May 03, 2015

Unboxing & Review: HTC Desire Eye


If you ever remember, back in those days when Nokia and Sony Ericsson feature phones still dominates the general consumer market in Malaysia? That was a decade plus ago where everyone started to have a Nokia or Sony Ericsson phone, even teens like us would have own a basic Nokia. That is exactly when eventually everyone got a camera in their pocket as well, be it a VGA or 2mp shooter.

Not sure if you notice the little mirror placed beside the rear camera of your Nokia / Sony Ericsson device that time, but that little shiny convexed surface acts as a selfie mirror for selfie photography.

Fast forwarding 10 years and now most of the smartphones in the market have front facing cameras which was supposed to be used for video calls. Instead, the consumers are maximising the functionality of it for selfies. Even if the front camera have subpar quality, Facebook-ers and Instagram-ers still prefer the front camera over the back simply because it is much easier to frame the shot.

Today what we have here is regarded as HTC's attempt on creating the ultimate selfie phone. Instead of your regular low megapixel and boring front facing camera, HTC cloned the rear camera, put on a wide angle lens and slap it on the front of the phone.

I've spent a fortnight with the device to see how it fares.

Specifications Overview


  • Dimension: 151.7  x  73.8  x  8.5 mm (5.97  x  2.9  x  0.33 in)
  • Weight: 154 g (5.43oz)
  • Body: Polycarbonate Unibody, IPX7 certified - dust proof and water resistant up to 1 meter and 30 minutes
  • SIM: Nano-SIM
  • Connectivity:
    • GSM/HSPA / LTE
    • Wi-Fi 802.11ac
    • Bluetooth 4.1 LE


  • Size: 5.2 inches
  • Resolution: 1080  x  1920 pixels (~424 ppi) IPS LCD
  • Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 3

Under the hood

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, Quad-core 2.3 Ghz
  • GPU: Adreno 330
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage: 16 GB, supporting MicroSD up to 128 GB
  • Battery: Non-removable 2400 mAh Li-Ion (supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0)


  • Rear:
    • 13.0MP, BSI sensor
    • ƒ/2.0 28mm lens
    • dual-LED, dual-tone flash
    • 1080p video
  • Front:
    • 13.0MP, BSI sensor
    • ƒ/2.2 lens 22mm lens
    • dual-LED, dual-tone flash
    • 1080p video


  • OS: Android 4.4.4 KitKat (upgradable to 5.0.2 Lollipop)
  • UI: HTC Sense 6


I am a fan of HTC's packaging. The clean and elegant box design since the One M7-era presents the phone in a classy way.

Worth mentioning is the box itself is 98% recyclable, 75% fast renewable and printed with soy ink.

Open box reveals the phone.

Under the phone compartment houses the accessories of the phone.

Some paper manuals.

The included accessories are the earphones, USB cable and USB wall charger.

The included wall charger is a disappointment as it only outputs 1A which some other phone manufacturers are giving chargers that outputs 1.2A or more.

That literally means if you need faster charging, either get a 2A charger for tablets or look for HTC's Rapid Charger (Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0) which still nowhere to be found (officially) in Malaysia at the time of writing.

The charger is designed for better storability.

Good to see that HTC is still bundling earphones with their phones, but I hope they could have just ditch these types of earbuds for better in-ear earphones.

Band type cable is less prone to cable hell. It comes with a single button handsfree mic. Does the job alright.


First impression out of the box, the phone itself is big, much bigger than what I anticipated from a phone with 5.2 inch screen due to the bezels and the spaces taken by the "forehead" and "chin".

The back of the polycarbonate unibody. HTC has done a really good job at the body contruction. The word plastic won't do any justice on the phone's build quality. Smooth and rounded sides, this is one of those phones you just don't need any casing for it.

By the way, the unit I got here is red and white, named "Coral Reef". Not sure if that colour scheme resembles the actual coral reef, but there's another colour which is a combination of light blue and dark blue, namely "Matte Blue".

Sorry, it doesn't come in black.

Two trays are the left side for SIM card MicroSD card.

They looks extremely like volume buttons.

You might need to use your fingernails to pull the trays out.

Microphone at the bottom along with the USB port.

Power button and volume rocker at upper right.

There's a dedicated camera button at the lower right.

Headphone jack at the top.

Front facing camera, dual LED flash, ambient and proximity sensor.

That little at the right of the camera element is a LED notification light.

Rear facing camera, dual LED flash and tiny little hole for noise canceling microphone.

Booting up to HTC Sense 6 running on top of Android 4.4.4 KitKat.

