Selfie addict? This smartphone could be for you

HTC 're'-inventing itself
HTC 're'-inventing itself

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC has launched a "selfie" phone with a powerful front camera, as the company attempts to use differentiating features to claw back market share.

The HTC Desire EYE has a 5.2-inch high definition screen with a 13-megapixel front and rear camera. Typically, smartphones' rear cameras take much higher quality pictures than their front cameras - which are used to take selfies.

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"Simply the best selfies," HTC said in a press release, which also highlighted the new phone's facial recognition system and in-phone editing suite in an effort to push home its photo-taking credentials.


The launch comes as HTC battles with a declining market share. It had just 2.9 percent of the global smartphone market in 2013, according to Euromonitor, down from 4.8 percent in 2012 and 9 percent the year before. Analysts said that HTC's Desire EYE is one of the first smartphones designed to cash in on the selfie trend, giving it a key differentiating factor.


"Beefing up the front-facing camera is a clever way of differentiating this phone from the sea of homogenous rectangular smartphones," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, said in an email.

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"If it gets a positive reception you can almost guarantee Samsung and others will take a similar approach in 2015."


The HTC Desire EYE uses the Android operating system, and will be rolled out across the world from October – although its price has not yet been released.

HTC is not the first company to release a phone with a better quality camera, however. Nokia's Lumia 730, launched last month, has a 5-megapixel front camera, while Chinese smartphone maker Huawei unveiled the Ascend P7 with an 8-megapixel front camera earlier this year.

Picture perfect?

The Desire EYE is likely to compete with smartphones in the mid- to- high-end of the market, where analysts said manufacturers were competing to offer unique selling points.

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"Manufacturers have realized, with the rear-facing cameras, that they are at the limits of what they can do. The benefits of putting larger sensors are diminishing," Daniel Gleeson, senior mobile analyst at IHS, told CNBC by phone. "But the benefits of putting larger sensors on the front-facing camera are much bigger in terms of jumps in quality of experience, and that's why there is such a rush to do that."

But some warned that the "selfie" focus might not be enough to make HTC's latest model successful.

"I don't think there is that much difference between the average selfie quality and the quality the Desire EYE would take," Sam Gee, senior technology analyst at Mintel, told CNBC in a phone interview. "Whether people will buy these phones purely on the picture quality is unclear."

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GoPro Challenger

HTC also release RE on Wednesday - a handheld camera which it said can be used up to 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes. It's a move analysts said was a direct challenge to sports camera GoPro.


The cylinder shaped 16-megapixel camera lets users take pictures or videos which are saved instantly to a smartphone and the cloud. HTC also said that, in the future, the RE will allow a consumer to do real-time video streaming to YouTube.

But analysts were sceptical about the threat it poses to GoPro, suggesting that most people would be happy with their smartphone's camera.

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"The RE camera's quirky design is certainly distinctive, but HTC is going to have to provide some compelling reasons to buy one given most people are already carrying a smartphone with a great camera," Wood added.