HTC Desire Eye review

Cyclops with identity crisis

HTC Desire Eye review

HTC is struggling; the sales figures of many models are disappointing. With the development of the Desire Eye they try to catch up on the selfierage and thus turn the tide.

It is a camera with two 13 megapixel cameras, both equipped with a wide angle lens and double flash. The screen is 5.2 inches and has Full HD resolution. Furthermore, the Desire Eye is equipped with BoomSound speakers. Moreover, due to its IPX7 certification, the device is the first HTC to be water resistant to a certain extent. However, it is not dust-free, but more on that later.

Other devices with remarkably high resolution self-image cameras are the Huawei Ascend P7 and the Archos 50 Diamond. Both do not have the 13 megapixels of the Eye, but 8 megapixels are certainly not bad either. You might not immediately think about it, but maybe the own HTC Desire 820 with its 8 megapixel selfie camera is also a strong competitor.

What's with the device?

In the case of the Desire Eye, we have had a device at our disposal that is purely for testing purposes. As a result, the device is delivered in a boring white box and not in a nicely dressed and equipped surprise package. Except for the Desire Eye, we only received a microUSB cable with adapter for the socket. By the way, the consumer version is not much more extensive, only a headset and manual are included.


The Desire Eye is an eye-catching appearance but certainly still meets HTC's contemporary design philosophy. It is made entirely of plastic and has a striking colour. This makes it look a bit like the iPhone 5c or a Nokia. All around is a light blue rim with a small bulge. This border runs seamlessly into the dark blue, flat back. At the back is the same camera with double LED flash as at the front. The back has no curve, but the matte plastic lies finely in the hand and offers good grip. The Desire Eye is a bit large, but its weight is not that bad.


There are two silvery white surfaces above and below the screen. Because the one above is larger, you seem to keep the device upside down, especially in the beginning. The edges are made of plastic and not metal. In the middle of the screen is the eye-catching self-image camera with double LED flash. On either side of it there are two more sensors and a tiny notification light that only knows one colour.


On the left side of the device there are two slots for the microSD card and nanoSIM card that can be easily pulled out with a nail. Placing it back is a bit pricey. It is possible to change the SIM card without restarting the device. On the right side of the device we find the volume buttons, power button and a specific camera button. Something we rarely see lately on a HTC but a nice addition for a self phone. It's just a pity that it lies very deep in the device and pushes very hard so that it is almost impossible to push it without movement. On top of the device is the headset jack connector and at the bottom is the microUSB connector.


At first glance, speakers seem to be missing from the Desire Eye, while the specification list says it should contain BoomSound speakers. A closer inspection reveals that there are two slots between the heavy area around the screen and the silver areas at the top and bottom with the speakers behind them. It looks very neat but the slots are a bit dusty. Now we understand the 'X' in IPX7.


The Desire Eye has room for a 2,400 mAh battery. That's not really big and it was just as exciting to see what kind of battery life this would lead to. With our average use, the device will last a good 1.5 days. This means that Gmail, WhatsApp and a number of social media are opened on a regular basis. We also check the news from time to time and occasionally make a phone call. Usually we have WiFi always on. Because of this, we dare to conclude that the Desire Eye can last 24 hours even with intensive use.

To increase endurance, there is the power saving mode which limits or disables CPU usage, screen brightness, vibration feedback and data connection. This mode turns on automatically when the battery level drops below 15% and cannot be adjusted. There is also the extreme power saving mode. It disables almost all functionality and keeps only the phone, messages, mail, calendar and calculator available. You can then set the percentage of this function at which it should turn on again. By the way, it feels like it takes a remarkably long time before the Desire Eye is fully charged.

Call quality

The calling application is called phonebook but that part will be discussed later in this review. There are five tabs and one of them is for phone. Via smartdial on the numeric keypad, the desired contact is quickly found. But it is also possible to open a QWERTY keyboard. Tabs on the left and right contain the logbook, favourites, all contacts and groups.


A call can be answered automatically by bringing the device to your ear. The sound quality during a call is clear and distinct. Only the speaker mode sometimes seemed difficult to understand for our conversation partner.


