On a yearly basis, new phones get introduced to the public at the Mobile World Congress. For this year, ZTE announced the latest smartphone model—their ZTE Grand S3. Following the previous model, the Grand S3 comes with a 5.5-inch full HD display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. Powering the device is a 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM and Adreno 330 GPU. Its 16GB internal storage capacity may be expanded by up to 64GB with the use of a microSD card. With two camera options, users can enjoy choosing how they want to take pictures—a 16MP main camera situated on the rear end of the phone and another 8MP camera available in front. The rear-facing camera is equipped with dual flash, autofocus, and video recording. Upon unboxing, the phone comes pre-equipped with Android 4.4 OS. Thanks to its 3100 mAh battery, the phone can last throughout a day of use. The phone is available in a silver color option.
The ZTE Grand S3, announced at MWC 2015, caused a big stir in the smartphone world - a phone that lets you use your eyes as a password to unlock the phone! But is the ZTE Grand S3 an innovative device? This review will help you find out more:
Overall Build and Design
One reason why so many consumers love the ZTE Grand S3 is the design. It doesn't try to masquerade as a high-end phone, but it also doesn't have the “cheap” vibe that many low-cost phones have. It is constructed with a metal frame and the back is made out of smooth plastic. At 9.8 mm of thickness, it doesn't feel like you're holding a brick either.
With its 5.5in display, the ZTE Grand S3 can definitely be considered a large smartphone which approaches phablet territory. The display is quite impressive, featuring a resolution of 1920 x 1080, which gives this smartphone the same pixel density as Apple's latest iPhone 6 Plus.
The Grand S3 is powered by a Snapdragon 801 chip that has a quad-core Krait 400 CPU running at a speed of 2.5 GHz. In addition to its powerful CPU, it has 3GB of RAM and Adreno 330 graphics. This would make the smartphone one of the better-performing ones in terms of speed. It has absolutely no lag when switching from one application to the next or launching a variety of apps. But to find out how well it performs when compared to other smartphones on the market today, benchmark tests would need to be performed.
It features 16GB of internal storage space. While this might be disappointing for some, the good news is that it can be expanded very easily as the smartphone has a microSD card slot. It offers 4G LTE connectivity, plus 802.11ac WiFi. As is common with other ZTE devices, it has dual SIM card slots and supports Bluetooth 4.0. The ZTE Grand S3 has a 3,100 mAh replaceable battery.
Camera Specifications and Performance
As many of us use our smartphones as a digital camera to capture many of life's moments, the quality of a phone's camera will be a deciding factor for a lot of consumers. The ZTE Grand S3 has two cameras, one in the front and one in the back. Both have pretty impressive specifications: a 16MP rear-facing camera that has a dual LED flash, combined with an 8Mp front-facing camera that is useful not only to take selfies, but also to use the new eye-unlocking feature that will be discussed further down in this review. Testing shows that both the front and back cameras were able to capture superb-quality photographs.
If you know a thing or two about photography, you can use the Pro mode on the ZTE Grand S3's camera to improve the look of your photos. It allows you to adjust many variables, such as the white balance, ISO and many other settings that you would find on a dedicated digital camera.
Other Features of the ZTE Grand S3
The most interesting additional feature that the ZTE Grand S3 offers its user is the ability to unlock the device with one's eyes. This is similar to the way fingerprint sensors on the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 let you use just one finger to unlock your phone.
The biometric security technology in the ZTE Grand S3 is called “Eyeprint ID” and has been created by EyeVerify, an American company. While it is relatively new to consumer devices, the technology behind using eyes to authenticate a user has been around for quite a while now in various access-control systems. It consists of using a camera to identify the blood vessel patterns in your eyes.
Even though this is an interesting feature to have on a smartphone, those who have tried it have found that it wasn't too practical. In fact, it's a bit awkward when compared to using a fingerprint scanner like on the iPhone 6.
Using the feature is relatively simple. All that you need to do is to swipe down from the top of the phone's lock screen and wait for the prompt to appear. The unlocking prompt will ask you to line your eyes up with a green line on the screen. As soon as the device sees that you are a match, the phone will be unlocked. The problem is that it takes a couple of seconds of scanning time and that the device needs to be held in a certain way in order for the technology to work correctly.
Testing has shown that this biometric security feature works very well, even for users that wear glasses. But one major drawback is that it may not work properly when it's too dark, as there is no flash on the front-facing camera and the software needs to recognize your eyes.
Currently, this method of authentication is only used to unlock the device. However, there is speculation that ZTE might team up with third-party vendors to integrate it into apps that require a particular attention to security, such as online banking, encryption apps and secure messaging services.
What About the Software?
The ZTE Grand S3 uses Android 4.4 KitKat and comes installed with ZTE's My Favorite UI interface. This interface is quite colorful and relatively easy to use, as it is based on folders, as opposed to an app drawer. Some have asked whether an update to Android 5.0 Lollipop is coming soon, but there is no word of it yet.
How Much and Where to Find It?
Currently, the Grand S3 is only available on the Chinese market, but as ZTE is making a lot of effort to increase the popularity of its products around the world, it is expected that it will be available elsewhere later in 2015. The current price is 3000 yuan, which is around £310 or $450 US.
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