(Pocket-lint) - Windows Phone 7 seems to all be about Nokia at the moment. Nokia Lumia this, Nokia Lumia that, but HTC is still making Windows Phone 7-powered handsets, and shouldn't be completely forgotten - or should it?
The HTC Titan II is a 4.7-inch packing WP7 smartphone that boasts a 16-megapixel camera on the back. Available on AT&T, it wants to be your WP7 handset of choice. So should it be?
Announced at CES in January, the HTC Titan II is more akin to the Titan I and previous HTC smartphones than to the newly announced HTC One series. The front is dominated by the same 4.7-inch WVGA (800 x 480) LCD panel as found in the first Titan, with just enough room to fit the de facto Windows Phone buttons (back, home, search) at the bottom, and an AT&T logo and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera at the top.
The Windows Phone buttons beneath the screen are capacitive and a part of the screen. and that creates a clean, flush design. Featuring haptic feedback, they are as responsive as you would hope.
The Titan II features power, volume, and dedicated shutter buttons on the side of the phone. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Micro-USB charging socket but sadly, no docking station option.
Around the back you'll get the 16-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash that is raised above the case, although not enough to really notice. A removable plate lets you access the SIM card slot. There is no micro SD slot or removable battery - all too common on Windows Phone devices.
The SIM card cover is surprisingly large, but as you'll never have to remove it, we wouldn't spend too much time worrying about that either. Removing it automatically powers down the phone, so don't go thinking you can play clip on/clip off in your pocket without consequences.
The Titan II is well built and robust, however the lack of premium materials such as polycarbonate or anodised aluminium found in other HTC phones will no doubt be a disappointment to some, especially after seeing the HTC One X.
For us the design is somewhat 2011. It's nothing groundbreaking, and it won't make you stand out from the crowd. But it's not ugly, impractical or dull. Solid is probably the best word to use to describe the design approach for the Titan II.
In the pocket, unless you are wearing the tightest of jeans, you'll have no problem. The case hugs the screen tightly and the phone reasonably thin; it is big though.
The Titan II is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor and comes with LTE connectivity on AT&T.
That processor means that is theoretically faster than the Nokia Lumia 900, but in reality you won't notice any difference. Yes benchmarks probably tell you otherwise, but you don't benchmark in real life and we aren't about to get your hopes up by doing so either.
You'll get 16GB to store your music, apps, photos and the like, and while some will groan this isn't nearly enough, it's pretty much the WP7 standard.
Packing a 16-megapixel f/2.6, 28mm lens, the camera in the Titan II promises the most megapixels for your buck from any camera in the Windows Phone 7 stable. It also beats Android, and of course, the iPhone too. It beats every phone aside from the Symbian-powered Nokia PureView 808 with its 41-megapixels.
Now we all know that megapixels aren't the be-all and end-all of cameras, and that it's how the camera processes the information that's important. Here HTC has added a number of features above and beyond those that Microsoft offers in Windows Phone 7, including a series of effects, panorama mode, scene modes, smile capturing, face detection, red eye reduction, image stabilization, and burst mode. And that's all in addition to the standard camera features like ISO, white balance and contrast.
Taking pictures is standard fare for Windows Phone 7. Fire up the camera app, half press the dedicated shutter button to focus and press fully to snap. The camera takes the picture instantly with zero lag and lets you continue shooting - and it's even more rapid in burst mode.
We are very pleased with the results. While looking at the pictures 1:1 there is noticeable noise - as you would expect for a camera phone - the fact that you are taking the picture at double the resolution of most camera phones on the market means you have a lot more room to play when it comes to cropping and framing.
The colours, when you aren't applying an effect, are true to life and well-rounded. Skies are blue, yellow flowers are yellow, and skin tones skin like.
We especially like the capabilities of the macro mode, and the affect the different effects can have on the image. However, it's worth pointing out that some of our shots were over exposed in some areas, with the sensor struggling to cope with the bright conditions we were snapping in.
The camera's quality combined with a large screen to enjoy them on instantly means you are unlikely to be disappointed with the Titan II's photographic prowess.
