With a lens that looks like a giant robot staring at you, the HTC Desire Eye looks stylishly intimidating, but what's it like to use? We went hands on to find out.
HTC announced the Desire Eye at its Double Exposure event in New York yesterday.
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 3000.
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. Believe it or not, that feature actually works really well.
There are a bunch of other camera features you can read about here that make up the HTC Eye camera experience that the manufacturer is now trying to champion.
Honestly, when I heard that HTC was calling its new camera software upgrades the "Eye Experience", I cringed a little. It's tough to make software a selling point, but HTC has pulled it off beautifully with the Desire Eye.
If you love taking photos on your smartphone, this is the phone for you. It's not high-res enough to challenge the Lumia 1020 yet, nor does it do low light better than the iPhone 6, but goddamn if you want a photo of yourself and your friends, or any number of other shots that can be captured, this phone is your new best friend.
Here are a few photo tests:
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...and the obligatory selfie test (please be kind, I don't sleep much -Luke):
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Honestly, I'd go as far to say that the Eye Experience, paired with great hardware on the new Desire, makes it an ideal compact camera replacement device.
The only concern we had about the camera hardware was the fact that the button itself is a little hard to activate, meaning you can set off some shake in the body trying to force it down. That, and the fact that the door on the MicroSD card slot is flimsy as an tin roof in a breeze.
The design of the Desire Eye makes for a slightly slippery experience, but let's remember I am a man of tiny hands. I'm willing to forgive it a slip or two as soon as I catch sight of those red bands on the side, though. Such a pretty phone.
The HTC Sense 6 experience from the One M8 is back, and it's sleeker and more discreet than ever. It's the closest you'll get to finding a third-party manufacturer skin that's out of the way, relatively helpful and not a complete hinderance to Android.
There's a hope that you'll be able to get the new Eye cheap, too: because it's a Desire product, it will hopefully come in at a sub-$500 price point so you can have all your goodies for a low price.
Stay tuned for our full review of the Desire Eye soon.
Luke Hopewell travelled to New York as a guest of HTC