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BARCELONA -- Most of us spend a lot of time looking at our smartphones, so it should be no surprise that ZTE is taking it to the next level with a biometric security solution that uses the vein patterns in the human eye to unlock the phone.
Yes, you read that right. The ZTE Grand S3, unlike Apple's TouchID, comes with Eyeprint ID, which scans your eyeball with the front-facing camera to verify that it's you before unlocking the phone. It's based on EyeVerify technology announced last year at MWC; it uses images the veins in the corner of your eyes as a unique identifier.
To do so, all you need to do is swipe down from the lock screen. A scanning box with a bright white area shows up (to help with dark areas), and you'll need to hold the phone close to your eyes. Once you do so, the phone will automatically unlock.
It's not fast, but it is quite secure, according to what we understand from ZTE. You can't fool the scanner with a photo or a video of your eyes. Furthermore, each time you do a scan, the system's algorithms learn and improve to be even more secure.
Thanks to this, ZTE feels confident enough that it plans to integrate mobile payments from banks and introduce other security applications to take advantage of this biometric security solution in the future.
Now, if this all sounds like a device you'll want to get, I'm afraid I have bad news for you. The ZTE Grand S3 is currently only available in China; ZTE couldn't tell us when it will be available for other markets, though we're told it will be made available globally soon. It's also not cheap for a Chinese-made device -- it retails for 2,999 Renminbi -- that converts to around $480, £310 and AU$610.
The plasticky phone doesn't quite stand out -- it very much resembles other handsets with its rounded edges. It's also quite thick at 9.8mm and not as slim as other similar phones such as the Xiaomi Mi Note with similarly sized screens.
The phone packs a 5.5-inch full-HD display (1,920x1,080 pixels) and has a 16-megapixel rear- and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. That's pretty good, but until we can fully test out the camera's performance with a review set, I can't tell you if it's any good.
The S3 is powered by a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, has a 3,100mAh battery, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage and has support for up to 64GB of external storage via a microSD card slot. It runs Android 4.4.
To be honest, ZTE's Grand S3 is a cool device, and having eye-scanning biometric technology is quite a change from the current fingerprint solutions. I'm not so sure if it's useful, though, given the awkwardness of holding the phone up to eye level just to get it to unlock (though you can use the standard pattern or PIN code unlock), but it's novel enough when compared with other Android phones, though the same can't be said of its design.