Video is 720p rather than 1080p but results are good.
Windows Phone 7
So that's the hardware, what of the software? If you haven't used Windows Phone 7 before, it's a bit of a Marmite experience. What we mean by that is that it is incredibly easy to use, and for some perhaps a little too easy.
The operating system, as we've discussed on Pocket-lint many times before, juggles and jostles for your attention. It isn't a grid of apps waiting to be pressed, but a living, breathing phone, waiting to interact with you.
For those who like the endless possibilities Android offers probably won't like the more restrictive nature, and might mean that the OS comes across as rather boring. Aside from changing the colour scheme, there is little in the way of personalisation.
HTC has, however, added several free apps that you can add to make more of the core offering from Microsoft.
From HTC that list includes HTC Watch, Tango, Photo Enhancer, HTC Connected Media, HTC Location, Compass, Converter, Lists, Notes, Flashlight, Calculator and Love.
While that sounds impressive, and will be gratefully received, you can get many free third-party apps that do the same thing. Unlike the Nokia handsets, you won't get a free GPS software, or Nokia Maps, Nokia Transport, or Nokia Music apps.
AT&T adds a number of its own apps too. AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, AT&T U-Verse, and others.
HTC Watch and watching movies
You do get HTC Watch, the HTC movie rental service, that is very good and allows you to buy and rent films to watch on your phone. Movies can be watched while downloading the rest of the film and we had no problem enjoying Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
That's partly helped by the SRS sound capabilities of the Titan II and it really does make a difference when it comes to enjoying audio from the movies.
We tested the Titan II with films from HTC Watch, TV shows from Netflix, and our own content stored on the hard drive and enjoyed them all. The bigger 4.7-inch really does make a difference. This isn't just like watching something on the iPhone.
As mentioned, the HTC Titan II runs on AT&T's LTE network, meaning a faster internet experience than we're used to here in Blighty. At least that's the theory. It's a step above HSDPA, which is currently the maximum network speeds here in the UK - though LTE trials are currently taking place, but not quite in the same class as 4G. However, when we fired up Pocket-lint's own site using AT&T's LTE network while Stateside in Seattle, we felt a tad disappointed.
Don't get us wrong, it was quick, but we still experienced some lag. YouTube videos fared much better with minimum buffering, and downloads arrived far quicker than when we've used HSDPA for example. However, Wi-Fi would still remain the preference, and LTE's not quite the game changer we expect 4G to be.
In use and the Titan II is very nippy. It is quick to run, load apps, play games, and enjoy all that the Windows Phone 7 operating system has to offer. Likewise battery life is very good, thanks to the larger than normal battery (1,730mAh) packed in behind that screen. Unlike the weaker-powered 1Ghz smartphones HTC first released with Windows Phone 7 in 2010, these are no slouches, regardless of the fact that "geeks" will enjoy pointing out that they aren't dual-core or even quad-core. In day to day use, you don't need it.
The screen isn't too large - well it is if you are used to the 3.5-inch iPhone - however, as we experienced with the original Titan, WP7 resolution isn't good enough for the large screen size here. While most won't notice it as soon as you do you'll see the jagged edges of fonts, and how everything just isn't as crisp as it should be.
Whether you want a device with such a big screen will be a decision only you can make. The HTC Titan II certainly delivers one of those and if you think the Nokia Lumia 900 is big, this will seem even bigger.
While the Titan II isn't as cool looking, nor does it come with as many "free" apps bolted on as the Nokia devices, we do like the Titan II if you've got the money to spare over the heavily discounted Nokia Lumia 900.
The performance is great, the design, while a little "old", is still strong and solid, and the camera really does perform well.
Should you buy it instead of the Nokia Lumia 900? Sadly for HTC it's still playing second fiddle here to Nokia, and that's a shame.
HTC Watch, while great, can easily be replaced with other streaming services. While the in-camera features aren't enough to really make it that much different to the Lumia 900, especially given the more expensive price tag.
If you want a big-screened Windows Phone 7 device, we suspect that while the HTC Titan II offers what you'll want, you'll end up plumping for the Lumia 900.