being a bit silly.

      2. HelpfulJohn

        Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

        "I've never paid £499 for a phone in my life."

        My latest phone, which I bought because some company took my credit without warning me, cost me £32. It makes voice calls, does text, has a sort of 1MP camera that can send legible screen-shots of web-pages (I know because I tested it) and runs more than a week between charges.

        For £32 it's a *marvellous* bit of tech.

        The previous one lasted a decade or more, did about the same things and would still be working had they not taken my credit. That one cost less than £30.

      3. JDX Gold badge

        Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

        That's nice Lee. But I don't think someone who uses a 9yo budget laptop for "gaming" is really in any position to lecture us on technology.

        1. Hans 1 Silver badge

          Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

          Laptop runs Minesweeper!

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      If you can replace your laptop with a phone, you're not doing much with either.

      One day, maybe, when we have finally discovered how to make room-temperature superconductors that will allow us to push processors past 4GHz, we might get computing platforms with the power of a mainframe and the size of a phone, but there is no phone today that can match an i7-powered laptop with 16GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD.

      Not one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If you can replace your laptop with a phone, you're not doing much with either

        hell, I wonder what those people with 128 Mb ram / 500MB hdd in their desktop did (probably not much!) in 1990s ;)

      2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        “ there is no phone today that can match an i7-powered laptop with 16GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD.”

        Except those that can. Like the iPhone 11 Pro or one of the latest Samsungs (I think). In terms of raw power in say, video rendering, they can easily beat many core i7 laptops.

    3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: But fuck it. It's £499. You could do worse

      I had a ZTE Axon 7 and it was in a constant state of barely working. It seemed to be entirely maintained by one or two part-time contractors. Thete were radio crash loops, Band 4 reception problems, WiFi Calling going dead, missing features, and UI bugs everywhere. I seem to recall there also being a parts shortage for repairs.

      ZTE promised a CyanogenMod release and 3rd party ROM support but it never happened. They did the opposite by releasing an update to disable ROM flashing. There was partial LineageOS support momentarily before everyone simply gave up on making the phone work.

  4. JRW

    Not Cool

    "taking selfies. Aside from that, I genuinely can't think of a routine use case for this feature, cool though it is."

    The only use case you could identify would be better served with a higher grade sensor on the front facing camera.

    Not cool in any way. It's a decent Droid phone spoilt by the 2nd screen, which just advertises the buyer is either extremely vain or purchases things without thinking them through.

    1. Steve Button

      Re: Not Cool

      Indeed. The last time I needed to take a selfie (yesterday) was for my ID badge at work... and I just got a colleague to hold the phone for me (Thanks, Paul).

      I'm just not super vain or particularly attractive, and so I don't want to be reminded of it.

      I think the plastic Pixel is still the best value when it comes time to replace my current Huawei P10.

    2. Tom Wood

      Re: Not Cool

      You could use it for playing Battleships?

  5. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    A solution to a problem no one wanted...

    The only benefit i see for a second screen is on iphones, since they always have a cracked screen when i see one.

    1. sbt Silver badge

      Another increase in attack surface

      It just seems like another fragile part on the outside of the phone to get broken. I'll be sticking with my flip case (with window).

      Mine's the one with the heavy keyring in the pocket. -->

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: sbt

        Your iphone has windows? Treason!

        1. sbt Silver badge


          Well, by that logic, the White House has windows, so lock him up!

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    Will it suffer lack of upgrades / patches

    Had a (budget, not a flagship) ZTE phone, now avoid them as zero patches / upgrades were released for it by ZTE.

    So was forced sown the root it route.

  7. DavCrav Silver badge

    "(Russian firm Yotaphone made three, although it collapsed into bankruptcy earlier this year)"

    I know why they went bankrupt if they only made three phones...

  8. Shady

    Half price

    Could I have one with one screen and one fingerprint reader for £249.50? Ta lots

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a quick reminder that... can buy a nexus 5 for £50 and put ubuntu touch on it. What's more it'll probably be supported for longer than your snazzy new phone anyway.

    That way you can worry less about the child slavery caused by your phone's production, then spend the £450 you've saved on palm oil or porn or something.

