HTC Desire Eye

It's not exactly a cyclops, but this phone's 13-megapixel front-facing camera aims to see all

HTC's not been shy about trying things when it comes to mobile imagery. We've spent the last couple years in the world of the UltraPixel. But we're starting to see a bit of a shift back to more traditional sensors. That continues today with the new HTC Desire Eye. As the name implies — and any picture of the phone makes perfectly obvious — this cyclops is all about the selfie.

But beyond that front-facing 13-megapixel camera, the phone lends itself to a bit of a taxonomy conundrum. Typically the Desire line has been a bit below the One line. But on paper, the Desire Eye (like the One E8 before it) isn't far off from the HTC One M8 — it's the design that really diverges.

So there's a lot to talk about here. Let's take a dive into our hands-on with the HTC Desire Eye.

The HTC Desire Eye hands-on walkthrough

The HTC Desire Eye

HTC Desire Eye

HTC doubles things up with 13-megapixel cameras on the front and back.

Let's just get this out of the way. Whereas most phones have a high-resolution camera out back, with something more modest on the front for the all-important (not really, but whatever) selfie, HTC's doubled things up in the Desire Eye. It's got nearly the same lens on the front of the phone as is on that back. And that's behind a 13-megapixel sensor. The size and aperture vary slightly (f/2.0, 28mm on the back, and f/2.2, 22 mm on the front), but chances are that's not really something you'll notice. Both are capable of shooting in HDR and 1080p video, and both have a dual-LED flash.

So there are going to be a lot of selfies going on here. More on that in a bit.

HTC Desire Eye HTC Desire Eye

The phone itself has a decidedly different look and feel than the HTC One E8, Butterfly 2 or the HTC One M8. It's flat, with rounded corners, and it's actually just a tad taller than the M8. It's not a bad-looking phone by any means, it just maybe doesn't have the same sex appeal as the M8. That's because it's not crafted from aluminum, but HTC's excellent polycarbonate makeup — with a sort of racing stripe down the middle of the sides (or for you grown-ups who've had to buy countertops, think solid surface with an inlay in the edging).

The basics specs are close to what you'd find inside an M8.

The basic specs include a 5.2-inch display at 1080p resolution, Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor at 2.3 GHz, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (with SD card expansion). You can't see them all that well, but HTC's still managed to cram some front-facing speakers into this thing. They're maybe not quite as deep as on the M8, but they're still better than most other phones, and the fact that HTC's managed to put them in a nearly-invisible footprint is in and of itself pretty significant.

HTC Desire Eye

More: Check out the full HTC Desire Eye specs

The power and volume buttons are on the right side, with the SIM card and microSD card slots on the left. Those two actually are rather interesting. You open them up using only a fingernail, prying them out from the phone. You'll find that they have a sort of hinged gasket that keeps things in place, and that's also what keeps dust and water out and allows for the Desire Eye's IPX7 rating.

HTC One Desire Eye

So what do we have here? Basically phone that's damned near as powerful as the M8, though it skimps on internal storage space. But it's in a different design, giving some option to those who want an M8-like experience without all that metal. (And, ya know, provided you want to use AT&T, which has exclusivity in the U.S.) Plus all this selfie stuff we're promising to get to.

HTC Desire Eye

Software-wise, we're looking at Android 4.4.4 KitKat and Sense 6.0. Nothing there, really, that we haven't seen before — it looks and acts just like the same Sense and Android we've been using for months now. New, however, are some new options in the camera app, including a Photo Booth mode, Split Capture for when you want to show off what you're looking at as well as show your smiling face, and Crop Me In, which attempts to photoshop your head into whatever the scene the rear-facing camera is seeing. (We've had pretty limited success with that in our brief use. Certainly nothing as good as the demo pics you'll see.)

Those new camera options are just part of what's being called the "Eye Experience." You also get things like updated face tracking, which will zoom in our your mug, then follow it around when you're making video calls. You'll also get some of the features that debuted previously on the HTC Desire 820, including "Live Makeup" for some skin smoothing action, as well as "Face Fusion" for 'shopping your head onto someone else's body. Use responsibly, folks.

In our limited use we found the Desire Eye to be a fun phone. It definitely feels different than the M8 — plastic vs. metal and all — but that's not a bad thing. The camera features are fun, though the quality of what we got out of the new "Eye" might have been high resolution, but the quality (albeit in prerelease form) just wasn't nearly as good as what we saw from folks who had the iPhone 6 alongside it. There's clearly still some work to be done on that front. If you're a big selfie-taker, you'll appreciate the updated quality of the pictures of you're face. If you're less narcissistic, the prospect of a high-resolution front-facing camera might not mean all that much to you, then. To each his or her own.

The Desire Eye is coming to the U.S. on AT&T exclusively, Asia, Europe and the Middle East starting in late October.