HTC Desire Eye: The Best Selfie Phone Yet

Love snapping a shot of your mug on a camera phone, but upset that it won’t give you the sweet, sweet resolution that your rear-facing shooter will give you? HTC has your back with the new Desire Eye and its 13-megapixel front-facing camera just announced today.

Let’s take a second for that one: 13-megapixel front facing camera. Hell, I thought we’d reached the peak of the selfie camera-wars with HTC’s 5-megapixel front-facing camera on the HTC One M8. But nooooo.

Ever since that goddamn Oscars-selfie went viral, phone companies like Nokia, Samsung and now HTC are working on improving their user-facing cameras.

But first, let’s backtrack a bit and see if the Desire Eye is worth a look based on its other hardware.

It’s packing a 5.2-inch full HD 1080p display on the surface, while underneath you’re looking at 2GB of RAM and the powerful 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor from Qualcomm.

Elsewhere, you get 16GB of storage expandable up to 128GB via microSD, HTC BoomSound speakers, and a 2400mAh (non-removable) battery to keep it all going.

Now onto the cameras. You get a 13-megapixel BSI sensor in the rear-facing camera, wth a constant f/2.0, 28mm wide-angle lens and dual LED flash. Meanwhile, around the front, you also get a 13-megapixel camera with a 22mm, constant f/2.2 lens, as well as the dual-LED flash. That means you’ll never take a crap selfie again with the Eye.

Speaking of the ‘Eye’ name, you’ll understand it from the second you see it. Sans a glowing red-light behind the massive eye-like lens in the top of the device, it’s basically HAL 9000.

To give justice to its robot-like look, HTC has put some insanely clever software behind those big camera sensors to make it a great user experience beyond the hardware.

The camera can now be activated via HTC’s Motion Launch functionality first debuted in HTC Sense 6, and a quick swipe on the camera screen will see you seamlessly flip from front-facing to rear-facing camera.

In the same vein as its Zoe camera software, the HTC Desire Eye captures a small amount of video with your images so you can choose to animate or adjust your moments it accordingly.

There’s a new variety of ways to capture a selfie too so that you aren’t fumbling with a button on-screen while also trying to look suave. The Auto-Selfie feature detects smiles after one to two seconds, and the camera then automatically captures the photo. Similarly, there’s Voice Capture, which allows you to say “Capture” to snap an image. Alternatively, you can just say “Cheese”, which is a nifty little touch.

A Split Capture feature borrowed from Samsung inserts the person taking the image into the video captured from the rear-facing camera. Like we said, it’s a similar idea to Samsung’s Galaxy S5 camera software, but seeing it in action means it’s nowhere near as naff. Still not sure who’d use that though. You also get a Live Makeup feature similar to Samsung’s Beauty Face, but that’s where the Samsung similarities stop.

The HTC One M8 had a fantastic bit of software behind the camera that let you do everything from crop out passers by through to the ability change people’s faces so that they’re smiling. HTC is now taking that to the next level, and giving you an option called Crop Me In. It basically trims a subject out of any photo and allows you to drop that subject into any other image. For example, if you want to trick someone that you’re standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, record video of you saying hi and then crop it into an image of the famous Parisian landmark. Easy.

The sensor on the Eye also moves to keep people in frame. Using its face-detection feature, the software keeps you in shot when taking a video. HTC demonstrated a woman walking around a kitchen making dinner as her husband was on the way home from work. Leaving that odd hypothetical there for a moment, the Eye was used to keep the woman in shot as she flitted about the kitchen reaching for different things. Very nifty.

All of this photo fun HTC is calling the “Eye Experience”, and it hopes to roll it out to other phones like the One M8 soon. Of course, it takes a massive whack of processor power, so don’t hold your breath if you’re on anything older.

HTC has ditched the fancy all-metal design it loves so much on its One product line and opted for a white plastic shell, accentuated with a red stripe around the edges (it also comes in blue if that doesn’t float your boat, however). The whole thing looks like a stylish training shoe, and it’s waterproof to boot.

That’s right: HTC finally made a waterproof phone. It’s IPX7-standard resistant, which means it’s waterproof in one metre of water for 30 minutes.

To enable you to take photos underwater, HTC has given you a hard camera key on the device so you don’t have to tinker with the screen.

Stay tuned for our hands on with the HTC Desire Eye later on today!

Luke Hopewell travelled to New York as a guest of HTC.

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