The Desire Eye's screen, which measures 5.2 inches diagonally, has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. This results in good image quality in a pleasant ratio. The image has a vivid color intensity, maybe a bit yellowish but certainly not striking or even annoying. The automatic screen brightness also works well. The backlight time-out can be set to auto sleep. It is not entirely clear what this means exactly, but it is likely that the screen will stay on as long as the camera senses that you are looking at the screen.


The unit can be turned on by making gestures on the screen. This is the so-called Motion Launch. One of these gestures is the familiar and convenient double-tap to wake up the phone. In addition, you can also swipe in a direction across the screen to open a certain window or function. Unfortunately, you can't further set this or choose which gestures should be enabled and which shouldn't. Swipe in particular quickly leads to accidental activation of the device. Moreover, the descriptions of the required gestures are not really accurate. For example, the settings state that you have to hold the phone in the portrait position to unlock the camera with the volume knob, but the instructional animation shows that the camera should be held horizontally.



The Desire Eye runs on Android 4.4.4 with Sense 6 over it. With the move to Lollipop, Android has changed dramatically but HTC is not ready yet and it remains to be seen what the consequences will be for HTC's Sense shell. In terms of operation, Sense 6 largely corresponds to standard Android and is mainly a cosmetic rebuild. There are nine themes available for the interface, which not only give the background a makeover, but also the accent colours.


To the left of your main start screen is a window through which you can scroll through. This is HTC BlinkFeed. Here you can see at a glance the latest news and the most important updates from your social media. By default updates of the social media you have linked to HTC Sense will appear here but other news feeds can also be added. However, adding RSS feeds manually is not an option. If BlinkFeed doesn't have any added value for you, which we can imagine, you can simply remove the whole screen.


Dragging the status bar down will display the notification window with notifications of installed apps, if available. On the back of the notification window you will find shortcuts for the most important setting functions such as WiFi, screen brightness, sound, etc. This overview can be customized by the user, but the maximum number of shortcuts is twelve anyway.


The application menu is still a grid that needs to be scrolled through vertically. This can be sorted in three ways and in two different grid sizes. The entire interface works smoothly and smoothly on the Desire Eye. This was also to be expected because it has the same processor as the HTC One M8.



As mentioned before, the phonebook application has tabs for calls, phone, favorites, contacts and groups. Especially these last three are of course part of the core of the phonebook and their operation has been excellently taken care of by HTC for years. Apart from the SIM card or Gmail, contacts can also be retrieved from all kinds of other online accounts. After synchronizing contacts, the device can propose automatic contact links. In this way, you have profile photos but also all kinds of contact details directly together.


When you have synchronized multiple accounts you can indicate at the top of the screen from which sources the contacts should be shown. There are a number of sorting options in the settings. As far as we are concerned, by far the most convenient option is to only display contacts with a phone number.


The Desire Eye of course has a solid message app. Although many will use it less and less and nowadays Hangouts from Google+ is also available for that.


HTC's mail app has a distinct look of its own and works pleasantly. Adding an account is a piece of cake and in principle the settings are created automatically. Messages in folders other than your inbox can also be synchronized automatically and notifications will be shown for them. Strangely enough there is still no widget available for the HTC mail app itself. Nowadays it is possible to synchronize in Gmail accounts of other providers and a separate widget can be created.


HTC's virtual QWERTY keyboard is very good and easy to use. The keyboard does lose a bit of clarity because of the many pre-printed characters. Typing is very pleasant, even with two fingers. The keyboard is fast and can be adjusted to your personal preferences via the settings. The only gap is the fact that after a comma a space is not automatically entered while after a dot it is. It is possible to use prediction for two languages at the same time, but switching between two or more languages is easier in practice.


Text can also be entered by dragging one finger from letter to letter on the keyboard. Once you have mastered this, it goes a lot faster and the word prediction does a good job here too.


In addition to the previously mentioned shortcuts behind the notification window, there is also a separate section for connections in the settings. WiFi, Bluetooth, airplane mode and mobile data can be quickly set up and turned on or off here. One click further you will also find options such as NFC, WiFi hotspot and media output.


