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Meitu's T8 is meant for pure selfie goodness (hands-on)

Can a phone designed to make you look great be all that good?

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Known more for its beautifying apps, Chinese company Meitu's venture into smartphones is probably the last thing you'd expect. But when you stop to think about it, the Meitu T8 ($609 at Amazon)'s existence makes sense. Since most of its apps require a smartphone with a camera, having its own handset would let it integrate its makeover apps better.

Unlike your regular smartphones, the T8 takes a very unorthodox approach with a hexagonal design at the top and bottom of the phone. It looks different, but don't worry, it doesn't really affect the way you hold the handset.

As a device meant to help Meitu conquer the selfie world, the front-facing camera sports a 12-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, dual-pixel phase detection autofocus and f1.8 aperture. These are features you'd expect to find on most phone's rear cameras, brought up to the selfie cam instead. As for the rear camera, this one has a 21-megapixel sensor, but no phase detection and just f2.2 aperture. (Read more about the camera features below.)

If you're a selfie lover who wants to look good in every shot, then be prepared to fork out about $480 (or around £385 and AU$630) to get one from China, though you'll probably have to pay a premium if you buy if from an online reseller -- and you'll want to make sure that the phone will support your favorite network's bands.

Making you look good

Meitu's T8 comes loaded with a software called AI Beautification, which Meitu claims is capable of detecting skin tone, gender and age, and using those cues to beautify you even in a group shot. This means that each individual face gets enhanced differently, so they don't all end up looking like they went under the same surgeon's knife. The AI is also powerful enough to be used in a video, claims Meitu.

I put this to the test and came away surprised and worried by just how smooth my skin suddenly looked. While it doesn't really do anything for my (lack of) hair, I ended up with skin smooth enough to make a baby envious. Check out the GIF below for the various degrees of enhancement.

You can watch me slowly turn into a freaky looking person with super smooth "skin."

Aloysius Low/CNET

While Meitu claims that individuals would look different in group shots, in my test shots, people all had the same suspiciously smooth skin. Perhaps that's the way we'll all look in the future, once we figure out how to achieve miracle skin care.

meitut8selfie2.jpg

Sample selfie.

CNET

Not really a global phone

The T8 definitely feels well made. The rear metal backing tapers and the slightly curved glass display gives the phone a luxurious feel. The phone ran smoothly on the Mediatek deca-core processor. Being a model meant for the Chinese market, the phone lacks Google services, which means you won't be able to use stuff like Gmail or the Play Store to download apps.

It's still possible to sideload apps, and there's always Meitu's own app store for downloads. Still, its app limitations mean that the Meitu T8 won't give you the best expression of Android if you're in a place with access to Google Play Services. If you really want a version with Google Play, you'll have to look towards Hong Kong and Taiwan, which Meitu said will the T8s there will come with Google Play pre-installed.

Hardware specs

  • 5.2-inch full-HD AMOLED display
  • 21-megapixel camera, f2.2
  • 12-megapixel front-facing camera with phase detection autofocus, f1.8
  • 2.3GHz Helio X MT6979 deca-core processor
  • 128GB onboard storage
  • 4GB RAM
  • USB Type-C charger
  • 3,580mAh battery

First published March 23, 06:00 a.m. PT.

Update, March 26 08:00 p.m. PT: Added info on Google Play-equipped models.

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