Selfies. Selfies. Selfies. People can’t get enough selfies. Apparently, we absolutely love taking pictures of ourselves. Traditionally, the front-facing camera on our smartphones is usually vastly inferior to the rear-facing camera. HTC wants to change that. Why can’t you get the same high-res image quality for your selfies, too? You can, if you buy an HTC Desire Eye with the “Eye Experience”.
- Display: 5.2-inch (1920 x 1080)
- Storage: 16GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD up to 128GB)
- Processor: 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core
- Memory: 2GB RAM
- Cameras: Dual 13-megapixel with dual-LED flash
- Mics: 3
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptx, NFC
- Battery: 2400 mAh
Nobody can say HTC isn’t design-focused. The company’s HTC One (M8) is a premium beauty, and arguably more attractive than the iPhone 6/6 Plus. As with all of its Desire-branded smartphones, the Desire Eye is made of plastic polycarbonate. The entire device is a little on the thick side, but it feels sturdy and solid.
The Desire Eye continues the usage of HTC’s “zero-gap” design language, which means you won’t find any kind of unnecessary cracks or line breaks anywhere. The plastic is injection molded and the two-tone pieces melt into each other as if they were one piece.
BoomSound stereo speakers are also back, but you may not notice them at first. Instead of the micro-perforated design like on the One (M8), the Desire Eye’s BoomSound speakers are thin slits that blend into the top and bottom bezel. It’s a handsome design.
Dual 13-megapixel Cameras
Did you think Sony’s Xperia C3 5-megapixel front-facing camera was impressive? Reality check: the Desire Eye has 13-megapixel front AND back camera. How’s that for no compromise? Not only that, but BOTH cameras have a dual LED flash to accompany them. Most impressive, indeed.
As I mentioned earlier, the inclusion of a 13-megapixel front camera with dual LED flash is a deliberate decision to improve selfies. The front camera is a 22mm equivalent (wider for fitting more people in a frame) and the rear camera is a 28mm equivalent.
Pictures look sharp on both cameras in good lighting. Selfies definitely are more detailed thanks to the higher-res image sensor. I didn’t, however, get to test any low-light capabilities. I’ll have to wait and see how the 13-megapixel cameras compare to the 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera on the HTC One (M8). Hopefully there isn’t much of a tradeoff.
New Camera Software
A high-res camera module is only one part of the equation towards high-quality selfies, though. The other involves software and HTC has added a bunch of enhancements to the camera to make selfie-taking more intuitive and fun.
For instance, the camera now has an auto capture mode and can take picture when it detects everyone is smiling. You can also use voice commands to activate the shutter; say “cheese” to take a still pic or “action” or “rolling” to start video recording. The smile detection worked great and cheese, too, but the camera had a hard time understanding “action” and “rolling.” It’s possible the software still needs some refining.
“Split Capture” enables you to take a split-screen image with the front and back camera at the same time.
Another feature called “Crop Me-In” green-screens you out and lets you place yourself into other backgrounds. (It’s not the cleanest, but it could be fun for the goofy.)
There’s also a skin-smoothing effect. If you’ve used a camera or another smartphone with a “beauty” feature, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I actually found the skin smoothing slider to a bit of fun, even if it did make my face unnaturally airbrushed.
Finally, there’s new Photobooth options which let you take pics in a film sheet or grid layout. Think PicStitch without the extra post-processing.
For video, the Desire Eye also has some extras. There’s auto face-tracking. For example, if you’re Skyping with three other people, the front camera will lock in your face, crop it, and track it even if you move around a location.
Zoe’s can now be shared to Instagram. And you’ll be able to create content at 7, 15, or 30 seconds worth (photos and video). Furthermore, Zoes won’t be limited to HTC’s own devices, but there will also be an app that’s compatible with non-HTC devices running Android 4.3 and 4.4, as well as an iOS app that will arrive at a later date.
I didn’t spend too much time messing around with the Desire Eye’s regular features since the attraction is its cameras. It’s still Android KitKat running HTC Sense 6, so not much has changed; BlinkFeed is still a swipe in from the left on the home screen. From what I could tell, the 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM is plenty powerful and everything seemed to fly. I didn’t notice any kind of stutters that would hamper the experience.
Pricing and Availability
The Desire Eye will be released in the U.S. with AT&T as an “exclusive launch partner”. According to HTC, pricing is ultimately up to them. As a Desire-branded device, it should be significantly cheaper than the premium HTC One series. No word on whether any other carriers will pick up the device after the initial launch. The Desire Eye is expected to launch this holiday.
I’m not much of a selfie junkie myself, but I can see the huge potential and market the Desire Eye is targeting. HTC says the Desire Eye was spurred because of the fact people just love selfies. One statistic: #me is the number three most tagged hashtag on Instagram. That’s pretty telling.
From my brief time with it, the Desire Eye looks and feels like a solid device with two ridiculous cameras fitting of today’s photography trends. I just hope partnering with AT&T exclusively as a launch partner doesn’t kill its chances at success.