Gadgets

Fero Iris Review: An affordable phone with a Samsung Galaxy Note 7-like eye scanner

Fero Iris has been making the headlines lately with their iris scanner in an affordable package. The company was generous enough to let us have one Iris in order to bring you a comprehensive review.

I have been using the phone as my main device for several days and I made some notes on it including an unboxing article.

The Fero Iris is an affordable phone going for KES 8,999 exclusively at Jumia, does it deliver a worthwhile experience, or did the company cut on quality to arrive at such a low cost? Find out in the following full and exclusive review.

Design

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The Fero Iris is a beautiful phone; the front is all glass with capacitive touch buttons at the bottom. Surrounding the glass is a chrome –like ring that subtly reflects light to make the phone have a premium look.

The top part is quite busy, it houses the selfie camera, the Iris scanner, the light sensor, proximity sensor and the earpiece. The back looks like metal at first impression, but after you hold the phone on your hand you will notice that it’s made of smartly crafted plastic.

Fero even went ahead to put faux metal antennas and even hairline textures to emulate brushed aluminum. The back hosts a camera and one LED flash and below it at the bottom is the loud speaker grill. The rear cover is removable to reveal a battery, two micro sized sim card slots and a memory card slot. The battery is removable so it eases replacements.

Display

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The display, according to me, is the most appealing feature of the Fero Iris. It’s a 5.18 inch display with a HD resolution. It the best I have seen on an affordable phone.

The colors are rich and deep, they almost look like AMOLED renders,  however, the screen is of IPS variet , the higher quality ones, I must say. Blacks are pitch black and whites are bright.  Sunlight legibility is top notch too, the Iris screen can be super bright to see even under direct sunlight.

However, when it comes to pitch dark environments, the brightness of the display does not go low enough to let you read the screen comfortably.

The Iris scanner

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The headline feature for this phone is the Iris scanner, it’s the tech that gives the phone its name. Fero did a great implementation of it, the scanner works reliably and can be used as one’s primary method of unlocking the device. It works even in pitch darkness which is quite amazing.

During the launch, the Fero executives praised the tech saying that even identical twins cannot crack each other’s security. If someone makes you touch your phone’s fingerprint sensor while you are sleeping, they will have full access to your device, the same exploit cannot be done with an iris scanner, so that’s a plus for the Fero Iris.

Camera

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The Fero Iris has an 8 MP back camera that produces great pictures in daylight. When there is sufficient light, you will get saturated pictures with good amount of detail.

The dynamic range of the phone is really good too, the sky will not get overexposed. You can have your subject photographed against the bright sun and still end up with blue skies at the background.

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The trick in the Iris camera is waiting for the focus to lock in. Sure the focus is fast but, in some scenarios it takes a moment before it locks on your desired subject. Images in-focus and under good lighting come out great.

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In low light scenarios, photos do not share the same appeal,  they appear noisy and make the subjects look grainy. Activating HDR helps a bit though, but in overall do not expect wonders in this scenario.

The selfie camera is terrible, the two megapixels produces soft looking images with no detail at all. Even under direct sunlight, they still under-deliver.

The video recording is capped at 720p HD on the 8MP rear camera. Fero does not explicitly tell you what resolution you are recording at, the settings are simply categorized them as low, medium, high, and fine.

The HD option is the “fine” setting. The videos require you to continuously tap on the subject to have it on focus, otherwise you will end up with blurry looking footage.

The quality of the footage is acceptable especially under bright light. The selfie camera can record 480p footage but I wouldn’t recommend it.

A nice touch with the Iris camera app is that it bumps up the brightness to max when you launch the camera. It lets you see the viewfinder in its full glory; this way, you can judge the quality of your photo before you take it.

Performance

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The quick start up guide paperwork in the box states that the Iris packs a Mediatek 6737, but upon close inspection with CPU-Z app, we discovered that it is the Mediatek 6735 running the show. Well, I guess there are different chipsets being packaged for different markets. The difference between the two chipsets is very minor so you won’t be left wishing you had the other.

The Mediatek 6735 inside the Iris is coupled with only 1GB of RAM and has an antutu benchmark of 31,111.

In real life performance, the Iris is smooth and consistent. If you try multitasking heavily, the phone will stutter. I noticed the stutter when transitioning from Google Play music to Google Keep. If you stick to one app at a time then the performance becomes lag free.

Gaming is okay in light titles. Heavy games such as Asphalt and Sim City will also play but in low graphics settings. Multitasking while playing a game, however, is not recommended due to the low RAM.

Software

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In terms of software, the phone ships with android 6.0 and a mainly stock interface which has a light custom launcher. Fero only changed the stock home screen launcher and left the other bit of android 6.0 untouched. This maintains the overall smooth operation of the phone.

My only wish is that they could have left the stock launcher intact since their custom one does not have an app drawer; this means that all apps are on the home screen and it can get messy and unorganized at times.

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A nice touch with the custom launcher is that the wallpaper keeps changing automatically every few moments. The wallpaper seems to have been selected specifically to show off the brilliance of the display.

Apps installed are mainly stock with no bloat-ware apart from the sweet selfie app for taking selfies with an array of filters, and WPS app that is an editor and viewer of all Microsoft office documents and PDFs too.

Telephony and Multi-media

Despite all the advancements of the tech industry, a phone’s primary role still remains to be communication, that is, calls and messaging. The Fero Iris has a loud ear piece that makes it easy to listen to the other person talk without straining. The quality of the audio is decent, not very crisp, but good overall.

Messaging happens via the stock text app, the keyboard got me a couple of days before getting the hang of it. Google Keyboard app comes preinstalled, it’s a great keyboard but the size of the screen makes the layout require a slight learning curve but once you get used to it, texting becomes a breeze.

In terms of multimedia, the earphone jack produces super loud music; I really loved the output. I would go as far as recommending the phone to audiophiles on a budget. The quality easily beats the Tecno Boom J7 which was marketed as a music-oriented gadget.

The only issue is that you will need to invest in a decent pair of earphones, the one that come in the box are not as good and their wires seem very weak, they can snap at any moment.

The loud speaker is also great, it is quite loud and doesn’t distort even at the highest volume. Fero even made small bumps around the rear facing speaker grill to make sure the audio doesn’t get muffled when you place the phone on a flat surface.

Battery

The phone comes with a 2500mAH battery; it has a decent battery life that can take you through a whole day of use, provided you use the phone sparingly. The Mediatek chipset, the optimization of android 6.0 and the HD screen make it possible to achieve decent battery life. Charging however is excruciatingly slow. It takes over three hours to charge from 0-100% using the charger that comes in the box.

Conclusion

The Fero Iris is a great device for the price, it has a display with rich colors, takes beautiful pictures under bright day light, has a reliable iris scanner, decent battery life and a quick affordable price tag. At KES 8,999, the Fero Iris is an obvious recommendation.

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