Windows Phone handsets run an operating system that lacks support for 'skinning', and must meet a range of hardware design criteria set by Microsoft. These requirements severely limit hardware partner creativity. HTC has several Windows Phone handsets in its portfolio, and these augment Microsoft's baseline requirements in different ways: the standout feature on the Titan is its vast screen: measuring 4.7 inches from corner to corner, you won't find larger on a Windows Phone handset.
HTC has kept the Titan thin at just 9.9mm, but you'll need big pockets to stow it because the remaining dimensions are 70.7mm wide by 131.5mm deep. You'll notice the 160g weight too, although the good news is that the Titan is a solidly built and seemingly tough device.
You'll also need large hands to reach right across the screen for one-handed use — we could only reach about 50 percent of the screen area when working one handed.
The HTC Titan's standout feature is its huge 4.7in. screen.
The upside, of course, is that the 4.7in. screen delivers a large viewing area for email, text, web pages and other visually rich data. Watching videos is a pleasure, and we even used our Titan for reading e-books — a task we usually reserve for a dedicated reader. We used the Windows Mobile Kindle app, although other e-book reader apps are also available.
The screen resolution of 480 by 800 pixels is one of Microsoft's immovable fixtures for Windows Phone devices. A higher resolution would be a better match for the Titan's 4.7in. screen. That apart, there's nothing wrong with the clarity or sharpness of the display.
There are three buttons beneath the screen, which take you to the Start Screen, back and deliver search facilities respectively. These are standard fare for Windows Phone handsets. There's a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapxiel camera at the back. The latter benefits from a dual-LED flash and BSI sensor to help with low-light indoor shooting.
The large screen helps with framing images, which could be useful if you want to shoot photos to keep or take advantage of the 720p video recording capability. HTC clearly sees the camera as a key selling point for the Titan, as it offers a couple of features we've not seen before in Windows Phone handsets — burst mode and panorama shooting.
The Titan looks like it has a unibody design with a small battery cover, as seen on older HTC handsets such as the Legend, but in fact the opposite is true. Release a catch on the bottom of the chassis and the entire back and sides come away, leaving side buttons exposed — and perhaps a little vulnerable.
The side buttons and connectors are pretty standard. On the top is the power switch and a headset jack. The left edge houses the Micro-USB port for recharging and PC connection. The bottom is clear apart from that backplate catch, while the right side houses a volume rocker and camera shortcut button.
The HTC Titan runs Windows Phone 7.5 — the only other 'Mango' handset we've reviewed so far is Nokia's Lumia 800. With upwards of 500 tweaks and changes over Windows Phone 7 this is a serious upgrade, although at first glance the general look and feel of the operating system remains unchanged from version 7.0.
Visually the emphasis remains very much on tiles that sit on the Start Screen and can link to apps, hubs (groups of services such as music and videos or 'Office' for document creation and editing), or live data such as locations found using Bing maps.
Operationally the focus is on tasks rather than apps, which means you spend less time looking for an appropriate application for a job and more time getting on with the job itself. So, for example, when you want to contact someone, calling up their information on-screen gives you options to make contact by phone and SMS, as well as via any social networks you may have integrated — Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are now all supported.
With a single-core processor running at 1.5GHz and 512MB of RAM, the HTC Titan runs quickly and smoothly. A good test for smartphones is how quickly they render web pages, and the Titan did well here. If you're a fan of embedded video, you'll be disappointed to hear that Flash is not supported. That rules out, for example, catching up on video snippets at the BBC web site.
Microsoft does not allow external storage on Windows Phone handsets, so the Titan's internal 16GB will have to suffice. You don't have access to all of this either — only 12.63GB is available out of the box.
The Titan is a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE handset with HSPA (14.4Mbps download, 5.76Mbps upload). You can share the phone's internet connection with other devices using its (802.11b/g/n) Wi-Fi module; Bluetooth (2.1) and GPS are also integrated, as you'd expect with any modern smartphone.
Microsoft builds in support for over-the-air access to OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint via SharePoint, Office 365 and SkyDrive — the latter being 25GB of free cloud storage given to all Windows Live users. You can also configure the handset to automatically upload photos to SkyDrive for backup purposes. For those without corporate services, SkyDrive is the place to store your contacts if you want them to synchronise to the handset. There's no cabled synchronisation from a local PC for contacts or calendar — just for audio and video content via Zune.
HTC has achieved some customnisation with its own apps, which can be pinned to the Start screen or accessed via the HTC Hub. Building on the Titan's camera capabilities, one of these applications is Photo Enhancer, which offers a range of effects including vintage, antique, bleak, cold, twilight and so on. There's also a comprehensive weather app, stock updates, news feeds, HTC Locations for sharing place information with others and HTC Watch, which lets you buy and rent movies and TV shows for on-device watching. There's also HTC Connected Media, which is a DNLA app for media sharing.
Microsoft's own app store, the Marketplace, still lags behind key rivals Apple and Android in terms both of numbers and some crucially important apps. We were disappointed by the absence of Dropbox, for example.
Performance & battery life
The HTC Titan has a 1,600mAh battery. That's larger than we're used to seeing in a smartphone, but it is needed to power the fast processor and huge screen. HTC says the battery is good for up to 410 minutes (6.8h) of WCDMA talk or 710 minutes (11.8h) on GSM, and 460 hours on WCDMA standby or 360 hours on GSM.
During our review, battery life was unexceptional for a high-end smartphone. We generally got through a working day without recourse to mains power, but a late-afternoon battery boost was usually needed to see us through a full evening's use.
Windows Phone 7.5 includes a battery saver mode that turns off some services, including automatic email retrieval, when power gets low (you can still do manual retrieval if necessary). This is welcome, but we'd like to be able to configure this feature to our own preferences.
The HTC Titan runs Windows Phone 7.5 and, apart from HTC's added apps, delivers the same OS as experience that you get on Nokia's Lumia 800 or any other Windows Phone 7.5 device. The fast 1.5GHz processor is welcome, and the 8-megapixel camera has appeal for some. The Titan's standout feature, however, is its 4.7in. screen.
The huge screen is great for web browsing and media viewing, although we'd like it better if it had more than 480 by 800 pixels. The screen size makes for a handset that's tricky to pocket and impossible — for people with average-sized hands — to use one-handed.