Screen size comparison with Nexus 5 (left) and HTC Incredible S (right).

The 5.2 inch screen though only slightly larger than the Nexus 5's 5 inch screen, but the device itself is considerably larger due to the thick bezels.

By the way, the HTC Incredible S has a 4 inch screen.


The HTC Desire Eye is a fairly large phone given that the overall design is quite questionable. Such as the thick bezels which could have been thinner to shrink the overall footprint. I have average sized hand and it barely fits on my palm. I'd say that it is about 5~10% extra larger than what I would have normally accepted.

Despite being huge, holding the phone feels rather satisfying due to the unibody construction

The design however is really something as you really have to be able to accept either the red-white combo or the blue on blue combo.

Did I mentioned that the unibody construction is IPX7 dustproof and water resistant? HTC claim that it could survive a 1 metre dip up to 30 minutes. That's really impressive given than you don't have to deal with all those troublesome rubber flaps.

The 5.2 inch Full HD IPS LCD is not bad at all. The details are crisps and sharp. It doesn't seem like a mid-ranged phone despite that the Desire line is currently serving to target the middle grounds. Even the new One M9 still runs a Full HD IPS LCD.

The screen is versatile in all sort of lighting condition as it handles daytime viewing and nighttime viewing well. Not much to complain really.

The stereo BoomSound speakers are cleverly hidden at the top and bottom edge of the screen.

Multimedia experience on this phone is excellent, especially games and videos as only a few phones actually have front facing stereo speakers, let alone a pair of loud and clear speakers.

Speaker grill at the top.

It might seem weird at first especially when the spot suppose to house the earpiece instead of an eye that keeping tab on you.


The phone runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0 out of the box. Android 5.0 Lollipop is scheduled for rollout, so keep an eye on your update notification.

HTC's skin for Android is very good in terms of the overall usage and performance. It gives a nice clean touch and most importantly it doesn't cost the phone to slow down.

The HTC BlinkFeed which was around since Sense 5.0 is a nice touch where it aggregates all your news and latest update sources such as headlines, Facebook and personalised news sites.

Overall, with Snapdragon 801 chip under the hood, you should not be worrying that if the phone could not handle all those bells and whistles from the OS.


Now, the main attraction of this phone - the cameras, which are supposed to be the strength of this phone, hence the name "Eye". However I'm rather disappointed with the overall performance and quality of both the front and back cameras after spending few weeks with them.

First, the hardware camera button, of course it is a welcomed addition given that only a few manufactures care to include a physical button for a single purpose. Having said that, the button itself however feels extremely mushy and it needs extra force to actuate which causes blurring.

Secondly, the photo outcome doesn't seem that impressive at all. Perhaps we are too demanding over a small camera sensor, but HTC could have gone all out by giving the camera a better sensor to match the name of the phone.

The HTC camera app is feature filled where you get all sorts of capture modes and configurations such as the shown split capture mode. HTC has given a lot of thoughts in creating the best camera app to fit all types of users, but that also clutters the settings menu which could be terrifying for some users.

Give or take but the camera's white balance and JPG processing could be improved and I do hope that HTC would spend more effort in improving the algorithms since the user interface and required camera features are already present.

The front camera has a wide angle lens on it (22mm), which translates to around 88 degree of viewing angle. That is very wide for group selfie if you ask me.

But I do notice that due to the characteristics of wide angle lens, the corners of the image tend to be distorted. It could have been easily fixed via post processing but HTC should just include the distortion correction when converting the photo into JPG.

Photo Samples:

Final Thoughts

The Desire Eye is an aesthetically striking phone. The daring colour scheme and the front eyeball makes this phone unique in its own way. During the period of testing the phone, many has asked me what kind of phone I'm using as they are all confused with the big optical element at the front instead of an earpiece.

No complaints over the performance of the phone. Despite it runs a Snapdragon 801 which seems a bit outdated but when you use the phone, you really can't differentiate it from a Snapdragon 805. The downside however is the battery. At 2400mAh, it is a disappointment for a phone at that size.

The phone itself is great, but not with the price. Retailed at MYR 1699 makes it a mid-high tiered price point. That explains why it comes with a Snapdragon 801 as well as a FHD screen. From here, I can see that HTC is trying to target the people who's looking for a phone with great selfie capabilities with great performance, but what confuses me is HTC's lack of aggressive marketing in Malaysia. That explains why no one seem to recognize such iconic design from HTC.

  • Unibody design
  • IPX7 Dustproof and water resistance
  • High performance

  • Colour choice
  • Battery
  • Sub-par camera performance
  • Price