NEW YORK – Everywhere you look people are using smartphones and tablets to snap pictures and film concerts, speeches — their kids' ballet recitals — and instantly share the experiences with friends and family. At many events people aren't even looking at the stage, they are watching through their screens.
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HTC thinks there's a better way — and they're betting you won't mind carrying around an extra device about the size of a roll of mints. With the new Re camera gripped discreetly in your hands, you can take stills and video while still experiencing the event directly — not through a viewfinder. No more annoying people behind you by blocking their views with your phone or tablet. (In fact, no one may realize you're filming at all. Hmm. HTC says the Re will at least make a sound when you take a picture or start recording.)
The Re marks HTC's effort to expand beyond smartphones. Its flagship HTC One smartphone earns high praise from users but the company's global market share is tiny compared with Apple and Samsung. According to IDC, HTC's market share was less than 2 percent in the second quarter, the latest period available.
HOW DO I USE IT?
The camera, which will hit stores in about a month, resembles a miniature submarine periscope. The base is about four inches long and you look through a lens about the size of a quarter.
One quick press snaps a 16-megapixel still image, while a long press starts video recording at 1080p high definition. You can transfer images wirelessly to your phone with a free iPhone or Android app, or send images directly to an online storage account when connected through Wi-Fi.
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Would-be filmmakers can attach the Re to tripods and other accessories. The camera's waterproof, so you can leave it outside for time-lapse video. (Apple added the time-lapse feature to iPhones in its iOS 8 software update, but you can't use your phone for other things while you take the video.)
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
For $199 you get just 8 gigabytes of storage, but you can add up to 128 gigabytes more with a microSD card.
There's no display. You can use Re's smartphone app as a viewfinder, but that defeats the point of not needing to have your phone out while enjoying an event.
WHAT ELSE IS COMING FROM HTC?
Next month HTC is launching a new mid-range smartphone called the Desire Eye. The phone's front camera will match the 13 megapixels found on the rear — meaning sharper selfies and videoconferencing than what smartphones typically offer. The front camera also will use face detection to keep subjects in focus and permit voice commands such as "cheese!" to snap the shot. HTC plans to bring many of these features to its high-end HTC One devices, too, through free software updates.
The 5.2-inch Desire Eye will be available in early November through AT&T. No details on price yet.
HTC also is launching a free app for iPhones and non-HTC Android phones that lets users create a highlights-video. Current HTC phones have a Zoe feature that automatically grabs images taken on a given day and stitches them together into a video, complete with music.
The free app "allows us to get HTC in more people's hands without having to make them do a smartphone change immediately," says Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC America. "So the next time that customer is buying a smartphone, they now have been introduced to HTC."