HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735 comparison: What's the best selfie smartphone?

Microsoft is marketing its Lumia 735 as the ultimate smartphone for taking selfies, but before the Windows Phone even went on sale HTC one-upped it with the 13Mp Desire Eye. Here we compare the specs to see which phone is the better deal, plus which is the best smartphone for selfies. See: Best smartphones 2014. 

Also see: HTC Desire Eye review and Nokia Lumia 735 review. 

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Price and availability 

Nokia's Lumia 735 is now on sale at £190, while the HTC Desire Eye is expected mid- to late-November with a mid-range price tag of around £350 but Carphone Warehouse has it at £399. As the more expensive phone, the Desire Eye really ought to have the better spec on paper. Also see: Best SIM-only deals. 

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Build quality and design 

As we note in our review, the Nokia Lumia 735 comes with a bright orange, bright green, white or grey glossy plastic polycarbonate case. Set against the jet black OLED panel the orange plastic of our review sample looks great. Also see: Best Windows Phones 2014 

This removable cover has Qi wireless charging tech built into it, and snaps off to reveal a nano-SIM slot, microSD slot and removable battery. But despite the removable cover the Lumia 735 feels sturdy, with no flexing or creaking under pressure. 

The Lumia 735 is perfectly sized for our female hands, with slim bezels allowing Nokia to cram its 4.7in screen into a chassis just 68.5mm wide, 8.9mm thick and 134.7mm long. It's not too heavy either, at 134g.  

With a volume rocker and on/off switch the phone's only physical buttons, we initially found the onscreen trio of Back, Home and Search buttons that you drag in from the bottom of the screen difficult to get used to. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack on top, and on the Nokia Lumia 735's rear you'll find a mic, speaker, 6.7Mp camera and a single-LED flash.

Nokia Lumia 735 vs HTC Desire Eye: Which is the best selfie smartphone?

HTC, meanwhile, is known for the stunning build quality of its smartphones. The Desire Eye is not a flagship device, and as such does not feature the unibody metal design we saw in the HTC One M8. It's a very good-looking device, though, available with either a two-tone blue or white and red soft-touch case. Also see: Best Android phones 2014. 

Despite housing a larger 5.2in screen and front-facing BoomSound speakers (sound quality from this phone is vastly superior, which isn't surprising given that the Nokia doesn't even come with a pair of headphones), the Desire Eye is only slightly larger and heavier than the Lumia 735, measuring 151.7x73.8x8.5mm (it's actually a little thinner) and weighing 154g.

In fact, given the twin 13Mp cameras, the Desire Eye is unbelievably thin. This has been made possible by adopting a central position for the front camera, and top left corner for the rear. This also makes for less awkward-looking selfies than are seen from phones that demand you hold them in an unnatural postition and peer up at the top right corner of the screen.
Nokia Lumia 735 vs HTC Desire Eye: Which is the best selfie smartphone?

One thing we particularly like about the HTC Desire Eye over the Nokia Lumia 735 is its dedicated camera button. The Lumia's Camera app takes up to seven seconds to load running Lumia Cyan firmware (we're hoping this will improve under Lumia Denim), and a dedicated button could mean you're less likely to miss the moment. That's not the case with the HTC, which will automatically wake from standby as you pick it up and press the volume button, then instantly capture a shot with the camera button.

And while the Lumia has a rear-facing single-LED flash, the HTC has a dual-LED flash both front and back. 

As with the Lumia 735 there's a volume rocker and power switch on the phone's right side, and a trio of onscreen buttons for Back, Home and multitasking. On the left side are SIM and microSD trays since the HTC's rear cover is not removable. That's because, unlike the Nokia, the HTC is waterproof up to 1m.

 Nokia Lumia 735 vs HTC Desire Eye: Which is the best selfie smartphone?

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Display 

The Lumia 735's screen might divide opinion. It's an HD panel with a very good pixel density of 316ppi, but you will notice some graininess when comparing it to the Desire Eye's full-HD panel (423ppi).  

We love the high-contrast effect created by the ClearBlack OLED panel and popping colours of Windows Phone, but others will find it oversaturated and glaring. (With the most recent Windows Phone firmware update it is possible to alter the display colours in the settings, of course.) Viewing angles and sensitivity are excellent, and the ability to wake the screen with a double-tap is useful.

The Desire Eye also supports a range of useful motion gestures, including double-tap to wake, right-swipe to launch BlinkFeed, up-swipe to unlock the phone, and down-swipe to access voice dialling. 

HTC's Desire Eye has the standout screen in this comparison. It's larger, it's higher in resolution, it's crisper and it's arguably more natural-looking. If you'll be watching videos and playing games, the HTC has the better screen. We did find the display a little dull out of the box, however, so ramped up the brightness in the settings. 

