A superbly built phone with sturdy yet slender aluminium unibody, glass 4.7-inch WVGA display with a perfectly responsive, accurate touch-screen. Windows Phone 7 is a fresh alternative to iOS and Android, too
Email and social apps are perfectly integrated to create a hyper-connected 'People Hub' where you can view updates, photos, and feeds as well as contact friends and write posts. The tile-based interface is simple and fluid
All the usual superphone accoutrements: eight-megapixel camera with dual flash, massive screen for media, a fast browser, A-GPS for sat-nav, and excellent communication features
The touch-screen responsiveness is phenomenal, while email is fast, swish and desktop like. The integration of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn makes it a super social phone out of the box. However, the browser, though fast, lacks a few small extras that Android and iOS browsers have, and Bing Maps is a poor alternative to Google Maps - which isn't available for WP7
Over a day's use with Wi-Fi, 3G, and push notifications on
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 4:02:03 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Excellent touch-screen and keyboard, modern and full-featured email interface, social networking is built right in, great build quality, good camera, innovative and intuitive OS, good screen for movies
Lack of apps on Windows Marketplace, Bing Maps lacks pedestrian directions, 4.7-inch screen may be too large for some
The bigger the better, or less is more? The HTC Titan puts that to test as a 4.7-inch behemoth that just manages to be a phone-not-tablet. It's one of the first handsets to launch with the new Windows Phone 7.5 (previously known as the Mango update) and it's a spec giant built in the vein of HTC's almost-as-large HD7: metallic unibody, solid glass front and a sturdy yet skinny frame. By all accounts, a literal super-phone - but one year on, is the continuing dearth of apps on the Windows Marketplace too big an issue to overlook?
When we reviewed the five-inch phone-slash-tablet Dell Streak, we found it just too big as a phone, yet too small as a tablet. The Titan doesn't really have this problem - at 4.7 inches, it slots just fine in even our dainty lady pockets, and you can still navigate it with a single hand. Still, if you're coming from a 3.5-inch iPhone 4 or similar, it looks absolutely massive. Its screen size will be polarising - but it does mean that the keyboard is extraordinarily comfortable and accurate for typing, and for media, well, big is truly beautiful, particularly on the S-LCD display.
At 199ppi resolution, it looks good, but it's not quite up to its competitors on screen definition - the Samsung Galaxy S II clocks in at 217ppi, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc at 233ppi, and the iPhone 4 at a whopping 300ppi. HTC has made use of as much screen real estate as possible though, with the Gorilla Glass enforced screen stretching over most of the front, with three touch-sensitive buttons at its base - Back, Home and Search, which is always as a web-search rather than a context-specific search, say looking for friends in the People tab, or apps in Marketplace. Set in an aluminium casing, the Titan feels elegant and strong, despite being just 9.9mm thin, the same as the iPhone 4. An eight-megapixel camera protrudes ever so slightly at its back, next to a dual-LED flash.
Under the hood, there's a 1.5GHz single-core processor versus the dual-core 1GHz chips of its Android and iPhone competitors, and surprisingly, just 512MB of RAM, half of what other top-end smartphones are packing. There's no noticeable difference in processing speed, but because most apps are shut down when you exit rather than kept open as they are on Android and iPhone, it takes a few seconds longer to load apps.
A front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera lets you take self-portraits and make video calls, though with Skype still not on Windows Phone, you're restricted to using the far lesser-known Tango - and trying to get your friends on it too. Supposedly Skype will land sometime this autumn, but we're still waiting.
Mango added about 500 new features, but the general navigation of Windows Phone remains the same. The tile-based interface is a refreshing alternative to the icon-based look of both Android and iPhone - and even the BlackBerry 7 phones - with these tiles updating live with real-time info.
For example, the Messages tile will show the number of texts and social messages waiting, while the Calendar refreshes with your latest appointments.
There are just two home screens - one a sort of Start menu where you can 'pin' your most used apps, and the other a list of all apps on the phone. There are still no folders to organise apps, but then again, this OS shies away from an app-based navigation, instead integrating apps such as Facebook and Twitter right into its phonebook. So rather than hitting the Facebook app, you can actually view posts and photos and write updates direct from the phonebook.
Swish animations make the OS feel very modern - for example, sent emails fly upwards, while the Pictures 'hub' regularly scrolls through your camera roll. This comes at a slight expense to battery life, but no more so than other smartphones that do less. In fact, the battery life is pretty impressive here, and we easily last
ed the day before a recharge.
