Behind this enormous screen is a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.5 GHz, the same as the one used in the Flyer tablet, also from HTC. There's 512 MB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. No straying from the Microsoft line either, so there's no microSD slot to increase the storage capacity!
The main camera has an 8 Megapixel sensor and films at HD 720p. The front-facing webcam has 1.3 Megapixel sensor. Note, the screen definition is 800 x 480 pixels.
The Titan is not, however, HTC's first large format incursion into Microsoft mobile OS territory. Last year the company launched the HD7, a 4.3-inch terminal.
The HTC Titan is on sale for around £450 and in this review we'll not only be assessing the value of the phone itself, but also getting more of an in-depth view on the new version of Windows Phone.
Taming the Titan
Your first impression is that this beast will never sit in one hand and that it's almost as big as the Dell Streak 5 ... but then you find yourself in front of a compact handset that isn't, for example, as heavy as the HTC Sensation (160 grammes against 170). The Titan is certainly bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S II but, side by side, the two giants differ very little.
Handling is facilitated by a) the fact that the Titan isn't as thick as some of HTC's other large format handsets and b) the structure of Windows Phone 7, with its large icons and the simple movements required for navigating the interface. Once you have the Titan in hand, your thumb finds its way around easily enough.
The finish is more than satisfactory, with a very nice HTC Sensation style shell and successful integration of what is a surprisingly good screen. The micro-USB port could nevertheless have done with a cover.
When all's said and done, the size of the Titan is bound to be off-putting for many users, though you can get it into a pocket without too much difficulty.
Screen: protect your eyes!
We thought we knew what were getting with this 4.7-inch HTC screen but we have to admit that we were very pleasantly surprised. With a contrast of 855:1 (compared to 888:1 for the iPhone 4S), the Titan is part of a very select group of mobile screens. Maximum brightness of 400 cd/m² coupled with the originally designed WinPho7 graphics (large squares, well-presented colours, large fonts and so on) make this a perfect handset for use outdoors. The maximum brightness, makes the Titan comparable to another flagship mobile, the Motorola Atrix.
The good news just gets better, as the Titan's average delta E - colour accuracy, which must be under 3 to be considered perfect - is 3.3, something not seen on smartphones since the appearance of another HTC mobile, the Desire Z (delta E of 3.7). All the primary colours are at good accuracy levels.
At 23 ms the Titan's ghosting is comparable to other smartphones in its class. Added to that are very open viewing angles (the contrast drops between 80 and 90°, namely not at angles you'll be using), which, all things considered, makes this one of the best mobile displays on the market.
A little more Mango?
The WinPho7 Mango (7.5) update has brought the Microsoft OS a lot closer to its competitors in terms of pertinence and interest. First of all, let's consider the multitasking we've been hearing so much about. On Mango, the multitasking functionality is totally different to what you get elsewhere. On Mango, you can open up to a maximum of five windows at the same time.
All you have to do is hold the back arrow down for two seconds (we would have preferred this to be on the Windows key ...) to display thumbnails of the applications that are open at that time. Whenever you open a new application the system logs you out of the first opened of the five currently in use. Many games are not yet compatible with the multitasking feature and are rebooted when you select their thumbnail.
Handling contacts is much improved with deeper integration of various communication methods (see inset). The design of the Internet Explorer browser has changed slightly and you now update a page via a much more obvious button at the bottom of the screen rather than scrabbling around for that tiny icon in the address bar.
The Mango version of Internet Explorer also comes with a rather unreliable music recognition tool and voice recognition software whose effectiveness is very relative in comparison to the Google and iPhone 4S (Siri) tools and hidden behind a very graphical operational display.
On the app side, an alphabetic system automatically organises your applications in the menu on the right when you exceed a certain threshold.
In addition to these innovations, it has to be said the OS is fluid at all times and under all circumstances. Nevertheless, the Titan only comes with 512 MB of RAM, an amount which a high end Android smartphone would struggle with these days and is proof, if proof were needed, that Windows Phone is still one of the best optimised systems available (thanks, for once, to the fact that Microsoft is firmly in control).
