The HTC Titan 4G is Australia's first 4G Windows Phone.
Design and display
Smartphones seem to be getting thinner but HTC has clearly bucked this trend with the Titan 4G. At 13mm thick and 132mm long, the Titan 4G is the biggest smartphone we've reviewed this year and certainly one of the biggest we've seen in a long while. The Titan 4G weighs 147g, but it feels heavier than that. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S III (133g) feels like a featherweight despite a mere 13g weight difference. Despite all the extra room, the Titan 4G doesn't have a memory card slot for expansion and its battery is non-removable.
The HTC Titan 4G's design means it's tough to slip into your pocket and forget about. However, one benefit to this heavier design is superb build quality. The aluminium design may look a little bland but the Titan 4G feels every bit the premium device. We particularly like the embossed HTC branding on the back, along with the removeable SIM card slot cover which is made from sturdy, grippy plastic. The perfectly positioned power, volume and camera keys provide great tactility when pressed, while the subtle, upwards curvature below the screen is a nice design touch and does well to highlight the capacitive shortcut keys.
HTC has equipped the Titan 4G with a large 4.7in SLCD touchscreen. Unfortunately, it is a victim of Microsoft's strict hardware requirements for the Windows Phone platform, which only allows a maximum screen resolution of 480x800. The display isn't a poor one by any means, offering excellent viewing angles and producing good colour. However, the Titan 4G is a clear second best when pitted against other smartphone displays including the iPhone 4S, the HTC One XL, the Samsung Galaxy S III and even the Galaxy Nexus. The screen only has a ppi of 199 meaning it can't display the same crisp text as its rivals. We also dislike the fact that the edges of the screen are slightly raised above the glass, which can dig into your fingers when swiping the display.
The HTC Titan 4G is the first 4G-capable Windows Phone to launch in Australia. Telstra's LTE enablement of its Next G network runs on the 1800MHz LTE network band but "switches across" to the Next G network when 4G coverage is not available. When you're in a 4G coverage zone the phone will display 4G next to your coverage indicator instead of 3G.
The appeal of fast data speeds on the Titan 4G will ultimately depend on your location. Telstra says it is continually improving and expanding 4G coverage but right now the service is available in all eight capital cities (5km from GPO) and their respective airports in Australia, along with 80 regional and metropolitan centres (3km from city centre). There is no 4G coverage in my home but the HTC Titan 4G managed four bars of 4G at the PC World offices in North Sydney. At its peak the HTC Titan 4G managed download speeds of up to 25 megabits per second (Mbps), though it usually hovered just over 20Mbps in our offices. The presence of HSPA dual-channel technology on the Titan 4G also means 3G speeds are fast, too.
Software and performance
Using the HTC Titan 4G is an almost identical experience to every other Windows Phone on the market. This isn't really a negative as the Windows Phone platform is slick, modern, user friendly and smooth. We didn't experience any lag during general use, applications opened swiftly with no delay and most core tasks are easy to access and use on a daily basis. As Windows Phone devices are very similar when it comes to software, you can read our full review of the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system here.
Due to Microsoft's strict hardware and software requirements, vendor-included apps are the main differentiators between Windows Phone devices. The HTC Titan 4G includes the HTC Hub app, consisting of basic weather, stocks and news information, along with the Locations app and a photo enhancer. There's also a photo enhancer that allows you to add filters to your photos ala Instagram, along with a HTC Watch app for streaming movies. Puzzlingly, the latter doesn't appear to be working in Australia. The Titan 4G also includes a free 25GB of SkyDrive storage but this is a feature available on all Windows Phones, not just HTC ones.
Being a Telstra phone, the Titan 4G comes preloaded with the Telstra One app, a Foxtel Guide that allows remote recording and Garmin WhereIs Navigator. The latter offers full turn-by-turn navigation for an extra subscription cost. By comparison, Nokia Windows Phones come with Nokia Maps, which includes a completely free turn-by-turn navigation service.
As we experienced with Nokia's Lumia 900, the HTC Titan 4G offers a comparatively poor mobile Internet experience when ranked against rival devices. The browser feels slick and has most basic features including pinch to zoom capability, butter smooth scrolling (still far better than any Android phone) and the ability to open multiple tabs. However, it loads Web pages slower than smartphones like the Galaxy S III and the iPhone 4S when compared directly over the same Wi-Fi network, and doesn't render pages as well. In addition, simple tasks like opening a new tab are buried three screen taps deep in the settings menu. Finally, due to the low pixels per inch count, text on the Titan 4G's screen can be difficult to read unless its zoomed right in.
The Windows Phone platform has plenty of popular, third-party applications like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp, Rdio, eBay and Evernote. However, the number of apps is low when compared directly with its rivals, Apple's iOS platform and Google's Android OS. We have no doubt the Windows Marketplace will satisfy most users and will only continue to grow, but it is limited compared to its competitors.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the Windows Phone platform is the reliance on Microsoft's Zune software for file management. While the same criticism can be aimed at the iPhone and iTunes combination, at least Apple has iCloud to fall back on. Windows Phone has no such backup option that will save important content like your messages, call logs, settings and app data. Thankfully, Microsoft's SkyDrive service does work well for documents and photos and $11.99 per month for an unlimited ZunePass subscription is a nice option for the Titan 4G if you regularly listen to music on your phone.
Camera and battery life
A big selling point of the Titan 4G (aside from its 4G capabilities) is a 16-megapixel camera. While it's important to note that a higher resolution doesn't mean better quality photos, the Titan 4G's camera is impressive. It snaps photos at a resolution of 4640x3480 pixels and the camera itself has a 28mm lens, a backside-illuminated sensor and a dual LED flash.
Images offer impressive detail for a camera phone. Good colour reproduction is a highlight and performance in low light is adequate. Microsoft's insistence on a dedicated camera button makes taking photos quick and easy, while HTC's UI is easy to use and includes plenty of features. Multiple scene modes, panorama shot, burst shots and a range of image effects including vignette, grayscale and sepia are all present. You can also tweak with contrast, saturation, sharpness and ISO settings. The camera doubles as a 720p HD video recorder and will record at 30 frames per second.
Annoyingly, the HTC Titan 4G only has 16GB of internal memory, which could be an issue for those who desire lots of storage space. Of that 16GB, only 13.58 is available as user storage.
We've found most 4G smartphones so far to have questionable battery life and the HTC Titan 4G is disappointingly no different. Our review unit didn't manage to achieve a full day of use before needing a recharge, lasting around 11 hours on average. If you're regularly in a 4G coverage zone the 1730mAh battery certainly drains quickly, though battery performance will depend on a number of factors including usage patterns, network performance and coverage.
The HTC Titan 4G is available through Telstra stores and online for $0 upfront on Telstra's $79 Freedom Connect Plan. The handset is also available on a range of Telstra business plans and sells for $888 outright.