To browse the internet, the Desire Eye bets on two horses because it has Chrome from Google and its own browser from HTC. In terms of appearance and functionality they hardly avoid each other. HTC's browser can be displayed fullscreen but Chrome can then synchronize with Chrome on your PC. Neither of them can handle Flash and they perform equally with zooming.


Now it is finally time to take a critical look at the cameras of the Desire Eye. Like the rest of Sense 6, the interface hasn't changed significantly. If you hold the camera horizontally, you will find a shortcut to your last photo and the gallery in the top right corner. In the upper left corner you can change the flash mode and in the lower left corner you can use the three dots of shortcuts for the most important options and the extensive settings menu.

Via the square with the four circles in the lower right corner you can switch between the different recording modes. Switching between regular camera, selfie camera and split shot can be done by swiping in from above or below the screen. You have to wait for the new camera to open before you can swipe to the next one.

By holding down the physical or virtual camera button, the continuous recording is activated and you can take pictures very quickly one after the other. By default, this is limited to a maximum of 20. Focusing does suffer from this method. Anyway, the autofocus on the Desire Eye is not really fast.

HTC Eye Experience Face Tracking
Face Tracking

To get the most out of the 13 megapixel self-image camera, the Desire Eye was the first HTC to be equipped with the so-called Eye Experience. These are numerous functions for the camera that can sometimes also be used in other apps. For example, there is 'Face Tracking' that can be used in apps for video chat and keeps up to four faces centered.

HTC Eye Experience Photo Booth
Photo Booth

An additional photo mode is 'Photo Booth', which takes four consecutive photos. It is also possible to create a selfie automatically or voice-activated. A rather ridiculous option is the possibility to merge two faces into one. During our test period, there was no plak-mij-erbij mode where you can combine a selfie with a background taken with the other camera.

In selfie mode, a timer of 2 seconds is set by default. This can also be switched off or extended. Furthermore there is a slider in the picture for Live Makeup. With this slider you can, of course completely artificial, even out your skin tone and make your lips redder. However, turn it off completely to get sharper pictures. The focus of the selfie camera is not always spot on but it offers more possibilities and the performance is generally better than with other 'selfie devices'. The flash generally ensures even exposure and is therefore good to use, as long as you can resist the urge to close your eyes to the bright light.

HTC Desire Eye camera samples
Click above for more sample photos of the HTC Desire Eye


Present programs

The Desire Eye comes standard with the apps shares, calendar, car, file manager, calculator, downloads, Facebook, FM radio, photos, gallery, voice search, Gmail, Google, Google Drive, Google+, hangouts, HTC backup, HTC Dot View, HTC Guide, Setup, Child Mode, Clock, Scribble, Maps, Music, News and Weather, Old Ageashboard, Play Books/Movies/Games/Kiosk/Music, Polaris Office 5, Skype, Voice Recording, Tasks, Tips and Help, Twitter, Weather, YouTube, Flashlight and Zoe.


It is a nice complete package but there are no real peaks. Zoe is an app that can be used to compile short films from photos and videos and at the same time be a social network but it doesn't really meet a need. Pre-installing the Dot View application without providing the necessary case is a bit crude as far as we are concerned.


The Desire Eye may look a bit like a cyclops but a mythical reputation is not so easily achieved. Nevertheless, as far as we are concerned, the Desire Eye is on the right track. It has no major shortcomings and it is remarkable that HTC promotes it so little in the Netherlands. Its appearance and build quality, despite the use of plastic, are not at all inferior to those of the One M8; its metal big brother. Its water-resistance certainly comes in handy when spilling a cup of coffee on your desk. As we experienced ourselves.

With the Desire Eye, HTC seems to have a bit of a twinkle in its eye. The Desire line is normally positioned among the more expensive high-end models, but in terms of specifications this device is closer to the current top model than its Desire namesakes. The Desire Eye is a fraction larger than the One M8 and the price difference is minimal. At the time of writing even less than 50 euro. If you're not an avid self-shooter then the Desire Eye is still a very nice device, but the price could scare you away.

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