  10. Peter Prof Fox

    What about Skypiness

    Surely (I don't have a mobile with a touch screen and I don't do anything like Skype) it would be ideal for 'having a meeting' while on the 8:37 from Surbiton... OK - I admit it's a very bad idea.

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: What about Skypiness

      You can do that with most phones though? They just have 2 cameras, rather than 2 screens.

  11. joeW Silver badge

    "You can almost smell the pumpkin spiced lattes"

    I assure you, I can not.

  12. Jason Hindle

    Oh, are ZTE still a thing?

    I thought Trump had dumped on them.

  13. KeyPi

    I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

    "There's more polish here than you'd find in a Kiwi shoe polish factory staffed by some lads from Gdansk."

    I really really need your explanation here, my dear Brits. :)

    A happy Gdansk citizen

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

      Ze English, it be a strange language. The words ‘Polish’ and ‘polish’ look the same except for the capital ‘P’, but are pronounced differently and have completely different meanings. One has to do with humans from Poland, one has to do with making things shine.

      1. Vulch

        Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

        Also, Kiwi in this context is a brand of shoe polish rather than an antipodean flightless bird.

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

          Or a 3rd placed rugby team.

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

            "Or a 3rd placed rugby team."

            They are called All Blacks, not Kiwis. Like the polish.

        2. cdrcat

          Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

          Kiwi polish: invented by some Scots in Australia with a logo using a Maori name for a flightless New Zealand bird, made in England and owned by a corporation in the US.

      2. eionmac

        Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

        Polish pronounced POLE-ish

        polish pronounced PAUL-ish

      3. Peshman

        Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

        ..."One has to do with humans from Poland, one has to do with making things shine."

        My cleaning lady, Magda, is still confused.

      4. KeyPi

        Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

        I am talking about Gdansk and not the Polish/polish thing. Why from Gdansk?

        1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

          It's a city in Poland? Last time I checked anyway...

          1. Hans 1 Silver badge

            Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

            Careful, there ...

            PS: I am a Brit, with a German-sounding given name ...

        2. Hans 1 Silver badge

          Re: I am from Gdańsk and I beg for help

          Because it is funny sounding, hard G followed by d sound is not really common in English, they could have used Warsaw or Krakow instead but not nearly as exotic or funny sounding.

          PS: Magda is even more confused when I ask her to polish the gf's pole dancing equipment.

  14. EastFinchleyite

    The Case against.

    Two screens. Its going to be tricky working with it in a case. All my phones have lived in S-Line silicone bumper cases. (OK I know I'm clumsy). They have all survived my attempts at percusive destruction.

    How would you put this beast in a case while keeping both screens usable in daily life.?

    Also, £499 is more than I have paid for all three of my smartphones combined. (two Motos and a Galaxy)

  15. bobajob12

    +1 for the innovation, but I'll pass

    Summary of article: "phones have gotten boring, yawn. Hey, I really like this phone because it's not boring. But I racked my brains and can't find a reason to have a second screen"

    Based on that, then, what's the point?

  16. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Forgive me for asking...

    While you may have answered these questions via an image, none of your images included AltText for my screen reader to read, so I'm left to wonder: Does it have a headphone jack? Does it have an SD card slot? Does it have a removeable battery?

    I guess I could reread TFA to find a link to a product page & search there for the answers, but I've just read through all the comments (to make sure none of them included said info) & I'm left wondering why TFA didn't include the info in the first place...

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Forgive me for asking...

      I tried to edit my original post but the system told me (while I was editing it) that I'd taken too long then kicked me back out.

      I've reread TFA & found no product link at all. I will correct myself to say that the images didn't have sufficiently descriptive AltText to be useful in any meaningful manner. "This is a photo. Click to enlarge." isn't very helpful.

      I agree with the previous poster that wanted half the number of screens & FP readers for half the price. If you're going to take self portraits then just use the front camera/screen. Not that I'd bother since I can't see to know if I were taking a pic of the side of my head, the person behind me making faces over my shoulder, or even if the bloody lens cap were still on.

      "Ummm... you realize all these pics are totally black, right?" Sure I do. They look fine to me.

      *Explodes in sarcasm*

    2. Dave559

      Re: Forgive me for asking...

      @Shadow Systems: A tip of the hat to you for reminding The Reg about the importance of accessibility, but, no, I'm afraid the answers to your questions aren't mentioned in images or otherwise (and those particular features, or lack thereof, are those that many of us care about, and should have been noted).

