The 4.7" Super LCD is lovely. It's head and shoulders above the HTC HD7S with wider viewing angles, richer colors and improved brightness. It compares surprisingly favorably with the Samsung Focus S' Super AMOLED Plus display in terms of vibrancy and brightness. It's a bit more color neutral than the Focus S since Super AMOLED Plus displays have a blue color cast. Metro really looks great at 4.7", and despite the uninspiring pixel density, we didn't note pixelation or jaggy fonts. I'm sure HTC would have loved to put a 720p display on the Titan, but Windows Phone currently only support 800 x 480 resolution. Why Microsoft likes to stick with year old specs, we can't imagine.
Phone and Data
Speaking of last year's specs, Microsoft's Phone OS doesn't support LTE either. That's why the first crop of Mango phones run with 3G/4G HSPA+ 14.4Mbps. Not that AT&T's HSPA+ network doesn't deliver decent download speeds: the phone averaged 3.5-5Mbps down and 1Mbps up, which is the same download and upload speeds as the 14.4 HSPA+ iPhone 4S. Web pages load quickly, emails download with good speed and Marketplace apps (those small enough to avoid the WiFi-only download designation) arrived in good time. The phone has the mobile hotspot feature, so you can use it as a WiFi hotspot for your laptop and tablet if you have AT&T's 4 gig /month with included WiFi tether plan.
Call quality is good, but not great. The Samsung Focus S wins here with its crystal clear voice on both ends. The Titan isn't terrible, but incoming and particularly outgoing voice sound a bit digitized, and this is exacerbated when using Bluetooth connections (Bluetooth tends to amplify calling weakness). We used the Titan with our Jawbone 2 headset and BMW built-in Bluetooth and we had no trouble carrying on conversations, but did occasionally have to work to understand a word or two.
Windows Phone, Zune Multimedia, IE 9 and XBOX Gaming
If you're a Windows Phone veteran, you can skip this section, but if you're relatively new to the OS, read on. Standard for Windows Phone, you get the very capable and attractive Zune music and video player that syncs to your desktop (Zune client in Windows, Mac Windows Phone Connector that syncs to iTunes on Macs running OS X). There's 16 gigs of internal storage with 12.9 gigs available for your use, and there's no expansion slot. After the ruckus over the microSD card slot on the original Focus, I doubt we'll see any Windows Phones with card slots until the OS supports it in a more user-friendly fashion.
The Metro UI's is all about elegance and simplicity. In fact, it's downright calming--think of it as the Chamomile tea of operating systems. If iOS is too closed for your tastes and Android too unfocused, Windows Phone falls somewhere in between, and is closer to iOS in terms of ease of use and presenting a structured experience.
That's not to say the OS is boring. It's not, and you've got XBOX Live games with a healthy selection of high quality games to get your blood pumping. XBOX gaming and Zune music are the centerpieces of Windows Phone. Funny for a company that brought us the all business Windows Mobile phones of old. But there's meat for business types here with solid MS Exchange support and Microsoft's mobile version of their Office suite (view/edit/create docs).
IE 9 (mobile) does a good job of rendering websites, though we still don't rank it as highly as the standard Android and iPhone web browsers. It gets 95% of CSS and formatting right, but once in a while we'll notice a font that's not sized properly (MS errs on the side of making fonts too large so things stay readable), or an image that extends beyond its intended column. Sorry, there's no Adobe Flash Player on board, but now that Adobe has announced the untimely demise of mobile Flash Player development in favor of HTML5 tools, that will fade in importance.
Windows phone manufacturers can create their own Hub or tile and a selection in the Marketplace for free downloadable apps. HTC and Samsung have the largest apps selections, and both offer note apps, photo editors and more. We particularly like HTC's seriously cool weather section in the Hub, and find their camera enhancement download that adds panorama and burst modes to set them ahead of the Windows Phone crowd.
We particularly like the Titan's 8 megapixel rear camera. It has a bright dual LED flash, good autofocus times and it handles low light and depth of field well by camera phone standards thanks to HTC's backside illuminated sensor and fast f2.2 lens. HTC offers a downloadable camera enhancement that adds panorama and burst mode shots, and the camera app has the usual wide selection of settings for white balance, EV and more. We found outdoor shots pleasingly sharp with good detail and rich colors, while indoor low light shots had the expected noise but maintained reasonable color saturation. The Samsung Focus S also has a good 8 megapixel camera, but the Titan gets an edge for its advanced features and more natural and warm colors. It also handles bright outdoor settings with less whiteout of highlights than the Samsung.
The HTC Titan has a 1600 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's user replaceable. That's a decent capacity battery for a phone with a fast clocked single core CPU and a huge display, but we wouldn't have minded if HTC had fit an even higher capacity battery in the smartphone's large frame. Battery life was good in our two weeks of testing, and we never ran out of juice before the end of the day with moderate use that included 45 minutes of video streaming, a few 10 minute calls, shooting some photos and the usual email/web use.
The HTC Titan and the Nokia Lumia 800 (not yet available in the US), are our two top picks for second generation high end Windows Phones. While the Lumia is extremely ergonomic and attractive in that Euro-chic way, the HTC speaks to those who want the biggest display along with a high quality metal casing. The Lumia 800 is the Alfa Romeo sports car to the HTC Titan's Escalade sensibility. It's big, it's posh and has all the creature comforts.
We love the large Super LCD display and it's the perfect showcase for Windows Phone's Metro UI. The Titan is fast, has a great camera and decent HSPA+ data speeds. We wish call quality was as good as the Samsung Focus S, but it's a decent enough voice phone.
Price: $199 with a 2 year contract, $549 without contract
Websites: wireless.att.com, www.htc.com/us/
Further Reading: HTC Titan vs. Samsung Focus S Comparison Smackdown