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This paper addresses the problem of 3D face recognition using simultaneous sparse approximations on the sphere. The 3D face point clouds are first aligned with a novel and fully automated registration process. They are then represented as signals on the 2D sphere in order to preserve depth and geometry information. Next, we implement a dimensionality reduction process with simultaneous sparse approximations and subspace projection. It permits to represent each 3D face by only a few spherical functions that are able to capture the salient facial characteristics, and hence to preserve the discriminant facial information. We eventually perform recognition by effective matching in the reduced space, where Linear Discriminant Analysis can be further activated for improved recognition performance. The 3D face recognition algorithm is evaluated on the FRGC v.1.0 data set, where it is shown to outperform classical state-of-the-art solutions that work with depth images.