HTC Unveils Desire EYE With 13MP Front-Facing Camera and Flash

In the past two years, HTC has released the HTC One (M7) and (M8). They were both great phones in their own right, but now they’ve updated their low-cost phones to pull in more profit. They’ve added an insanely powerful front-facing camera with flash. Overkill, you might ask? I think so.

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Design

The EYE sports two versions, a red-and-white version and a black-and-blue version. They have a kind of two-toned look, which looks kind of sporty. The sides are red or blue rubberized plastic, offering a grippable surface. The front sports a big 5.2-inch HD screen, an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, dual LED flash, a 13-MP camera, and a microphone.
On the bottom is a micro USB charger and microphone. On the left are the micro SD and nano SIM slots and an unidentified button. On the right is a volume rocker, another unidentified button, and again, an unidentified button. The top yields a headphone jack. The back packs another 13MP camera, dual LED flash, and a microphone. It’s a slippery plastic hard coat finish, a stark contrast to the sides.

Hardware

Although the EYE is supposed to be a budget phone, it actually sports pretty good specs.
SoC – 2.3Ghz Snapdragon 801
Memory – 16GB Storage, 2GB RAM
Battery – 2400 MaH Li-Ion Battery
OS – Android 4.4.2 KitKat + HTC Sense 6
Cell Networks-  2G, 3G, 4G LTE
Dimensions-  151.7 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm (5.97 x 2.91 x 0.33 in)
Display – 5.2 Inch 1920×1080 Resolution
Front-Facing Camera – 13MP AF f/2.2 Aperure Dual LED Flash, HDR
Back Camera – 13MP AF f/2.2 Aperure Dual LED Flash, HDR

Software

The phone runs HTC Sense 6, a custom Android skin. It’s integrated with BlinkFeed, HTC’s custom news and social feed reader. It has all the features of stock Android, and it seems it’s kind of improving on the system, not getting in its way. It’s basically the same software as on the One.
The EYE camera suite adds a lot of features to the camera app, specifically, selfies. The camera will automatically snap selfies for you just by holding it still two seconds or by saying “say cheese”. When you’re video chatting, face tracking stabilizes the video and keeps you in the frame. You can take split captures with the front and back cameras at the same time. You can crop yourself into a picture from the back camera, although the lighting kind of seems off. There’s also a creepy feature that lets you take a picture of two people and see what their kid will look like. The suite is pretty big, actually.
The ZOE app is available for iOS and Android. It lets you create videos akin to iMovie and share them to HTC’s homegrown social network. Other people can remix them with their own videos from that place. It’s supposed to be like having everyone’s perspective on the event.

Camera

HTC touted the EYE’s front-facing camera as its big innovation, but I still have mixed feelings about it. It dominates the top bezel of the display, and seems like a little overkill. With 1 – 2MP, you can get full HD videos and photos, but I guess the 13MP allows for photos with higher dynamic range?
The camera seems to perform alright in ample lighting, but its low-light performance leaves something to be desired. Photos usually end up gray, or just barely visible. Either way, this phone is definitely for those selfie-crazed people.

The Bottom Line

The EYE combines a powerful camera and hardware with an OK build quality, a cheap price tag, and a great camera suite. The HTC EYE is great if you are really serious about your selfies. However, for the average Joe, it’s doubtful you’ll really ever need that powerful camera. None the less, The EYE seems like a great choice for the money.

iOS 8: Release date, first impressions, and more.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months (and I hope you haven’t), you should’ve heard that Apple’s newest iteration on their mobile OS, iOS 8 is coming out soon. When? What’s so special about it? We’ve heard your cries, and we have answers.

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Design

Design between iOS 8 and iOS 7 is roughly the same. And although it’s still a huge departure from iOS 6, which I loved, it is still beautiful. It has bright, bold colors, and the font, Helvetica Neue, is always very legible and crisp. Visually, iOS 8 is completely identical to iOS 7. However, there are myriad improvements under the hood.
Performance
The performance between iOS 8 and iOS 7 is comparable. Which is to say it is perfect. It is fluid, responsive, lightweight, and it just works. iOS 8 is supported on the iPhone 4S and up. But none of this is important. Why? Because everything here pales in comparison to developer improvements and UI additions.

Features

This new version of iOS add some pretty incredible features. A couple examples are active notifications, new multimedia in iMessages, new predictive keyboards, iCloud drive, health, and finally, continuity.

Photos

The photos app has been updated. You can now search your whole library for images based on location, time, and other factors.
There’s smart editing. You can select from cropping, rotation, filters, and smart adjustments. The most notable is smart adjustments. Smart adjustments lets you change two settings: light and color. Light basically lets you increase or decrease the brightness of a scene. Color makes images more or less vibrant. No need to touch saturation, highlights, contrast, or any of that.
There’s third party filters and a new shooting mode: time lapse.

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iMessages

iMessages is new and improved with multimedia improvements, group messaging improvements, and location sharing.
The aforementioned “multimedia” refers to the ability to send voice messages along with text and photos. In the place of the original single camera icon to the left of the text field, there’s also a microphone icon on the right. Tapping and holding each of these brings up a clever radial menu and begins recording. When done, the audio or video, or photo message is sent. Audio auto-deletes after a little while, but you can opt for it to save.
Group messaging now features the ability to name groups. You can kick people out, go on do not disturb, or leave altogether. You can also view all attachments in the conversation in one place.
Finally, you can share your location for a set amount of time — useful if you’re trying to meet up for a picnic.

