For those that may not have been paying attention to mobile trends over the last couple of years, bigger most certainly screams better. Or at least that’s what the owners of the HTC HD2, EVO, and HD7 will have you believe. Make no mistake about it, the biggest point to drive home in regards to the HTC TITAN is the 4.7-inch screen size. Sure, it may have a backside-illuminated sensor for the 8MP shooter, but don’t let any of those things get in the way, as the big draw for this monster phone from HTC is the monster display running Windows Phone. Hit the break for a full rundown on the new–and almost outdated–phone from HTC.
Hardware & Design
Anyone who has gotten their hands on any HTC phone in the last several years can pretty much attest to the overall quality that goes into every one of its designs. The TITAN is no different, using a blend of soft touch plastic on the bottom of the backside, with a single piece aluminum shell covering most of the rear and the sides. Around the edges, you’ll find a dedicated camera button, volume rocker, power button (which is a little difficult to press with the angled edges), headphone jack, micro USB port and an additional button on the bottom, which releases the front of the phone from its resting spot in the single piece aluminum housing. Flip around back and you’re greeted with the Windows Phone logo, an HTC logo etched into the rear, and a dual LED flash 8MP camera. The single-piece aluminum housing really gives the TITAN a pleasant feel in the hand, and adds to the rigidity of the phone. Of course, not all is well with this design as the aluminum isn’t the best material to be used for wireless bands, but more on this later.
The front of the phone is easily dominated by the glass display, as the bezel on the TITAN measures in at a mere 3mm on the sides. Considering the phone clocks in at 131.5 x 70.7mm (and only 9.9mm thick), that’s a pretty nice amount of screen real estate you get without carrying around excess baggage. You can find the usual array of capacitive Windows keys, a front-facing camera, and the speaker cutout on the front of the TITAN, which really keeps things simple and minimal. The recessed speaker cutout does collect a fair amount of lint and dust that might drive OCD types crazy though.
All of this is powered by the Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon processor running at 1.5GHz. This may be a gaffe to Android fans, but the extra horsepower needed to smooth out Android isn’t needed with Windows Phone. From an end user standpoint, gaming and the overall system feel far exceed what you’ll find on all but the newest 1.5GHz Dual-Core models hitting consumers. The software is simply coded more efficiently than Android is, which leads to a great overall feel across devices and carriers.
One could argue that HTC has nearly perfected its mobile lineups, but that just simply isn’t the case. While the TITAN is a beautiful phone made out of high quality materials, it’s just another HTC phone. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, but it looks like every other HTC that’s been churned out over the years. It may not be the easiest thing in the world to draw up a new design for a phone dominated by a glass display, but Nokia managed to do it with the Lumia 800 and 900. In fact, HTC just recently announced it will no longer churn out as many different phones as they have the last couple of years, and will instead focus on the end user experience, and giving users a phone they can be proud of. I feel that’s a great way to go, especially for the Android crowd, when you buy a new phone, it’s outclassed in matter of months or weeks. Hopefully this new outlook from HTC will result in some unique and classy designs with their continued hardware quality.
Another gripe I have with the design is the wireless call quality. It seems TITAN users have been having some issues, myself included, with the sound coming through to other callers. Outgoing voices sound muffled and distant, leading to a lot of “can you repeat that,” and “can you speak clearly.” Looking at the new Titan II, which has an all new backside made of soft touch plastic, and HTC’s recent comments regarding this known issue, some users can expect to have some issues similar to Apple’s antenna gate from 2010.