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Hardware and performance 

It's difficult for us to accurately compare performance between these devices because one runs Android and the other Windows Phone, and our usual benchmarks aren't supported by the latter. Also see: What's the fastest smartphone 2014? 

On paper, though, the Desire Eye is significantly faster. If you believe the results of our synthetic benchmarks it's even faster than the iPhone 6 Plus. And that's a fast phone.

While the Lumia 735 has a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM, HTC's Desire Eye has a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core chip, which it pairs with 2GB of RAM. There would have to be something seriously wrong with the HTC Desire Eye if it didn't floor the Lumia 735 with those specs. 

It's important to note, however, that once you get to a certain point performance-wise all phones will suit most users. Although the Nokia doesn't have the fastest hardware, in our tests we found little lag when switching between apps and home screens, and web browsing is fast. Gamers will prefer the HTC, mind. 

In terms of battery performance the two should be fairly on par. The HTC has a higher-capacity 2400mAh cell inside (plus an Extreme Power Saving mode), but the Nokia's 2220mAh battery will drain slower thanks to the lower-resolution screen and less-demanding hardware. Expect a day out of both.

Nokia Lumia 735 vs HTC Desire Eye: Which is the best selfie smartphone? 

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Storage, connectivity and extras 

Whereas the Nokia Lumia 735 comes with just half the amount of storage of the Desire Eye as standard (8- versus 16GB), both support microSD up to 128GB. With the Nokia you also get 15GB of free OneDrive storage space, while all manner of third-party cloud-storage apps are available for the HTC. 

Connectivity-wise we're surprised to see the cheaper Lumia 735 get the slight upper hand with Qi wireless charging built in. A standard USB- rather than wireless charger comes in the box, however, and we suspect many owners won't pay extra to take advantage of this functionality. 

While both handsets feature 4G LTE, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0, the HTC lists aptx; and with Wi-Fi support stretching to 802.11n for both HTC and Nokia, only the Desire Eye operates on dual frequencies.

Nokia Lumia 735 vs HTC Desire Eye: Which is the best selfie smartphone? 

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Selfie cameras 

So far in this article we've compared a sub-£200 phone to a circa-£350 phone. Obviously that's not fair. The reason we're comparing these very different smartphones is that both claim to be the ultimate phone for taking selfies - a craze that is showing no sign of abating. 

When Nokia announced its Lumia 735 we were impressed by the idea of a 5Mp, f/2.4 front-facing camera. Then HTC announced its 13Mp camera - with a dual-LED flash - and the Nokia didn't seem so exciting anymore. But don't be so quick to judge - specifications alone aren't always enough to help you form a decision. 

For a start, do you really want a super-high-resolution close-up of your face to post on social media? That spot you've been trying to cover up - we can see it. Scars - there they are. And aren't your freckles cute. With a 5Mp camera the Nokia is able to capture enough detail to produce a decent photo (provided you don't move the camera away too soon or you'll end up with a blurred mess), but not so much that you're embarrassed to share it.

The preinstalled Lumia Selfie app is also very good. The Lumia 735 will save a selfie (or groufie, thanks to that wide-angle lens) only when it meets your approval. You can change the aspect ratio to suit your desired sharing medium and rotate the image before doing so. You then swipe left and right to choose a filter, and long-press to compare it to the original. If you have a favourite filter Lumia Selfie will save time by automatically applying the last-used effect to your next selfie.

Next up are options to enhance the photo, and these work incredibly well. If you're the sort of person who never takes a good selfie, the Nokia Lumia 735 is the phone for you. Among the enhancements - all applied via sliders - is the ability to enlarge your eyes and make them stand out better, alter the toning, soften the image, make your face slimmer, add a smile and whiten your teeth. You can make the sort of changes most people would love to be able to do in Photoshop, but don't know where to begin. 

Once saved, you can share your selfie with Facebook or Twitter, OneNote, messaging or email. You can also use the phone's built-in NFC to beam it to another compatible device. 

 Nokia Lumia 735 vs HTC Desire Eye: Which is the best selfie smartphone?

On the other hand, HTC's selfie camera is clearly the winner in the technology stakes. There's a 13Mp, f/2.2, 22mm lens with autofocus, BSI sensor, dual-LED flash and an HDR mode - you won't find the latter on the Lumia 735. This selfie camera is just like any smartphone's primary camera, with support for HDR, slow-motion video, face detection that tracks up to four people in the frame, on-the-fly application of filters, live make-up (adjusted via a slider), manual settings and a timer.

And to be fair HTC has some pretty decent software, too - and not just for selfies. For example, its automatic face tracking supports up to four people, ensuring you and your friends stay in view at all times when you're conducting video chat or groufies.  

When you are taking selfies the Desire Eye is able to capture the view from the front- and rear cameras, thereby showing an event and your reaction to it.  

