The HTC Titan is the latest flagship Windows Phone device from HTC. It follows on from last year’s impressive HTC HD7 and is one of the first batch of new phones to come running with Mango, aka Windows Phone 7.5 installed. Mango should be available on all existing Windows Phone devices by now, but on the Titan it comes running Mango out of the box.
The Titan, as you’d expect from it’s name, is a pretty big phone; it features a whopping 4.7-inch screen and an 8-megapixel camera which HTC is saying is its most advanced yet. Bung in 16GB of internal memory and bespoke features such as HTC Watch (movies on-demand) and you’ve got a recipe for greatness here. The HTC Titan is shaping up to be the best Windows Phone of 2011; of course it remains to be seen how it will compare against Samsung’s Omnia W not to mention the Nokia Sea Ray.
For now though, the HTC Titan looks to be king of the Windows Phone world; let’s see what it’s got.
HTC Titan: Design and build
Design-wise, the Titan takes a cue from an Android smartphone from HTC’s own stable; the Sensation.
The back cover/battery cover of the section lifts clean off with the pressing of a little catch on the front; you lift the front/screen portion of the phone clean out of the case, turn it around and there you’ll see the battery sitting snug above the SIM card.
This being a Windows Phone mobile, there’s no microSD slot inside the Titan; rather you get a sizeable 16GB of storage. This ought to give you ample space for pictures, music, apps files and the rest. Though you don’t get the option to expand this with a memory card remember that as this is Windows Phone; you get access to Windows Live SkyDrive, which automatically means you’ve got 25GB of cloud storage to play with.
Unlike HTC’s Android wonder-phones which often boast a curvaceous sculpted look, the HTC Titan is all serious right angles with subtle curves. A more conservative look perhaps, which fits in with the Windows Phone uniform look and utilitarian credentials. The back cover has a smooth, matt finish which feels pleasant in the hand and offers a measure of grip. The lower section of the back of the Titan is covered in a thicker, rubbery substance, presumably to protect the microphone components from shocks and drops.
Despite the fact that the back cover easily pops off the Titan has a strong and sturdy feel to it, befitting of its name. Similarly, that 4.7-inch screen is, well, a 4.7-inch screen. In other words it’s big.
Though obviously wide across the front, the HTC Titan measures a slender 9.9mm round the sides. The edges have a rather sharp feel which might make this an uncomfortable fit for those without a large handspan. On the plus side, for all its size, the Titan slips discreetly into a jeans or jacket pocket, meaning you won’t have any unsightly trouser bulges carting this thing around.
Screen real estate leaves less than half an inch of space at the bottom for the three Windows Phone controls (soft, non-mechanical keys) and a little bit space up at the top for the front-facing camera.
This gives you a great deal of elbow room for flicking through web pages and reading news stories. Pinch to zoom works like a dream on the Titan and tapping to zoom, while not resizing columns of text, zooms out and frames everything at a sensible level.
Contrast and colour fidelity of this large SLCD screen are top notch, with rich deep blacks and vibrant whites. The minimal grid look of Windows Phone’s Metro UI looks right at home on the Titan, if a little on the big side. This brings us to our one real gripe about the screen, it’s resolution. The Titan’s screen weighs in with a pretty low 800 x 480 WVGA.
Though things don’t get so bad so that things look blocky and pixellated (everything looks great quality wise) everything feels a little oversized. You get the impression that not the most has been made of the screen acreage – it’s 4.7-inches and yet at times it feels like its much smaller.
HTC Titan user interface
As this is Windows Phone here, the user interface is going to be the same as it is on every other Windows Phone out there; you get that neat, vertical scrolling ribbon of icons – same as it ever was.
Additions to the Windows Phone fun in a post-Mango world include Local Scout, a nifty app which points you to places of interest within a short walk’s distance (restaurants, tourist destinations etc – see below), Bing Music, which features a Shazam-style track recognition tool, and the new and improved Facebook integration work a treat.
We especially liked the new ability to tag friends in photos as you upload them to Facebook. You can manually enter a friend’s name or simply tap on an area of the picture and then pick a friend to tag from your Facebook contacts list. In other words, exactly how you do it on ready salted desktop Facebook.
One other final thing we think we should mention is the ability to turn your Titan into a Wi-Fi hotspot. This is something you’ve been able to do on Android phones and iPhones for ages and its great to see this feature making its way to Windows Phone 7.
Most of what we like about the HTC Titan can be attributed to Mango/7.5 – for a better idea of the benefits this brings, read our Mango hands-on article.
Though the user interface of the Titan is more or less the same as it is on other Windows Phone devices, that hasn’t stopped HTC cramming in its own bespoke features where it can.
You get the HTC Hub (a weather and news hub) and Photo Enhancer (Hipstamatic-style photo effects) as seen in previous phones like the HD7, but you also get HTC Watch, HTC’s movies on demand service that crosses the pond from where it began life on the HTC Flyer Android tablet.
Movies and trailers on HTC Watch look pretty slick on the Titan’s screen, which has an aspect display of 16:10. This means that clips suffer from a slight letterboxing effect but aside from that don’t really suffer for it, even with the lower resolution of the likes of the Sensation.
HTC Titan browser
Internet Explorer 9 on the HTC Titan comes with HTML 5 support, which means you can play rich content like video on some sites, though we couldn’t seem to be able to play Flash videos.
