The company is unveiling a camera, the HTC Re, which is meant to get the smartphone “out of the way” when you’re taking photos and video.
If you’re like most people, you whip out your smartphone when you need to snap a quick pic or record a video. The problem with doing that, HTC points out, is that you end up experiencing the moment through your smartphone’s display and not in real life. Record a whole birthday party this way, and you’ll miss your son turning 5 years old — you were staring at a screen the whole time.
The Re camera puts you back in the moment by offloading the camera work to a small GoPro-like camera that — wait for it — has no display whatsoever. Just slightly larger than a Pez dispenser, the pipe-shaped Re looks more like a Pixar character than a camera.
Picking up the Re for the first time, I was struck by its lightness. Without a screen, the Re gets by with a relatively small battery (just 810 milliamp-hours), and it’s still good for recording 1.5 hours of video capture or shooting 1,000 still photos at full resolution, which is 16 megapixels.
The Re has a grand total of two buttons. The big silver one in back is the capture button; press it once to snap a still photo, press and hold to record video. In either case, the gadget emits an audible cue so you know what you’re doing. All photos and footage are saved to a microSD card, and the camera comes with an 8GB card.
HTC makes up for the lack of viewfinder of screen by giving the Re has an extremely wide-angle lens
HTC makes up for the lack of viewfinder of screen by giving the Re has an extremely wide-angle lens, able to capture imagery within a 146-degree field of view. It handles focus by zeroing in on the closest object.
The Re doesn’t have an “on” switch. Instead, HTC built a capacitive layer into the handle of the camera, so when you touch it, it immediately comes out of standby mode. It will also come alive if you press the capture button (useful if you’re wearing gloves), although there will be a slight delay. The exterior is water-resistant.
The Re works with a companion app, which lets you view all the video and pics you’ve captured as well as adjust settings. If you’d like to make the angle of the lens less wide, for instance, you can do so through the app; it pairs via Bluetooth but relays media via Wi-Fi Direct. You don’t need the smartphone to capture media, though — you can just grab the Re and do the offloading later.
All your Re pics and clips can be raw material for the HTC Zoe app and social network, which lets you create and share video slideshows, automatically compiled from your media. Both the Re app and Zoe will be available on Google Play, so they’re not limited to HTC devices. Even better, HTC promises the apps will also come to iOS “soon.”
The Re will cost $199 and be available in four colors from various retailers, including Best Buy, later in October. T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon will begin offering the Re in their stores sometime in November.
Companies like GoPro have shown there’s a demand for nimble cameras, although extreme sports fanatics are an easy demographic to convince. With the Re, HTC wants to extend the idea to everyone. Any photo of a crowd at a recent concert will make you wish those people had a Re, but the question remains: Would you use it?