ZTE's Blade Spark raises the bar for $100 smartphones

You get a fingerprint sensor, Snapdragon chip and selfie button.

If you're wondering what $100 will get you in a smartphone nowadays in the US, ZTE has a solid reply with the Blade Spark. Available for AT&T Prepaid customers, it offers some nice things like a 5.5-inch HD display and 13-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front camera. That's well and good, but there are some other surprising touches for such a cheap device: a rear fingerprint sensor, dedicated selfie button, Gorilla Glass 3, Dolby audio and Android 7.1.1, the very latest version.

The Blade Spark also looks kinda nice with a simple black front and grippy-looking dark gray back. You're not going to be playing graphics-intensive games with the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 chip and 2GB of RAM. But this is more aimed at folks that want a solid selfie camera, convenient access via the fingerprint sensor and a big screen and Dolby sound for reading, videos and photos. To help that, it also supports up to 128GB of microSD storage, on top of the 16GB built in.

It's nice that the Blade Spark is up to the minute, security and features-wise, with Android Nougat -- even recent flagship devices often aren't. With malware coming at smartphones from all angles, that guarantees users should at least have the latest security patches. Since this device could end up in the hands of kids or teens, they'll be a little better protected.