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HTC Desire Eye review: A fine phone that should be a little cheaper

Jared Newman | Dec. 16, 2014
Maybe it's the name, but I expected HTC's Desire Eye to be less expensive.

Like most Android phones with custom interfaces on top, the Desire Eye ships with the slightly-outdated Android 4.4 KitKat. The good news is that HTC's Sense overlay is among the better customizations you'll find, with an understated look that doesn't pester you with cartoonish beeps and bloops. You do have to ignore a few superfluous HTC apps, though, including a notepad that's not as good as Google Keep , and the Zoe photo remix sharing app that has zero chance of catching on.

As for an update to Android 5.0 Lollipop, there's no official word from HTC yet, though the company has a strong track record, and we're looking at a January to March timeframe according to an unconfirmed report.

An off-color camera

The cameras — note the plural form — are supposed to be the Desire Eye's headlining feature, with 13-megapixel shooters and flash on both the back and front. But the numbers don't tell the whole story, and the Desire Eye's cameras come up short in some areas where they should shine.

In medium to well-lit situations, the Desire Eye's rear-facing camera does a fine job. Colors can run on the warm side, but that's not always a bad thing, as I found the Desire Eye's more vibrant tones preferable to the iPhone 6 Plus' camera in certain photos, even if they weren't as true to reality. Low lighting is a different story. Despite an f/2.0 aperture that lets plenty of light in, I struggled to take photos that weren't too blurry to discard.

My feelings about the Desire Eye's selfie cam are similarly mixed. You won't find another front-facing camera that captures this much detail, as every pore and eyelash can be held up to close scrutiny, and the wide-angle lens can comfortably fit at least three people in the frame at arm's length. But on the front camera, the color reproduction problems are even more pronounced. Sometimes the camera made my skin pale while accentuating redness on my cheeks and lips. Other times, it gave me an unnaturally green hue, and in low light it bathed me in too much shadow. Flash can help compensate in some of these situations, but the result rarely looks natural.

At least HTC's camera software is top-notch. For selfies, you can have the shutter activate by voice, automatically snap photos when everyone's smiling or create a "photo booth" image of several sequential photos. Camera settings are easily available along the left side of the screen, and if you snap burst photos by holding down the shutter button, you can then pick the best one and automatically discard the rest. My only complaint is the shortage of tools in the built-in editor — even basic lighting and contrast controls are missing — but this is easily solved with third-party apps like Aviary.

 

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