First Look: HTC Titan

HTC has announced the launch of the HTC Titan, a Windows Phone 7 smartphone, that sports a mammoth 4.7-inch screen, making it one of the largest smartphones on the market. 

Pocket-lint was invited to test out the new phone ahead of the official announcement, and these are our initial feelings about this interesting new device.  

That screen

It really is big. It’s bigger than the iPhone, it’s bigger than the HTC Sensation, it’s bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S II. If you’ve got small hands this isn’t going to be the handset for you. But by God is the screen impressive. It is bright because of the Super-LCD technology and crisp thanks to the WVGA resolution making it one of the best screens we've seen HTC produce.

That makes Windows Phone 7 jump right out of the screen (not literally you understand) and really makes reading emails easy, playing games colourful, and watching movies very sharable (more on that in a bit). 

The design 

Once you get over the wow factor, your mind will immediately turn to "how the devil will I get that in my pocket"? 

Measuring 130.6 x 70.63 x 9.9mm in size means the Titan is thin (only slightly larger than the Samsung Galaxy S II, which is 8.5mm) and it shouldn't be a problem for the average jeans-wearing man. We tried it, it works. If you like your trousers skinny then you might want to get something a little less massive. 

HTC has designed the Titan to be just the screen and little else. There is no bezel bulk, unlike the one found around the Dell Streak's 5-inch screen, and that makes a huge difference. HTC has also, sensibly, opted not to include a kickstand to avoid adding extra bulk. 

The back houses the phone’s 8 megapixel camera, accompanied by a dual LED flash (found at the top and in the centre). The 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera can be found, not surprisingly, on the front. Remove the back plate, which makes up the phone’s entire back cover, and you’ll reveal a replaceable battery and a SIM slot. There is no microSD card slot for expanding on the built-in storage. 

The build quality, as we’ve come to expect from HTC, is very good. It’s solid, with very little flexibility in the chassis. 

Internals

If you are naming your phone the HTC Titan, it has to be a titan inside, as well out and HTC seems to have managed this tricky task. As Windows Phone 7 doesn’t support dual-core processors, like those found in the Samsung Galaxy S II, HTC has chosen to use a Qualcomm MSM8255 1.5GHz processor instead, and beefed it up with 512MB of RAM. The instant effect is a much smoother experience over the company’s 2010 Windows Phone 7 range and noticeably faster than the HTC Trophy we’re using as our Mango handset in the office.

In our time with the Titan it was clear that the processing power has helped massively. Games loaded faster, while performance showed an overall improvement. If you’ve been put off by a sluggish Windows Phone 7 handset then the Titan could be the phone that persuades you to take the plunge.

Of course the phone is also loaded with the latest connectivity options including DLNA, something that HTC missed out to LG with the first range of WP7 phones. For those who still prefer a wired connection the Titan sports a micro HDMI socket , like the HTC Evo 3D, for connecting it to an external display or television. 

Less ground-breaking technology built-in includes: Bluetooth; Wi-Fi; HSDPA and GPS as well as a 3.5mm audio jack. The HTC Titan also comes with a generous 16GB of storage but like other Windows Phone 7 handsets isn’t expandable via a microSD. There is also no near field communication (NFC), so you won't be using this phone to pay for a sandwich any time soon.

Although we weren’t able to test the battery life, the phone sports a 1600mAh battery. That’s bigger than the HTC Sensation's which in our tests just about got us through a full day, and bigger than the Windows Phone 7 powered HTC Trophy which again gets us through the day. We can infer from this that we'll see around the same life on the Titan. That said that bigger screen is likely to have an impact on the total battery life. We will be sure to test this properly when it comes to a full review.  

Cameras

HTC has been moving towards better cameras in its phones, most notably with the recent launch in the USA of the MyTouch 4G Slide which sports an 8 megapixel camera. It looks like the company has included the same camera lens here, with an F/2.2 aperture and a wide 28mm focal length. This means you can get more in a picture compared to previous HTC smartphones.

