It might not be doing as well as it once was, but when it comes to handset design, HTC is still considered one of the frontrunners in the cell world. And with good reason. The company has forged a reputation for being ready to try different materials, colors and even component placements in its handsets – remember the front facing speakers in the One series? Yes, it too has got slightly predictable of late, but when you get an HTC handset, it is a fair chance that you open the box expecting something very different from the routine.
And well, if those were your sentiments when you opened the box of the HTC Desire Eye, then you won’t be disappointed one bit. For, the Desire Eye is very different from the current high end Android devices in the market. HTC has been playing a bit with colours since the success of the Desire 816, and you can see that coming to the fore in the Eye. We got the matte blue edition of the device, and it had light blue sides and a dark blue back with HTC emblazoned on the back in light blue again. We have seen the coral red model too but that is more subtle, with only a red band on the sides, and a white back, The device we have looks very different from what we are getting accustomed to in the large display Android phone space.
Once you have got past the colors, the other striking characteristic of the Eye hits you – that massive front facing camera. Yes, we are used to front facing cameras with a relatively high pixel count: the likes of the Xiaomi Note 4G and the YU Yureka sport 5.0-megapixel front facing shooters after all. But in sheer physical proprtions and megapixel count, we have not quite seen anything like the front camera on the Desire Eye. Yes, we knew it was a 13.0-megapixel affair and came with a flash but we still were surprised to see it being as large as the rear camera on the phone. It is located bang in the centre above the 5.2 inch full HD display of the device, with a dual tone flash (again, just like the one at the back) to its left. There’s no chance of your mistaking this phone for any other, no matter which side you see it from – the camera is noticeable in the front, and the coloured sides and back also make it stick out in a crowd.
The camera aside, the front seems business as usual for a large screen Android – the a 5.2 inch display with three touch buttons (back, home and recent tasks) below it, followed by a dark band with HTC written on it (we still wonder at this, as it clearly increases the length of the phone). We were however surprised to know that the front also featured HTC’s trademark dual frontal stereo speakers with BoomSound – unlike in many other HTC devices, these are not marked out by a grille, but are very subtly covered and cannot be spotted with the naked eye.
The sides as we pointed out are colored (light blue in our case) and curve very slightly outwards. And some significant deviations from other HTC devices can be seen here. On the right, you not only have the volume rocker and the power/display button but also a third button – for the camera. HTC has finally joined Sony in the dedicated camera button group and honestly, given how big phones are getting, this is a change we love. On the top of the phone is a 3.5 mm audio jack and on its base is a micro USB port, but move to the left side and you will see another change. There are two slots there, and from each slides out a tray – one for the SIM card (nano, for the record), the other for a microSD card. But you do not need to poke a pin (or ‘SIM extractor’ as many prefer to call it) into a small hole to make the trays pop out. You can just pull them out using a fingernail. And at this stage, you might also notice just how tightly packed the trays are – that is because the phone is water-resistant.
Which leaves us with the back. Dark blue and all plastic, with a 13.0-megapixel camera and dual LED flash in the top left corner and the HTC logo in light blue (the exact same shade as the sides) bang in the middle. The plastic is not of the shiny, glossy type and has a very slightly rubbery feel to it – looks good, we think. At 154 grammes, 8.5 mm thickness and length that is just slightly over half a foot long, it is not the most compact phone we have ever held. But it certainly feels very good and solid to hold. And that front camera and colorful sides and back will turn heads.
And well, beneath those stand-out-in-a-crowd looks is some very powerful hardware – a quad core 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage (expandable to 128 GB), and NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and LTE connectivity. Oh, and those two 13.0-megapixel cameras, including the front facing one which many claim will redefine selfies as we know them. And Android 4.4 topped off with HTC Sense.
How well all that hardware performs will of course be revealed in our review of the device in the coming days. As of now, we can say that we have clapped eyes on the HTC Desire Eye. And it is quite a pleasant eyeful. Oh yes, all puns intentional.