Display & Audio
Now for the man of the hour, the monster 4.7-inch Super LCD display is simply stunning. Blacks are deep and colors pop, though the blacks (not colors) do tend to wash out slightly at angles. Outdoor visibility is pretty solid. Viewing angles are superb from all four sides. iPhone owners gawk in amazement. That’s exactly what you need to hear when you might be interested in a phone with such a gargantuan display. I haven’t noticed any issues with color banding, and the display is uniformly lit throughout. HTC has truly given TITAN users something to be proud of and to showcase, and frankly, that’s almost vital when working with the Metro UI in Windows Phone.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, and you’ll hear it time and time again. The big downside to using Windows Phone at this point is the max resolution being capped at 800 x 480. Having a screen this size, and not being able to reach that coveted HD target that Apple and Android are pushing out regularly might seem like a step back. In some ways it is, but for the most part, the excess resolution isn’t missed. While I wouldn’t mind a few extra pixels when viewing pictures and video, it’s by no means a deal breaker. Now, to clarify, I feel the other operating systems need the extra pixels to maximize the quality of the user experience. But having the Metro UI changes things, and seeing it displayed on a TITAN really puts it into perspective. Live tiles look fantastic at this size, and the entire system just looks stunning. To the naked eye, the lesser pixel density is pretty much a non-issue, as everyone that makes it one (for the record, this became really important for journalists when Apple announced their Retina display) just shows pictures of ultra-zoomed and magnified image crops showing the differences behind a lens. With that being said, I look forward to the benefits of higher resolution displays for Windows Phones for media use, but I enjoy the oversized look of Metro at the current resolution. Just like anything, pros and cons.
The audio quality of the TITAN for calls comes in at about average. Voices sound somewhat tinny, but pretty much par for the mobile phone lineup. The speakerphone comes in with the same effect, while somtimes sounding overly harsh depending on the caller from the other side.
As for the sound quality for music loving on the go types, the TITAN should satisfy most. HTC has really cleaned up its sound quality from a couple of years ago, and though this may not have the over-hyped and poor sounding Beats branding, HTC did throw in some extras which bring a pretty nice sound signature for non-critical listening. For starters, users are able to listen in a couple of different audio modes such as no effects, SRS enhancements, and some pre-defined equalizers from HTC. Video fans get the same choices except for the equalizer which is replaced by HTC’s in house 5.1 Surround optimizer.
From a music standpoint, I don’t have many issues with the sound quality. The ever present hiss when using higher impedance phones in nonexistent. For those wondering which setting seemed best to my ears, the “no effect” mode seemed to take the air out of the music and come across as utterly flat and lifeless. The lower frequencies were extremely subdued, and even the vocals seemed distant and unenergetic. The bundled HTC equalizer modes are all worthless leading to the typical over compensated sound depending on the setting used. However, the SRS enhancement actually improved the quality of the music. The lower end of the sound spectrum is turned up a notch without the typical “bass boosting.” Voices seemed a little more true to form and natural without coming across as electronic and techy that usually accompanies most audio enhancements outside the BBE enhancements found on the infamous Cowon players. Until someone pairs with BBE (Nokia, I’m looking at you), the SRS enhancements on the TITAN offer a pleasant music listening experience.
For those that want to utilize the beautiful 4.7-inch display for some videos, don’t waste your time with anything besides the SRS enhancements. The HTC 5.1 Surround option does provide some extra surround feeling, though it quickly gets thrown out considering all audio sounds like someone is shouting down a tunnel. Just stick with the SRS audio.
We have all finally reached the point where smartphones can actually be used to takeover most point and shoots. While some of the higher end P&S models will still outclass what HTC, Apple, Nokia, and Samsung can offer, the sheer convenience and somewhat minor jump in picture quality offset the convenience and money saving effects of owning a high end smartphone. The 8MP backside-illuminated sensor has a nice and wide 28mm lens with a max aperture of f/2.2. For those paying attention, that’s the same setup used for the MyTouch Slide 4G, which has garnered some impressive reviews for the image quality. Images taken from the TITAN look very detailed with minimal noise reduction. Colors come across natural, and not over-saturated like most smartphone images tend to be. Low light images captured without the flash come out pretty decent. You won’t be ditching the DSLR anytime soon, but noise reduction is minimal with a decent amount of detail captured. This doesn’t defy physics, but then again, the low light images can go toe to toe with a fair amount of digital point and shoot cameras. My only real complaint with the current TITAN setup stems from the dual-LED flash which is almost always overpowering and bleaches out whatever you are trying to capture. Flash images from my wife’s Samsung Focus Flash come out much cleaner and more natural than the TITAN .
Video recording though is only average. You are stuck with 720p recording because of the single core processor. The newer Android phones hitting the market have 1080p capabilities with the dual-core setups. Image quality between the two resolutions isn’t that noticeable in real life though. Neither will satisfy videophiles on a larger screened TV. Detail is very good though, and colors generally look attractive and true to form though. It takes some time for the camera to find its focus. The front-facing shooter is only recommended to be used for video chat as images come up rather blocky with lots of motion blur.