Keyboard

Also new and noteworthy is the keyboard. It has been upgraded with Android-like predictive text suggestions, support for third-party keyboards, and adaptive typing.
Similar to *gasp* Android, there is now a suggestion field above the keyboard. However, it is better than Android, because it is contextual. Example: in iMessages, your friend asks you if you want to go to dinner or a movie. Your keyboard will recognize the choice, and before you ever start typing, it will suggest “dinner”, “a movie”, or “I don’t know”! It also learns your typing styles to different people.
Now third-party keyboards is pretty obvious: you can download special other keyboards from other sources.

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iCloud Drive

iCloud drive is similar to the current iCloud setup with one key difference: it allows you to access every file in your cloud and add new ones manually. Think Dropbox, but native to your device, with no setup.

Health

Health is an awesome addition. There are four main sections: Dashboard, Health Data, Sources, and Medical ID.
Dashboard shows a collection of cards representing different health metrics. These can include your calories, your weight, how far you’ve run, or even heart rate taken from an Apple Watch. You can tap each card to display a menu with more information.
Health data is a menu that shows all the different data you’re tracking and lets you add or remove them. This can include your fitness, your vitals, or different body measurements.
Sources shows all the different source apps for health data.
Medical ID shows your medical conditions, your doctors, your daily medications, and is accessible from the lock screen just in case, you know, something happens.

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Active Notifications

My favorite by far, active notifications let you interact with apps without leaving the one you’re in. For example, you get an iMessage from your Mom. You’re watching a video. Instead of clicking the notification, leaving the video, replying, then going back and having to start the video over, with active notifications, you just pull down on the notification, and a text box will appear. You can click on it, then type your reply, hit send, and go back to watching the video. All without leaving the app.

Speaking of notifications, Notification Center has been revamped, with the unread and notifications panels joined. You can now dismiss individual notifications by swiping them away, eliminating the old target practice method of hitting little “x”s.
The neglected notification center “today” view has also been upgraded. Now it has widgets. Basically, a widget is a little menu projected from an app that is accessible outside the app. You can customize “today” by moving, adding, and removing widgets.

Continuity

Continuity is a collection of features. It used Bluetooth, Point-to-Point WiFi, and iCloud to seamlessly transfer tasks between all your devices.

Example: you start writing an email on your phone. When you get home, you want to finish it on your Mac. You put down your phone and your Mac automatically figures out what your iPhone is doing, automatically launches Mail, and picks up where up you left off!
There’s also automatic hotspots, calling from Mac, and texting non-iPhones from your Mac.

Developer

Now here’s a couple of things I’m drooling over.

  1. Swift: a new programming language for making iOS apps. It’s fast, fun, and easy to use.
  2. Extensibility: apps can now extend themselves into other apps, projecting UI elements, etc. example: custom camera filters
  3. Over 4000 new APIs (application programming interfaces)

 

Final Thoughts

iOS 8 is being released Wednesday, September 18, 2014. It’s got tons of cool features we’ve wanted for a while, like active notifications, and some great new developer toys. I would have liked for something like home screen widgets, but overall, a very solid release.

Apple Watch Review & First Impressions: Insanely Great

Yesterday,  September 9, was MacWorld 2014, and we got way more than we bargained for. In addition to two new iPhone 6’s and Apple Pay, a digital wallet, there was “one more thing”. And it blew me away.
That was the Apple Watch. An exquisite, precise timepiece that had my class drooling, saying “I want one!”

Design
First things first: this watch is absolutely gorgeous. There are three different versions, plain Jane Apple Watch, a beautiful ticker, the Apple Watch Sport, a scratch-and-dent-proof version with rubber watch bands, and Apple Watch Edition, an incredible 14-Karat gold watch that is absolutely stunning.

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The straps are all interchangeable. For the plain one, there’s several varieties of leather, metal, and rubber. The Sport is rubber. The Edition is leather. The bodies are available in stainless steel, aluminum, and gold. The watch is rounded off on the sides.
The watch face is dominated by an always-on screen. It will display a customizable watch face. It slopes down gently at the edges to meet the body. To the right are, furthest from you, a knob that is used to zoom and scroll. Pressing it will send you to a home screen filled with circular apps that can be navigated by tapping different app sectors. Holding it will evoke Siri. Closest to you is a button that will access your contacts for quick communication. On the bottom of the watch are various sensors.

Hardware
Usually I’d talk about specs, but this area is clouded. The whole system has been condensed into a sealed chip called the S1. There is a big battery and something called a “taptic engine”. The display is also pressure sensitive, easily distinguishing a long press from a tap. The watch is waterproof, so you can swim with it.

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Software
The watch is centered around well, time! The display is always on and always shows your custom watch face. Swiping up from the bottom of the display produces a “glance” – a view of your day. Pressing the knob will bring you to your home screen. There are lots of apps, like health, which helps you set health goals and work toward them.
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are a few of the apps that are already on the watch. There is also Apple Pay, a way to pay for things without a physical credit card. Once your info is entered just tap the register and you’ve paid.
If you receive a notification, you’ll have the ability to reply to them using some default responses. Typing emails, texts, and social media is enabled using speech-to-text technology.
Now on to the taptic engine. It’s like the vibrator motor already in your phone, but it “taps” you. If you receive a notification, the engine will go off and you’ll feel a “tap on the wrist”. You can also message people by drawing images.

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Bottom Line
The Apple Watch is simply magical. It just works, it looks great, and it’s $350. If it was out now, I’d buy it. Alas, it comes out January next year. I firmly believe it’s worth the wait.