HTC Desire Eye review

The ultimate selfie-phone?

HTC Desire Eye review
The camera to tap into your soul, attached to the front

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Front-facing camera

Let's jump right into it. This phone's centrepiece is the front-facing 13MP camera that promises you the best selfies on the market.

Except, well, it doesn't. Not quite. There are several features that HTC has debuted with this phone, which I'll deal with in depth later. Right here though, I want to talk about the camera's performance.

HTC Desire Eye review

HTC's got its Eye on you

It's sufficient, but really not the groundbreaking feature HTC wants it to be. We picked up the early signs during our initial hands-on test of the phone. It's not as good in low light as the iPhone 6 or the HTC One M8. The extra megapixels pick up greater detail but the colour isn't as well balanced and leans towards a whiter, washed out appearance.

This can be alleviated somewhat in darker situations with the dual-LED flash that HTC has added to the front of the device. It's an addition that sets the Eye apart as few other smartphones – the Acer Liquid E3 is an exception – can offer a front flash.

HTC Desire Eye review

Just a guy taking a picture of himself taking a selfie...

Video calling is handled at 1080p Full HD quality and I found the Desire Eye was always accurate with its face-tracking ability. Even as I moved about the room, it kept my face in focus.

Other features, like split selfies are well integrated and add value to the device. But since HTC is planning to bring them to other phones in its line-up in the future, the uniqueness is kind of lost here. More on that later, though.

Waterproof unibody

HTC uses a double shot injection moulding process to build the polycarbonate casing for the Desire Eye. The process means there are no gaps or seams for water and grime to get stuck in and the Eye really shines for it. Everyone I showed the phone made a positive comment about its construction.

It's not impervious though. My review handset now boasts a small scar next to the power switch from one of the times it slipped out of my hands. Something I have yet to tell HTC about, actually.

While the One M8 and LG G3 were rightly praised for their gleaming aluminium bodies, I often felt the need to wrap them up in some kind of case to protect them. That meant I rarely appreciated exactly how well made they are. Not so with the Desire Eye, it feels capable and sturdy and I think that's one of its strongest features.

HTC Desire Eye review

The build quality is great, and you've got two colour options to choose from

Sense 6.0

HTC's Sense UI really helps to differentiate it from its Android brethren. It runs smoothly and brings with it several unique apps and widgets that vary in terms of usefulness. Some are great, like BlinkFeed and Zoe, which is now a separate app that lets you create "stories" around your photos and videos.

Some are not so good: it's unlikely you'll use stocks unless you're a trader by profession while HTC News requires you to set up an HTC account in order to view a news feed about the company. Frankly, you'd have to be a pretty massive HTC fan to bother with it.

There are several themes and wallpapers to take advantage of and, while it's nice, there are plenty of downloadable alternatives on the Google Play store. But enough of that here, click over to the next section to read more about the HTC Desire Eye's interface.


The HTC Desire Eye isn't going to let you down when it comes to media. The rounded edges and matte design give it a comfortable feel when you're holding it in landscape to watch a video. And audio is well served by both the BoomSound front-facing speakers and the 2.5v amplifier inside the headphone jack.

The biggest constraint you're going to get with media is the 16GB storage inside the Desire Eye. And even that can be worked around because HTC has added a microSD slot that'll boost the storage by up to 128GB.

If you're going to watch video on a smartphone, then a 5.2-inch, Full HD display with a 424 pixel density isn't a bad way to do it. The Desire Eye will go up to an impressive level of brightness, although you can expect that to take a chunk out of the battery.

HTC Desire Eye review

Google Play Movies wants to sell you films from Google's online store

The phone arrives with Google's Play services which means you can download or stream music and video to the device from the competitively-priced online store. Every now and then you get sales and reductions to take advantage of as well.

One small annoyance is the lack of a pre-installed video player that'll let you watch your native files. Since the HTC Desire Eye runs Android, you can attach it to your PC and drag and drop over any video files you fancy. But all you get when you boot up the phone is Google Play Movies which tries to force you into streaming.

I gave up trying to find my standalone media through the app and downloaded MXPlayer from Google Play instead. It's a small point, but one that needs to be made – why isn't there a standard video player installed already?

HTC's music player, by contrast, is a solid offering and will catalogue your music and display the album art where available. There's also a cool visualiser and the ability to download lyrics to your songs as well. These are fringe benefits of course, but they can come in handy if you want to practice your karaoke.

HTC Desire Eye review

The Desire Eye handles music playback with aplomb

The actual audio is crisp and nicely balanced. And even though the Beats partnership is long gone, there's good range across the spectrum including the bass. HTC has yet to add active noise cancellation to its handsets and it's not been added to the Desire Eye.

The size of the Eye might not be optimal for tapping out messages, but it's great if you like to use your smartphone for gaming. I'd like to see HTC shrink the bezels slightly on future handsets but it wasn't long before I was sunk into Modern Combat 4, Real Racing 3 and Sonic the Hedgehog. The first two test out graphical power whilst the third is all about speed.

HTC Desire Eye review

The Desire Eye offers a great gaming experience

I didn't have any problems (besides battery drain) while gaming on the Desire Eye and the extra screen size is great for squeezing in more of the action. Additionally, the handset kept cool even during extensive sessions.

I've found that previous HTC handsets, especially the original HTC One, tended to get quite toasty when put under a lot of strain. That's not the case here and, as I mentioned before, it's also really comfortable to hold for long periods.