The popularity of brands such as Xiaomi and Huawei shows that consumers are not necessarily chasing the best of the best when it comes to smartphones. They can be enticed to buy a phone with a combination of useful features and a low price.
HTC's latest, the Desire Eye, is out to test that theory. The 5.2-inch device packs a high-definition screen, a better-than-average quad-core processor and the latest Android operating system. All for $628.
Its dual 13-megapixel cameras are the Desire Eye's key selling point. Aimed primarily at a younger, selfie-loving crowd, the Desire Eye wants to show that users do not have to suffer the disappointment of low-quality photos from the front camera, simply because all the attention has been lavished on the rear lens.
In fact, aside from the rotating 13MP lens on the Oppo N1, the Desire Eye has the highest-resolution front-facing camera of any smartphone in the market.
Front and rear cameras are almost identical. Each has dual LED flash. The front camera has a f/2.2 aperture and 22mm focal length; the rear, f/2.0 and 28mm, better for fitting more people into a group shot or wefie.
This also means the rear camera is capable of recording more light than the front camera. Side-by-side comparisons of shots taken with the two cameras will show this.
In good light, images are sharp and detailed. In low light, the front camera struggles with colour balance and details. The flash helps with close-ups but the result is a softer image.
HTC has introduced a photo mode that lets you fire both cameras simultaneously. The theory is that you can snap a photo of something in front of you and capture your reaction to it at the same time.
It could work with food pictures if you really want to show off your gluttonous face waiting to pounce on the grub. If the angle is not right to fit two subjects in front of both lenses at the same time, there is a delayed option that fires off the rear camera first, before triggering the front one.
HTC is rolling out an update that lets you stitch your image (from the front camera) to a photo taken with the rear camera. So if a wefie does not cut it, you can insert your image into a group photo.
I saw this done once in a demo that required some fine-tuning but it does make better use of both lenses.
Cameras aside, the Desire Eye sticks to standard HTC phone features. The HTC Sense user interface is still there and it is due for a refresh.
Its Blink Feed app, which pulls notifications across different apps, is rather bloated, especially as apps these days tend to simplify their use.
Facebook, for example, has a built-in browser that will take you directly to any link without leaving the app. With Blink Feed, you need to access the Facebook app before being taken to the link.
This going back and forth means extra steps, which make it less than convenient.
The plastic build of the Desire Eye provides a nice grip and keeps the device lightweight. But the smaller capacity battery means you should always have battery packs on hand.
For the price and its features, the Desire Eye should satisfy any social media shutterbug.
Processor: 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Operating System: Android 4.4.4 KitKat
Display: 5.2 inches, 1,080 x 1,920 pixels (424 pixels per inch)
Camera: (Front and rear) 13 megapixels
Memory: 16GB (expandable microSD, up to 128GB)
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 3/5
This article was first published on Dec 31, 2014.
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