Without going into too much detail regarding Windows Phone, as Mango has been covered thoroughly here and across the internet, the experience on the TITAN is fantastic. Simply put, everything runs like butter. As stated earlier, the extra-large tiles on the display look great. The People hub in Mango is probably the biggest wow factor (along with live tiles) that I’ve come across from other smartphone owners. Having your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts combined in one news feed, with the amount of information available, has led some people to take notice of the Windows Phone from Microsoft. In essence, it’s a fantastic OS.
HTC has their own integrated apps, and more can be downloaded from the HTC hub in the Marketplace. Most of them are pretty excellent, and I’ll highlight a couple in the coming weeks for app reviews, but in true HTC fashion, they all look fantastic.
Now, the big elephant in the room of course is the app situation for Windows Phone. It’s decent, but it’s growing. Essentially, Microsoft is in the #3 position behind Android and iOS. The Marketplace has over 50,000 apps, and Microsoft is really trying to increase that number drastically. However, Windows Phone apps aren’t updated as often and quickly as their iOS and Android counterparts. Some are better than others, but the Pulse app for Windows Phone is nowhere near as clean and buttery smooth as Androids and iOS version. This is of course a problem with the developer, but it’s a problem that can be found throughout. With that said, users can typically find a replacement for most apps on competing platforms, but that’s still not the same as having the app you want. It’s the old chicken and the egg, developers want users, and users want apps before they commit to an expensive phone with a two-year commitment.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. I know most of you are thinking that this phone is too big (or not big enough), but the specs haven’t scared you off yet. Sure, you can measure the specs and crunch number to try to find out if you’re comfortable, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. My time with the TITAN (coming from a Dell Venue Pro) has led me to believe that this form factor, while fantastic for some, isn’t for everyone. It’s a large phone no matter how you slice it. Luckily for me, I’m a big guy with monster hands and am quite enjoying the extra dimensions. I haven’t had a problem swiping screens or reaching my thumb way over to the other side to navigate any on screen menus. My wife’s another story though. At 5’6″, she’s a petite one and doesn’t like the TITAN for everyday use(hence the Samsung Focus Flash). That probably seems obvious, but essentially, don’t venture into this size territory unless you’ve had some hands-on time. It’s thin enough, and HTC has done an excellent job minimizing external proportions. It’s just a big phone.
As for the rest of my experience, it’s been extremely enjoyable. Web pages look great, and are easy to navigate. I’ve been able to take some excellent pictures of my daughter that I haven’t been able to capture in my previous phones due to a variety of reasons. No other smartphone has truly given me the opportunity to leave my camera (unless I’m looking for some fun with my Sony Nex-5) and MP3 player at home. Owning this beast has also had me pulling the phone out more and showing it off to friends and colleagues. This wasn’t something I was cognizant with during my time with the Dell Venue Pro. That was a little too beefy to really show off. The TITAN however, is simply drool-worthy. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me “what kind of phone is that” as they slide their iPhone in their pocket and ask to play with the TITAN.
The TITAN is the best Windows Phone on the market right now. That being said, most other Windows Phones simply provide different form factors more than they provide a better user experience. That’s a benefit to having a more Apple-centric policy on hardware requirements, and excellent software vs the mass choice of Android.
This may be the best Windows Phone available, but should you buy it? Not unless you need one right now.
That’s a shame, because this phone is fantastic. But Nokia has the Lumia 900 launching in the next couple of months which will be a little easier to manage for most and offer a truly unique design. Also, HTC is launching the Titan II, which will have a 16MP shooter and a redesigned soft touch backside to no doubt take care of the call quality/antenna issues, not to mention both phones will be LTE equipped. It’s a shame that the TITAN is only a couple of months into existence and is already being upgraded to its second version. Current TITAN owners can surely enjoy this monster phone with no worries about the upcoming models on AT&T. But if you’re looking into picking up a TITAN, I’d suggest waiting for the next round of Windows Phones coming to AT&T, as they will surely be a little more future proof.