At last, someone has built a smartphone specially designed for taking photos of the most important person in your life: you.
The Desire Eye is a new midrange smartphone from Taiwan-based HTC. It was announced earlier this month, and people are already calling it “the selfie phone.” That’s because it boasts a ridiculously powerful 13-megapixel front-facing camera as well as auto-focus, a dual-LED flash and the ability to record video at 1080p.
By contrast, the iPhone 6’s front-facing FaceTime HD camera is just 1.2 megapixels. Even its 8-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera can’t match the resolution of the Desire Eye’s selfie-cam. The front-facing camera on Samsung’s flagship Galaxy 5S is 2 megapixels.
The Desire Eye will be available within a month; its price has not yet been announced. Its positioning in the middle of the HTC line would seem to imply it will be less expensive than the company’s flagship HTC One M8, which starts at $200 on contract. But the blog Phone Arena reports it may cost just as much.
The selfie phone is one of two quirky new devices HTC announced in a bid to generate buzz in the ever-noisier mobile hardware market. The other is a hand-held camera called the RE, the appearance of which has been compared to a periscope or an asthma inhaler.
The theory behind HTC’s latest moves is that the devices we still call “smartphones” could just as easily be called smart cameras. That is, for many people, they’re not so much Internet-connected phones that happen to take pictures as they are Internet-connected cameras that happen to make calls.
It’s smart thinking, but industry watchers will note that it isn’t entirely novel. Nokia has already tried a similar camera-centric approach to differentiate its Lumia devices, with limited success. HTC must be hoping that Nokia’s problem is not the hardware, but rather its marriage to the unpopular Windows Phone operating system. Perhaps a camera phone like the Desire Eye that runs Android will fare better. And the RE hand-held camera, which connects to your phone via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, will work with both Android and iOS devices.
It would be easy to write off HTC’s new wares as gimmicky. The thing is, HTC has actually been making critically acclaimed smartphones for years. They just haven’t sold all that well, perhaps because they weren’t, well, gimmicky enough. If the Desire Eye can combine the company’s craftsmanship with a little more pizzazz, it might just have a chance to become the selfie-snapper’s gadget of choice.