HTC has grabbed selfies by the proverbial with the launch of the HTC Desire Eye. The new handset hits the headlines by offering a front-facing 13-megapixel camera with dual LED flash.
This cyclops phone may be a knee-jerk reaction to the latest social trend, but with everyone and their cat jumping on the selfie bandwagon, we can't see a better time for the HTC Desire Eye to launch.
We had the chance to spend some time with HTC's new handset to bring you our first impressions.
This is a big phone with a 5.2-inch display and the body is on the large side. It measures 151.7 x 73.8 x 8.5mm and weighs 154g. The bodywork here is plastic so, although rivaling the flagship HTC One M8 in terms of specs, this handset isn't quite as premium.
It feels solid in the hand however and the tactile finish and soft curves make it comfortable to hold for a device of this size, even if it's going to be a struggle for those with smaller hands. It's larger than the M8, larger than the Sony Xperia Z3 and only just smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus.
This is also a waterproofed device, carrying an IPX7 rating, meaning you'll be able to take that selfie in the bath you've always wanted. The rating isn't as high as the likes of the Xperia Z3, but it won't be worried about being used in the rain. It will survive a dunk, but you're advised not to use this phone underwater.
It's a sealed body, so there's no access to the battery, but with trays to access the nano SIM and microSD card slots. These latter slots are interesting, as HTC has avoided the flap approach used by Sony Mobile, instead opting for trays that seal when plugged in.
It's a small detail, but a nice one, and again highlights some of the great work we've seen from HTC when it comes to design. You'll also notice the return of the camera button. As you'll find on Sony Xperia handsets, a long press from a locked device will launch the camera. On the Desire Eye this can be programmed to launch the main camera, front camera, or just the last camera used.
The design doesn't quite give the space over to the BoomSound speakers that have adorned HTC devices though the past two generations. Here the drilled grille is gone and BoomSound is squeezed into a slit, so you still have stereo front speakers. We've not had the chance to fully test their performance, but in brief they sound pretty good.
A pair of 13-megapixel cameras
Where HTC is really making the Desire Eye stand out is equipping it with a pair of 13-megapixel cameras. It steps away from the UltraPixel and Duo Camera message pushed by the One family, instead taking an approach that on one side is more conventional and on the flip side, slightly more dramatic.
Not only do you have the 13-megapixel camera on both the front and the rear of the Desire Eye, but you also have a dual LED flash. That means that, potentially, the Eye should overcome some of the challenges that front-facing cameras have experienced in the past.
That's true: you now have a front camera that will do everything that the rear will. It has resolution enough to capture plenty of detail, it offers autofocus, as well as being able to illuminate you in dark conditions.
On paper that sounds great, although some of that benefit is lost when you consider the difference in application between front and rear cameras. The need to zoom, taking advantage of the extra pixels, isn't so great on the front camera, because you're typically only ever using it at arm's length.
The front-facing flash is also extremely bright, so you're likely to dazzle yourself in the process, and as we know about close-range flash photography, in dark conditions you'll illuminate the subject (you) and the background will be dark.
But there are some fun features on offer. The option to have Split Camera capture is handy, the Crop Me In feature can give you hilarious results (but we've not had any we'd actually want to share) and the face tracking on Skype calls will certainly be useful, although we haven't had the chance to test it out yet.
There's a range of enhancements in the camera software - which HTC is calling "HTC Eye Experience" - that will also be coming to other handsets, like the HTC One M8. We've detailed exactly what to expect from the HTC Eye Experience in more detail in a separate article, so if you want to read about it more depth, be sure to click through.
Of course, we'll save any definitive judgements on the camera performance until we have the HTC Desire Eye with final software in for review, but our first impressions are that the results in normal and good lighting are great, but low light poses something of a problem.
We're impressed with some of the front-facing video we've captured though, and there's certainly plenty of fun to be had here.
Although the Eye carries the Desire name, this handset has specs that plop it firmly into flagship territory.
There's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, clocked at 2.3GHz, with 2GB of RAM along with a 5.2-inch 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution display, giving you 423ppi pixel density.
The display gives a visual experience very much like the HTC One (M8), and in the short time we've been using the Desire Eye, we have to say it appears to have the same qualities: great viewing angles, plenty of punch and a nicely balanced colour palette.
The user experience is very much what you'll find at the top end of HTC devices, with Android 4.4 KitKat and Sense 6.0, enhanced with the HTC Eye experience software additions. The handset is slick and fast, offering every inch of the premium experience.
There's 16GB of internal storage, although you can expand this by up to 128GB with microSD and there's a 2400mAh internal battery. We've not had to time to test its endurance, but it's a lower capacity than the One (M8) and there's a bigger display, so we suspect it won't have quite the stamina.
The HTC Desire Eye is an interesting device. It's fun in design and has fun ambitions. It wants to rule the selfie roost and we're impressed that HTC hasn't just pitched this out with a higher-resolution sensor and nothing else. The addition of a flash is interesting, but we're most impressed by the additional options that the software brings.
Of course it doesn't offer the Duo Camera features you get on the M8 because of the different hardware loadout here, but we can't honestly say we miss the UltraPixel sensor, or the effects the Duo Camera brings. At the same time, we question whether the move to a 13-megapixel sensor on the front really acheives what HTC wants from this device. It might grab headlines, but might not be as capable a sensor that works better in low light, such as front-facing UltraPixel.
The Desire Eye might be a little on the large size. That may be a necessity to accommodate the two camera models, but that results in a device that's premium in many ways, but also wanting to appeal to those who are really keen on selfies. We can't fault the experience, which is so close to that of the M8, and that's certainly an appealing aspect of the Desire Eye.
The HTC Desire Eye is due to launch in October across EMEA, Asia and the US. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but the word on selfie street is that it will cost you somewhere around £350.
HTC also launched a camera today, called the HTC Re, at it's Double Exposure event in New York, alongside the public release of Zoe, it's new video editing and sharing platform.