If there's one word that's come to symbolise our technology-addicted, snap-happy lifestyles in the last year or so, it has to be 'selfie'. The impact of those six letters had been so big, it's now impossible to go anywhere without seeing someone stretching their arm out in front of them, phone in hand, to capture a moment.
Such is the speed at which it's entered our consciousness that it was named Word of the Year for 2013 by the Oxford English Dictionary, while there's now even a TV show called 'Selfie' airing in the US, featuring former Doctor Who assistant Karen Gillan as a social-media obsessed 21st century Eliza Doolittle struggling to learn about real-world interactions.
Now if only TV newsreaders and newspaper writers would learn what it actually means and stop misidentifying every smartphone portrait as a 'selfie', we'll be making progress (protip to journalists, it's a photo you take of yourself, not just any photo with you in it).
So with so much of our time devoted to capturing the world around us – or more specifically, a small section of the world directly behind us – it's no surprise that phone makers have begun to realise there's money to be made by boosting the cameras that are included on their handsets. And one firm that's making a big push to promote this is HTC.
Enter the Eye
Its newest smartphone has clearly been designed from the ground up to appeal to photography-obsessed buyers, and this is even reflected in its name, the HTC Desire Eye. This takes its place at the top of the Desire range and boasts what HTC describes as "one of the best front-facing cameras available".
This means that in addition to the standard 13MP rear-facing snapper for normal photography, there's an identical 13MP staring back at you from the front. The firm stated: "The HTC Desire Eye is fully equipped for those who love to take great photos, videos and selfies. BSI sensors capture crisp photos, even in low-light conditions, and intelligent dual-LED flash on both cameras provides flattering, natural tones when ambient light levels drop further."
But before you assume it's all about the camera and nothing else, the Eye also features a sharp, 5.2-inch high-definition screen, a top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and a stylish dual-colour, fully waterproof design, so you can take your pics anywhere without worrying about dropping it in the ocean, the swimming pool, or (far more likely) the kitchen sink.
All the tools you need for the perfect picture
And it's not just in the hardware of the camera that HTC is making an effort to attract snap-happy buyers. At the heart of the phone's software is its HTC Eye Experience, which the firm promises will "take mobile imaging software into a new league with unique features guaranteed to make you look your best".
Features of this include face tracking tools that ensure your smile can be kept centred and in focus at all times – with up to four people able to be followed by this. Not just for use with photos, this means users can also enjoy video services like Skype without worrying about exactly where they or their friends are standing, as the camera will follow everyone.
The Voice Selfie feature also means no more fumbling about trying to find the shutter button when the device is at arm's length, as the camera can be activated with a verbal command, while Split Capture enables you to combine simultaneous photos and videos from both the front and rear cameras. "This creates a new selfie experience, allowing you document your journey and your reaction without relying on thumbnail views," HTC said.
Capture the moments with Re
It's not just in its smartphones that HTC is looking to help people capture the world around them, as it's also introduced the Re camera – a small, handheld device that is the firm's answer to tools like GoPro.
Looking a little like a miniature periscope, the Re's cylindrical design means it can be held easily in a user's hand, while a built-in grip sensor instantly activates the device when picked up – so no fiddling around with power buttons. A single tap of the shutter button takes a still image, while a longer press starts video recording.
Central to the device is a high-resolution 16MP sensor that allows for full 1080p video recording. With a 146-degree wide-angle lens and capabilities for slow-motion and time lapse recording, the Re will let users capture all those once-in-a-lifetime moments, the firm said.
With no display, graphical user interface or viewfinder, simplicity is the key to the Re. However, users can watch the action being recorded as it unfolds on their smartphone screen, while the app backs up all your footage to your phone and the cloud automatically, so running out of space is never an issue.
Chief executive of HTC Peter Chou commented: "Combining incredible hardware with unrivalled software, HTC is reinventing the way we think about imaging. We are taking you out from behind the viewfinder and putting you back where you belong, at the heart of the action."