Holding down the back button brings up the multitasking view where you can swipe through a row of open programs, not unlike the erstwhile webOS's card system. Design is a major plus point, though unlike Apple's streamlined ethos, WP7 is all about look-what-i-can-do flourishes intended to impress.
The 'Me' tile is particularly useful, showing new notifications in all your social networks. The Mango update added Twitter and LinkedIn integration. Click on the People tile, and you'll be able to view an aggregated contact card for each friend, showing their latest activity in any social network you have their details for.
Gmail, Yahoo Mail and of course Hotmail can be fully synced with the phone, so you'll have your contacts and calendars as well as email. In fact, after Android, WP7 offers the best Google experience there is.
The only downside is that the humble phone call is a somewhat longwinded process, requiring a click on the 'Phone' tile followed by a text search for the number you're looking for. Sorting your contacts into groups makes the process a bit faster.
So WP7 was great and all, but we did have some reservations. Curiously, Microsoft hasn't addressed these (except for the lack of copy-paste, which is semi-implemented), but it has added some major functionality to communication in general.
Separating contacts into custom groups lets you send mass texts, emails and Facebook messages to the group - cool, but not hugely useful. Ater all, how often do you regularly need to address the exact same message to that exact same group of people? Both the email and text apps auto-fill addresses anyway.
Twitter and LinkedIn contacts and messages are now integrated into the People hub, so you can post messages to these networks direct from the hub - again, without needing to go into a separate app.
Facebook, Windows Live and text messages are all threaded, but we didn't find this a particularly useful feature. Conversations we have on different platforms don't necessarily belong together, and one particularly annoying side effect is that when someone is typing several lines of a message on Facebook, assuming you're at your computer, the phone alerts go off like mad. Longer messages also don't fully load into the Messages app, ending instead in a weblink for you to read the rest.
Copy and paste is also not as well implemented as on Android phones or the iPhone. In the browser, it's particularly hard to select text for copying. The browser has been updated to the new Internet Explorer 9 with hardware acceleration, so it's fast, but not as full featured as Safari. For example, tapping on numbers doesn't directly open the dialer, nor can you copy-paste numbers into the number pad. On the flip side, numbers in emails can be dialled.
Then there's Local Scout, a location app that shows the nearest restaurants, shops and points of interest to your GPS location. Funny then, that Bing search often threw up results that were nowhere near us. Bing is still a poor alternative to Google, and Bing Maps is particularly anemic, with no pedestrian navigation, only driving instructions.
It's all about cloud these days and Windows Phone is right up there, with 25GB free storage on SkyDrive. You can choose to automatically upload photos from the phone camera as you snap them, as well as save documents from MS Office to access from anywhere.
Like the iPhone, you need to download the Zune software to move music and video from your PC to phone. Zune is Microsoft's answer to iTunes, but in the UK, you can still only download music, not movies. The onboard video player doesn't support DivX, the file format a lot of online video is coded in - and there's no DivX player app available for Windows Phone (yet?). The Titan does pack HTC Watch though, a paid-for HD movie streaming and download service that would theoretically negate your need for DivX - as long as you didn't want to load on your own collection of net-sourced movies and TV.
Windows Marketplace is now at 32,000 apps, which is a fair sight ahead of the 11,000 at the BlackBerry App World - but nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands at Android and iOS markets. It's got some of the biggies like Facebook and Twitter, but there are some glaring omissions including Google Maps, Spotify, Addison Lee... There are also very few free apps that are also decent, and in general, prices are just a tad higher than they are on other OSes.
The sleeper hit of this phone is the eight-megapixel camera, easily the best that's ever come from HTC. Its dual-LED flash is very bright, but doesn't over expose. It's decent for lowlight shots if you want them illuminated, but without a flash, images came out quite dim. In good lighting, we got excellent clarity and colour reproduction.
You can touch-focus which also snaps the shutter, or use the dedicated shutter button, which can also launch the camera fromany app. The video player can record in 720p video, and we got pretty good video with great definition in both low light and good light. The mic picks up a fair amount of background noise, but overall it's an impressive little camera.
This aptly named phone is an excellent execution of the hyper-power that is Windows Phone - but the recently announced HTC Sensation XL packs the exact same spec list, only with access to Android features. We truly rate Windows Phone 7, and the Mango update has added several innovative new communication features that other OSes can't boast - yet it's not quite up to scratch in a couple key areas, the browser and on-board Maps. More importantly, the lack of apps could be a dealbreaker - but it's one slick mother if you're all about email and social networking, with a surprising bonus feature in the camera.
Like the sound of this? The HTC Titan is available for £415 SIM-free (+ VAT) from Clove Technology, or on contract from T-Mobile, Orange and Vodafone.