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ZTE Smart Voice: Star 2 gets wider release, voice control software update coming soon

ZTE’s Smart Voice voice control features on the Star 2 smartphone really impressed us when we tried out the phone earlier this year, but we were frustrated the feature wasn’t available on a phone we could actually buy. The good news is this will all change, because ZTE has announced it will add the feature to all its devices in the future.

Updated on 05-06-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in comments from ZTE regarding the Star 2’s launch outside China, and the availability of Smart Voice on other devices.

Adam Zeng, ZTE’s CTO of mobile devices, called voice control a “core focus” for the company, and said it will continue to develop the technology on the Star series of phones, but “will no longer limit it” to this series alone. When we tried Smart Voice on the Star 2, it was only confirmed for release in China,  although the system responded perfectly to English — using both British and American accents.

Related: ZTE’s voice control system makes Siri look silly

After contacting ZTE about the new Smart Voice developments, we’ve been told the Star 2 is currently being prepared for launch outside China, with plans being finalized for Southeast Asia and Europe. The Star 2 is the only current ZTE phone set up for Smart Voice, which uses a combination of hardware — such as the Audience eS704 voice processor — and software to operate. ZTE’s future smartphones will all feature either the full Smart Voice experience, or a slimmed down version with only the key commands.

Software update will add basic Smart Voice features to older ZTE phones

ZTE hasn’t forgotten about its existing devices. While Smart Voice requires certain hardware components, the company is working on a software-only update which will add some of Smart Voice’s features to certain older phones. Additionally, it intends to use Smart Voice in wearables, smart home hardware, and in cars.

What makes ZTE’s voice control system so great? First, it actually works, and works consistently. It was its continued ability to instantly respond, accurately, to our requests that made it standout. The system doesn’t need a data connection to work, and can be used to perform various functions on the phone, from opening apps to taking photos. It’s even possible to swap between the front and rear camera using a voice command.

The voice control system isn’t the only new ZTE feature we’ve been impressed with recently. We tried out the retina security system on ZTE’s Grand S3 phone at Mobile World Congress, and found it to be an accurate, speedy way of unlocking a smartphone.

There’s no release date for the Star 2 yet, but at least we know it’s coming. Similarly, the software update doesn’t have a release schedule yet. We’ll keep you updated here.