      Although phones have some accessibility features nowadays, it's harder for those of us for whom they aren't (yet?) essential to tell whether they are properly adequate or not, and you have also made me think further: regarding those manufacturers who have been too eager to remove headphone jacks, it must make it a lot harder (perhaps almost impossible) to use a phone if you are blind or significantly visually impaired and can't see the screen to pair a Bluetooth headset to enable the headset so that you can then use the phone (and hear messages or web pages, etc) verbally?

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        At Dave559, re: handset accessibility.

        You've hit the nail on the head. I need a pair of headphones plugged in so I can keep from annoying everyone around me -- it's either headphones & a volume sufficient to hear through them or it's Disaster Area volume levels to hear the phone & pissing off everyone in kilometers around. Since I can't see to manipulate the screen, I can't do the fiddly bits to pair a BT headset to get it to work; I need headphones plugged in to hear the phone so I can hear the phone describing the BT settings to pair the headphones... Nice Catch22 situation, eh?

        I've given up on owning anything with a touch screen as a pointless waste of time. A "featureless slab of glass" is just that & I can't tell if I'm holding it front to back, upside down, or if the fekkin thing is even turned on. No buttons to feel, no haptics to get physical feedback from, & completely dependant on the screen reader functionality (or blocked by the lack thereof) of the device.

        Android supposedly has a reader, I've even heard it describing the tutorials to teach the accessibility, but then the tutorial fails at the "text entry field" portion & I can get no further. I can't get the phone to let me put anything in the TEF, my sighted helpers can't figure out why the phone won't let them put anything into the TEF, and I'm left with a brick.

        Apple supposedly has the best screen reader bar none, but I live on a fixed income & can't afford to pay Apple prices for anything. I bought a used Iphone SE & tried to learn it, but I got a call during the tutorial, the phone wouldn't let me answer the fekkin thing, then refused to let me restart the lessons to figure out how to use it. I wound up stuffing it in a drawer & giving Apple TheFinger in disgust.

        Computers with touch screens are a non starter given I don't use a monitor at all. I've got one, I plug it in when I need sighted help, otherwise it gets unplugged & left to gather dust.

        Manufacturers don't care about accessibility anymore than they care to produce software updates. It doesn't make them enough (any) money so those of us needing it can just fek right off. =-\

  17. sabroni Silver badge

    the display doesn't sound very useful

    But a touch screen on the back, so you can control a game without your fingers blocking your view, seems pretty useful.

  18. HelpfulJohn

    Rolly screens?

    Whatever happened to those roll-up flexible screens that were going to revolutionise Life, The Universe And Everything?

    One could easily envision a phone with one side sort of like a thick pen that was actually a ten or 12 inch screen.

    Or such a thing, with a rolly keyboard could be put unto an armlet or vambrace.

    Does anyone know what happened to rolly-screen tech?

    1. Evil_Goblin

      Re: Rolly screens?

      The "rolly-screens" are tootling along quite happily, yields are increasing for flexible OLED panels, the issue is encapsulating them - essentially finding an alternative to the "glass" on a conventional screen that will cope with all the flexibility and not degrade optically - if your rolly screen starts getting creases it won't be very popular.

  19. Andrew Hodgkinson

    Photos are "excellent"? In what universe?

    Seriously, that autumn park photo was just absolutely *horrible* - weird, impressionistic and inconsistent smearing and edge artefacts as some kind of screwed up noise reduction system seemed to have turned it into a result resembling impressionism. The trees themselves (particularly the lower parts, in shadow) were bad, but worse yet was any of the grass under them or in the distance. Just the in-page image looked fuzzy and strange, but when zoomed in, it looked outright faulty. Hideous.

    For £499, I'd be taking that straight back to the shop as unfit for purpose - based on your in-depth review of two photos (sigh) it's one of the worst performing cameras I've seen in a 2019 smartphone at that price point. Surely *half a grand* for the base level model means one should have some kind of standards here?! This is not a cheap device!

  20. Sssss

    You forgot to mention the 8k video camera ability. Ask them about the "Pro" video camera 8kp30 software update they promised since the last two phones? Still waiting.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

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