We weren’t able to fully test the camera, sadly, but we could take pictures in the darkish room we were in (as you can see below). We were not, however, allowed to examine them off the phone, which is the true test for one of these devices. That said we were able to try out some of the new camera modes HTC has added including Panorama Sweep and Burst mode. 

Burst mode does what is says and lets you take five pictures in short succession so you can capture a moment as it happens, rather than just missing it. Panorama mode automatically stitches three shots together, giving you a super-wide finished image. What’s helpful is that the screen shows you when to pause and when to move, but also using the phone's sensors adds in a horizontal spirit level so you can take a level picture. 

Clearly with such a large screen (bigger than anything in the traditional camera space) it’s a real boon to see the image on a 4.7-inch screen. That, combined with many of the same features found on the MyTouch 4G Slide (yes an Android phone), shows that HTC is focusing on its built-in cameras too. 

Images on the screen looked good, although not perfect, but this could have been down to poor light, pre-release software, or a host of other factors. We'll leave our judgement until the final hardware is released. 

On the front of the HTC Titan is a 1.3 megapixel camera for self-shooting and video calls. Although we didn’t have any apps on the device that we could test it with, we liked what we saw through the Windows Phone camera app and the image quality looked good.  

Mango 

Of course it goes without saying that the new HTC Titan is running Mango. That’s Windows Phone 7.5 according to the 'about phone' page built in to the OS. Microsoft has done plenty to improve WP7 over the current iteration, adding multitasking (if the app supports it) and support for better live tiles, front facing cameras, Wi-Fi hotspots and stacks of other features.

You can learn more about the changes, and whether or not you’ll want them, by reading our extensive First Look: Windows Phone 7 Mango review that focuses just on Microsoft's new mobile operating system and its upgraded functionality. 

HTC Experience 

With Microsoft locking down the Windows Phone 7 experience, HTC has to be clever in how it adds value as a phone maker to the eco-system without it just turning into a hardware fight. Building on what it achieved in 2010 with the HTC experience, HTC has enhanced its apps to take advantage of Windows Phone 7 Mango as well as adding some new ones. 

The biggest and best of these new features or services is HTC Watch, the company’s movie download and rental service already live and active on the latest wave of the company's Android handsets. 

Thanks to the Titan’s huge screen the HTC Watch interface really shines here with movie playback over the Wi-Fi network nearly perfect. We could easily see this doubling-up as a movie playback device on the train - more so than the iPhone - because of the sheer size of it. And with a screen nearly the same size as the one found on the Dell Streak, You won’t need a tablet either. 

Purchases made on the HTC Watch service will be cross-platform, so if you also have an Android device they will work on that as well. All-in-all it’s a good service to complement the Zune Marketplace, which has yet (at time of writing) to launch a movie download or rental service. 

Aside from HTC Watch there are the new features we’ve talked about in the camera software, new enhancements to the Notes app - it now has Evernote support - and better live tile support, including the current weather displayed on the HTC Hub tile. HTC has also said that it has improved Sound Enhancer with greater emphasis and support for Dolby 5.1 and SRS although no Beats just yet. 

Also coming across from HTC’s Android offerings is the Footprints application. While Nokia is boasting better integrated maps, HTC’s approach to location is to let you create, and share, footprints so people can find you. You can of course also use the new app to find other friends using the service and it will give you directions and a map. 

Verdict

We spent about an hour or so with the Titan in a personal briefing with two HTC product managers and while that is nowhere near enough to give you a full review of how it will perform in the field, it has allowed us to see what the Titan is like in the flesh (or plastic) and how it performs doing a quick couple of tests. 

The main selling point here is the sheer size of the thing. For those looking to go big, you know this will be the biggest on the block.

As a step up from the first batch of HTC Windows Phone 7 smartphones (there have been five) this is certainly leagues above what’s gone before. Add to that the enhancements Microsoft has made to the operating system and it looks like we’ve finally got a flagship WP7 handset from HTC that's capable of taking the fight to both Android and the iPhone. 

Now all HTC has to do is try and convince those tempted by Windows Phone 7 to choose it over the competition. 

The HTC Titan will be available in the UK in early October. HTC has yet to announce which operators will be stocking the phone but told us that it should be widely available.