HTC has certainly taken the criticism it received for its UltraPixel camera technology to heart and has since attempted to prove its camera prowess with subsequent releases. Coming full circle at today’s Double Exposure event in New York, the company’s latest smartphone release, the HTC Desire Eye, not only packs a 13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash, but boasts the same setup up front as well. We go hands on, and give you our first impressions of the HTC Desire Eye!

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When it comes to the design, the Desire Eye shares a lot of common elements with the HTC Desire 820, that was announced at IFA 2014 a month ago. A plastic unibody design comes with a dual tone color scheme that should be a hit with younger crowds. The Desire Eye comes with the added benefit of being waterproof, with its IPx7 certification meaning that it can be submerged in up to 1 metre of water for as long 30 minutes, without any negative consequences.

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If you were worried about a compromise with the front-facing speaker that we all love on the current crop of HTC smartphones, don’t be. The BoomSound speakers do make a return here, but with a new setup, with the thin speaker grills found just above and below the display, and not on the bezel like before. It’s hard to miss the large camera on the front face of the phone, which also comes with a dual LED flash. The plastic back takes on a minimalistic look, with just an HTC logo at the center, and the rear camera placed at the top left corner. The power button and volume rocker are found right side, but joining them now is a dedicated camera shutter button.

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While the Desire moniker has recently been indicative of HTC’s mid-range line, the Desire Eye certainly changes that. In terms of the display, the Desire boasts a 5.2-inch LCD3 display, which is larger than the display of the flagship One (M8), but with the same 1080p resolution. The increased display size results in a slightly lower pixel density of 424 ppi. As was the case with the HTC One (M8), you’ll have a great time doing anything on this display, and the bump in size makes it an even better media consumption companion.

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Things are also very similar to the One (M8) in terms of hardware. The Desire Eye packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.3 GHz, backed by the Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. 16 GB of on-board storage can be further expanded by up to 128 GB via microSD card as well. A new three microphone setup should also do a great job with active background noice cancellation. It does feature a slightly smaller 2,400 mAh battery though, but that shouldn’t affect battery life a whole lot.

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Of course, the biggest selling point of the HTC Desire Eye is its camera setup. Sporting identical 13 MP wide angle lens with BSI Sensor and dual LED flash at the back and up front, you’ll be able to take great images and videos. The front camera should prove to be a dream for all you selfie lovers out there, and the dedicated camera shutter button makes it very easy to take a shot quickly. Granted, a more in-depth review is required to really see how good this camera is, but from our short time with it, it looks to be a big improvement over previous iterations.

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The improvements in the camera experience are helped along with an upgraded software package as well, called the HTC Eye Experience. Interesting new features include face tracking, that allows for the front-facing camera to track up to four people at one time and keeping them in the frame, making video chats or conference calls through the smartphone much better. To take advantage of the front-facing camera are features like Split Capture, that combines simultaneous photos and videos taken with both cameras, and Crop-Me-In, that places a cropped image of you taken by the front camera into the scene captured by the rear camera.

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A Voice Selfie mode means that no more awkward hand gymnastics are required to take that perfect selfie, with you now having the ability to utter a simple phrase to trigger the front-facing camera. Additions that were introduced with the Desire 820, such as Face Fusion and Live Makeup, also make their way to this updated camera software package.

So there you have it – our first look at the HTC Desire Eye! With its colorful design and a camera setup that is obviously geared towards great selfies, the Desire Eye is targeted at an younger audience. Its high-end specifications means that there is no compromise on performance, and the fact that it is waterproof is always a big plus. Apart from the metal construction, the HTC Desire Eye offers everything that the flagship One (M8) does, while opening a world of opportunity with regards to smartphone photography.

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