Up to six tabs can be open at any one time and it’s pretty simple to jump between, close and open new tabs. You can also easily pin URLs to the start page or switch between browsing mobile and full web versions of pages (i.e. m.guardian.co.uk and www.guardian.co.uk); always good to have the option.
As we mentioned above, you get pinch to zoom action here but we noticed that text and images suffer from jagged edges when doing so. This ruins the Titan’s otherwise smooth as butter browsing performance.
HTC Titan multimedia
The HTC Titan packs an 8-megapixel camera which the company says is it’s most advanced smartphone camera unit to date.
As well as cranking things up to a chunky 8-megapixels, an f/2.2 aperture and a back-lit sensor have been included here which allows for better picture taking in gloomy areas like pubs, clubs and anywhere out and about at night. There’s a dual LED flash bunged in for good measure and the camera can also record video at 720p HD – unsurprising as that’s the minimum require level for Windows Phone devices.
There’s a plethora of camera settings for things like exposure, contrast and saturation which allow you to take some pretty wild shots with exaggerated colours and a neat panoramic mode which stitches three pictures together.
The quality of pictures taken on the Titan is generally of a high standard, though when you zoom close up in the gallery image noise is often noticeable. Still, for things like Facebook photos, where the pics will be shrunk, you won’t notice this much.
Performance in low-light levels is good, but not amazing, certainly not on the same level as it is on Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc and Arc S. Still, this is better than most phones for now; we’ve cameras with back-lit sensors look set to be the next spec du jour for phones. We’ve seen them in the aforementioned Arc phones, we’ve seen it here in the Titan and Apple’s iPhone 4S has one as well. Every smartphone worth its salt next year will have one.
Video capture is similarly impressive, but not mind blowing at 720p. Stereo recording means that video playback benefits from an audio boost which sounds even better through headphones. When you share a video for uploading however, the software automatically compresses videos, so this doesn’t really give you the best idea of how videos look:
We found that the camera doesn’t handle quick pans and arcs to the side that well, resulting in some slightly wobbly video. Ditto moving objects like cars and tube trains which sometimes suffered from motion blur during playback.
What we really liked about the camera is how quick it is. Pictures and videos are taken instantly with your results quickly shunted off to the left hand side of the screen. This means you can either pull everything up for a quick review of what you’ve taken or carry on firing off more pictures/video.
The front-facing camera, at 1.3-megapixels isn’t brilliant and shots taken on this really do look grainy and stretched across the big screen. Still, for fun non-serious self-portraits it’s fine; the effects of the Photo Enhancer app can smooth off some of the rough edges with a bit of Hipsta-style sheen.
The music player is the same Zune player we know from previous Windows Phone devices, but with a welcome new playlist creation tool. This allows you sling stuff into the ‘now playing’ queue and then effortlessly save it as a playlist.
Music played through the external speakers was suitably loud and crisp, although perhaps a little too trebly and piercing. Cranking the volume up to max isn’t advised as things get pretty distorted; about halfway up should be enough. Through headphones we got a much fuller and richer sound and distortion wasn’t so much of an issue.
App-wise, there still isn’t as much going on here as there is in the App Store or Android Market.
That said, there are some notable feathers in the app cap including (finally!) Angry Birds, Last.fm (free to access on Windows Phone, unlike with iOS or Android) along with a healthy glut of other casual games like Burn The Rope.
It’s also notable that Windows Marketplace now has a web-based equivalent, bringing app discovery out from behind the Zune wall – this is a Very Good Thing. We still don’t like the desktop Zune software that much; it’s slow and the latest set of updates kept failing to download ad nauseum. That said, we’re not much fond of iTunes either.
Things on the app front will no doubt improve with time but for now, and for a long while we suspect, it’s App Store leading the pack with Android Market trailing behind in second.
HTC Titan performance
For such a whopping great screen, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the HTC Titan’s battery would be sapped after just a matter of hours. In fact, its battery is commendably sturdy, able to give you a solid day’s use (i.e. with the camera firing away, GPS and Wi-Fi on, emails and Facebook open) on a full charge with enough left over for the next day. All the same, we’d recommend a good daily charge just to be on the safe side. But if we turned up to work and realised we’d left our charger at home, we’d be confident that a Titan would be able to see us through the day.
Call quality was as expected sharp and clear, quite sharp and trebly, as we found out when playing music. This is a good thing when you’re in a crowded area; against the 5.30PM commuter hubbub voice calls cut through effortlessly. Network and signal issues obviously apply here, but in optimal conditions call quality is solid.
Generally, the HTC Titan is one smooth operator, with the 1.5GHz processor certainly helping out in this department. Scrolling through the multitude of Windows Phone icons is a breeze, the camera app, as we mentioned is fast as you like, and you get a good day of battery use.
The Titan is yet another solid-looking and respectable device from HTC. As ever, design and build quality are at the forefront of things here but it’s not all about exteriors; this is a phone that shows off Windows Phone 7 and Mango effortlessly.
You get a healthy amount of internal storage and access to SkyDrive for all of your storage needs, a decent camera and a dependable battery.
Size wise we feel that a 4.7-inch screen phone will be overkill for some who might instead want to check out the HTC Radar when it’s released. The screen could’ve done with a boost in the resolution department if you ask us – this is easily our biggest moan about the Titan.
For now though its safe to say that this is the best Windows Phone phone out there; we’ll just have to wait and see how this compares to Nokia’s long-awaited Sea Ray and the rest to decide if we can crown this the Mango King of 2011 for good.