Heads up, selfie junkies: Meitu, the company behind the viral app of the same name, just announced a new phone specifically built for taking selfies.
Dubbed the Meitu T8, the Android-powered handset is only available in China, so if you live in the US, don’t get too excited about it. With that being said, many of the T8 camera’s selfie beautification features are alredy available in Meitu’s other apps for the US market, including MakeupPlus and BeautyPlus. These two apps come pre-loaded on the T8; more on them later.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with the T8 and test out its selfie capabilities. My first impressions of the phone were positive. It comes in a beautiful black and copper box. The unit I got to play with was a beautiful metallic orange color, which changes as you move it around in the light, morphing from a bright orange to a lighter peachy shade depending on which way you hold it. The phone also comes in several other colors, including blue, gray, rose gold, and black.
Hands On With The Meitu T8
Because this is billed as a selfie phone, let’s talk at length about its front-facing camera capabilities, shall we? In terms of specs, it’s got a 12 dual pixel camera on the front, which is basically like 24MP. Meitu says the front camera offers “photo quality and performance similar to DSLR cameras.” On the back, there’s a 21MP shooter.
The company says your selfies will look good, even in low-light conditions. Anyone who takes a lot of selfies knows this is a pretty big claim.
The regular camera app has filters and effects built right in, so you don’t necessarily need a separate app to edit your selfies, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. The phone’s artificial intelligence-powered editing features are super advanced: It can, for instance detect different genders and ages and apply effects accordingly. If it detects a small child it won’t apply as much skin smoothing as it would for a 60 year-old. For men, it covers under eye circles but won’t blur out your beard or 5 o’clock shadow.
Meitu is good at this because it’s been doing it for a while. The company has been around since 2008, so it’s got a huge database of faces, and loads of experience filtering them.
Inside the camera app, you can select from a number of Instagram-like filers with names like Jungle, Shatter, Sweet, and Amber, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The camera’s “beautification” functions are really where it’s at. Those include: “auto face-lift,” “anti-acne,” “dark circles,” “highlight face,” “smart whitening,” “tooth whitening,” and “rosy.” Auto face-lift will make your face look slimmer, rosy adds color to the lips, smart whitening makes your skin paler, and the rest are pretty much self-explanatory.
You can disable any of the beautification functions you don’t want, or keep them all on. You can also adjust the level those effects are applied overall, from 1 being the least intense to 7, the most. When I turned on all the beautification functions at full intensity, I basically looked like a ghost with no nose. I found that keeping it around a level 3 or 4 is best if you still want to look natural and not overly airbrushed. I have freckles, and even at a level 1 the camera removed most of them. With the beautification functions set at a level 3 you really couldn’t see my freckles at all.
As advertised, the T8’s camera takes really good selfies in low light. I normally use an iPhone 7 Plus and before that I had an iPhone 4S. The T8 takes better looking night selfies than both iPhones I’ve owned. Even with my iPhone 7 Plus, low-light selfies normally turn out dark and shadowy. For this reason, I have a Selfie Ring Light that I throw in my purse when I know I’ll want to take selfies at night with my iPhone.
The T8 made my face look much brighter and less shadowy in low light compared to the iPhone 7 Plus. There’s one caveat here: You have to be really, really still when you’re taking low-light photos with the T8 or they’ll turn out blurry. I literally had to snap the same selfie of myself and two friends five times because they kept moving and coming out blurry.
Overall, the Meitu T8 smartphone is a lot of fun. If you like taking selfies, if you like makeup, if you like playing around with Snapchat filters, you’d love this phone.
You Can’t Get The Phone, But You Can Get These Apps
Meitu’s MakeupPlus app is basically like a virtual makeup artist. It offers filters and tools that let you experiment with a huge variety of different looks. There’s pre-set themes, or you can virtually try on different foundations, lipsticks, hair colors, blushes, contouring, eyebrow shapes, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, eyelids, contacts, and other decorations to create your own looks. I had a lot of fun playing with the pre-set themes, which will turn you into everything from a cute reindeer or vampire to a Day of the Dead skull or festival-goer. There’s also a bunch of more subtle pre-set themes that will let you try of different makeup looks inspired by celebrities.
When you snap a photo, the phone plays a lovely chime sound and the theme of your choice is applied. When you save a photo, both the original and enhanced versions are available in the phone’s gallery, so you can look back and compare how terrible you looked without the filter, and how great you look with the fake makeup. The app even hilariously told me “you look better with the makeup.”
Meanwhile, the BeautyPlus app, aka “the magical beauty camera,” lets you “beautify” a new selfie or an existing image in your camera roll. You can smooth out your skin, remove wrinkles, make yourself paler or tanner, whiten your teeth, brighten your eyes, remove acne and other blemishes, get rid of dark circles, make your nose smaller, etc.
A lot of these capabilities are built into the T8’s camera, but the BeautyPlus app lets you do more and get more granular with your editing by dialing up or down each individual effect. I was especially impressed with the dark circle corrector, which works just like concealer. Say you want full coverage for your undereye circles and have a few acne spots to get rid of, you can do that.
There’s also a cool option to blur the background of your photo as well as a fun AnimeCam feature, which will turn you into an anime character.
It’s a bummer that the T8 won’t be available in the US, but you can already get Meitu’s BeautyPlus and MakeupPlus apps here. Both are available for both iPhone and Android devices.
Meanwhile, when the Meitu app went viral in the US last month, developers expressed concern that it was overly aggressive with its data collection. Developer Zoë Quinn in a tweet that now appears to be deleted warned users about some “VERY shady code” discovered in the app, noting that “it asks for permissions to far more things than it needs, and researchers have found it is phoning home (back in China) and sending back a ton of data it shouldn’t be.” In response, Meitu acknowledged that it collects data such as IP address, GPS and network location, and phone carrier info. The company said this is within Apple’s iOS developer guidelines, and its data collection practices are similar to other popular photo-editing apps for Android users. The company said it’s currently developing plans to move servers and user data outside of China, but did not provide any other details on these arrangements.