We do of course also need to look at what is lacking. First of all we'd like to draw attention to the fact that in this OS it's impossible to group applications by folder. This is rather frustrating for an OS that encourages you to accumulate everything on its single home page. Then there's MarketPlace, which is far behind when it comes to the number of available applications, though the essential is there and some of the exclusive games are really pretty cool.
The main fault with this OS however remains the same: Bing and its derivatives. What we have here is a search engine that isn't necessarily pertinent and a maps feature that is a million miles from what you get with Google Maps. Trying to find your way round a small city like London sometimes becomes a real adventure!
We won't go back over the details of certain WinPho 7.5 specificities here, such as the requirement to use Zune - much in the way Apple obliges you to pledge allegiance to iTunes with your iPhone - to synchronise your multimedia content or the nice 'pro' accent with numerous Office tools, such as very extensive (for mobile) Word and Excel included for free and synchronisation for Outlook and Exchange.
You can set up multiple accounts, both personal and public. Just save the right information in pre-existing mail directories (Gmail, Hotmail and so on) for rapid and simple synchronisation.
Internet navigation is rapid and fluid, which is the least to be expected, though WinPho7 is still incompatible with Flash (very resource heavy). Management of tabs is handled on a separate page and you can still reference your favourite sites by the homepage.
Titan is nevertheless lacking here. The screen resolution of 800 x 480 pixels is in fact rather low for this size of screen and, for example, it's much easier to read a web page on the iPhone 4S (940 x 640 pixels, 3.5-inch) or a Galaxy S II (same resolution as the Titan but smaller screen). Letters are rather sketchy and poorly defined and you'll need to use the zoom for any Internet usage. With a better resolution, the Titan would no doubt have one of the best, if not the best screens on the planet.
We rarely comment on map applications included in smartphones but here you have to say that Bing Maps is something of a disaster when compared to its main competitor (Google Maps). Finding a street, even when you zoom in, can be a real problem. Not for those prone to lateness!
We do however have nothing but good to say about the extraordinary quality of the 8 Megapixel camera sensor. Under ideal lighting conditions there's no better mobile phone camera on the market. The Titan's level of detail and accuracy of rendering are truly outstanding. The accentuated contours only become a problem in low lighting when the sensor is trying very hard to pick up the detail, but this is an issue with 90% of mobile phone sensors. All said and done, you get great detail here right across the image and not just in the centre.
The quality of photos drops off in low lighting and the double LED flash is always likely to burn any object that's too close to you, but this doesn't take away from the fact that the HTC Titan camera is a reference among mobile phones today.
Battery life not necessarily titanic
Once again, Windows Phone 7 shows some not inconsiderable talent when it comes to energy management. With a 1600 mAh battery, we didn't expect any miracles, especially with all that screen acreage. Nevertheless, the Titan managed to last a whole day. In intensive usage (Internet, mails, podcasts and video as well as some gaming), the Titan expired after a little over 5h40.
Note that there's an energy economy mode, with an icon that appears as a heart in the battery when activated. It then automatically manages brightness levels and puts all push communication into silent, gaining you a few precious minutes at the end of the day.
- Superb bright screen, good contrast, nice colours
- Windows Phone 7.5 is very fluid / Pertinent innovations to the OS
- The 8 Megapixel sensor does well in good lighting conditions, less well without
- Excellent finish and surprisingly compact given its positioning as a giant phone
- Good at finding the network / Powerful speakers
- Screen definition slightly disappointing, especially on the Internet
- Size may be off-putting / Zune, another iTunes...
- You have to get used to the Windows Phone 7.5 OS and its particularities
- No memory extension
- Battery life slightly down on the competition
The HTC Titan is quite simply the best Windows Phone on the market, both technically speaking and otherwise. The screen resolution could certainly have been better (more pixels) and Windows Phone 7.5 Mango isn't yet perfect (Bing and derivatives letting the side down), but if you absolutely want a very big smartphone and running on something other than Android or iOS, look no further than the Titan.