The Desire Eye, in common with the Lumia 735, can also make you look better. Once you've taken your high-resolution selfie it will automatically flip around, offering you the view from other people's point of view rather than that which you see in the mirror. You can flip it back if you prefer, as well as rotate, crop and straighten the image, and even doodle on top.

Tweakable effects options include face fusion (allowing you to fuse your face with that of a friend, celebrity or animal, whatever floats your boat), skin smoothing, lighting, face contour (you can quickly lose 10 pounds), eye enhancer (be really careful or you'll end up with fish eyes), red-eye remover, eye brightener and anti-shine. Also here you can apply a different filter, and you can add a photo frame, although most of those available are pretty cheesy. 

The Desire Eye can quickly and easily transform your selfie from something awful to something not bad. Clearly edited, but not bad. You just have to be very careful not to go overboard on the effects. Here are some examples (we try not to smile too much in the office in case we look like we're having a good time).

HTC Desire Eye selfie smartphone review

HTC Desire Eye selfie smartphone review

HTC Desire Eye selfie smartphone review 

Which is the best smartphone for selfies, then? Although the HTC has by far the better technology it's easy to go overboard with its selfie software, and we think the Nokia's cheaper price and arguably easier-to-use beautifying software will be more appealing to the hordes of teenage girls (and boys) who will likely have this Windows Phone on their Christmas list this year. 

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Primary cameras 

While there is some argument that the Nokia Lumia 735 wins out on the selfie camera, there's no such argument with the primary camera. Pitting a 6.7Mp, f/1.9 camera with a single-LED flash against a 13Mp, f/2.0 snapper with dual-LED flash was never going to end well, never mind the Nokia's fancy-sounding Zeiss optics.  

The HTC Desire Eye offers a clearer picture with less noise, it works better in low-light and it has an HDR mode that helps you capture better photography in tricky lighting. And all the options on the selfie camera are also available to the rear camera, which you access with a swipe of the screen. The Nokia's camera produces acceptable photography, but nothing like that which you'd normally expect to see from a PureView camera - and nothing that you'd want to print out and frame without some tweaking. 

HTC has been making loud noices about its Zoe software, which is collaborative video-editing software available to all iPhones and Android devices, and not exclusive to the Desire Eye. When we reviewed the Desire Eye, though, it was merely said to be coming soon.

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Software 

Software is an obvious difference between these phones. Whereas the Desire Eye runs Android KitKat (a Lollipop upgrade will be available as soon as you take it out the box, according to HTC) with the Sense interface, the Nokia runs Windows Phone 8.1. Which you prefer is very much a personal choice, but it should be noted that there is not nearly so wide a gap between the two as there once was. 

Windows Phone does still lag on apps, with around 320,000 at the last count, but the Windows Phone Store covers most bases. And in terms of functionality the new Cortana voice assistant and improved notifications system brings it closer into line with Android. 

HTC Desire Eye vs Nokia Lumia 735: Verdict 

We don't need to tell you that the HTC Desire Eye is the better phone in this comparison. Of course it is. After all, it's nearly twice the price of the Lumia 735. In its screen, in its hardware, in its storage, in fact in every category the HTC beats the Nokia. But while the HTC clearly has the better selfie camera tech, you could argue that Nokia's selfie software is easier to use without going too far and, given the lower price, we reckon it'll be more appealing to its target market. Both phones, though, will help you take a much better selfie.

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Nokia Lumia 735: Specs

  • 4.7in (1280x720, 316ppi, 16:9) ClearBlack OLED display
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB internal storage (plus microSD support up to 128GB and 15GB free cloud storage)
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 4G
  • NFC
  • Qi wireless charging
  • 5Mp wide-angle front camera
  • 6.7Mp PureView rear camera
  • nano-SIM
  • Micro-USB
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 2220mAh removable battery
  • 68.5x8.9x134.7mm
  • 134g
  • 4.7in (1280x720, 316ppi, 16:9) ClearBlack OLED display
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB internal storage (plus microSD support up to 128GB and 15GB free cloud storage)
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 4G
  • NFC
  • Qi wireless charging
  • 5Mp wide-angle front camera
  • 6.7Mp PureView rear camera
  • nano-SIM
  • Micro-USB
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 2220mAh removable battery
  • 68.5x8.9x134.7mm
  • 134g

OUR VERDICT

We don't need to tell you that the HTC Desire Eye is the better phone in this comparison. Of course it is. After all, it's twice the price of the Lumia 735. In its screen, in its hardware, in its storage, in fact in every category the HTC beats the Nokia. But while the HTC clearly has the better selfie camera tech, you could argue that Nokia's selfie software is easier to use without going too far and, given the lower price, we reckon it'll be more appealing to its target market. Both phones, though, will help you take a much better selfie.

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