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HTC Titan REVIEW – The Sweet Taste of a Giant Mango

Not so long ago I could be found singing a sad song about the newfound trend towards enormous cell phone screens. “Why a 4.3-inch display? How could that make a better day?” I’d croon. “A 4.5-inch screen? That’s just crazy, you know what I mean?” I’d harmonize. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone in their right mind would want such an obscenely large phone!

And then the HTC Titan happened. Now I’ve set my iPhone 4 aside for a device with a pornographically ginormous 4.7-inch display. What in the world happened?

HTC Titan Pros

  • Solid Windows Phone Mango Performance
  • Huge display meets minimalist industrial design
  • Beautiful Super LCD display

HTC Titan Cons

  • Just plain too big for some folks
  • Windows Phone App selection isn’t up to Android/iOS standards
  • WP7 needs to evolve a bit more
Best For: Windows Phone fans who want the ultimate high-end device. Smartphone users wanting to go big and bold and simple. People with bad eyesight.
Company Website: HTC Titan Product Page
Suggested Retail Price: $199 – AT&T model with two year contract

HTC Titan Performance

Make no mistake, Titan is a huge slab of technology that barely passes for a “cell phone” even in today’s outdated parlance. Yes, you can place and receive voice calls over cellular networks with the thing, but you hardly need a 4.7-inch display, two cameras, and … did I mention that insanely large screen? … to make voice calls. Titan isn’t for everybody. First, it’s going to be too plain big for many people’s hands. The first time I picked up my iPhone 4 after a few days with Titan, the Apple device felt ridiculously small to me, which is pretty nuts. So whether it’s the massive footprint or the difficulty in using the phone one-handed because your thumb simply can’t stretch all the way across its touchscreen, Titan’s size will instantly eliminate it from some, if not many, folks’ consideration.

For those of you still with me, I’ll be the first to say it: HTC did a masterful job of designing Titan to maximize the pros, and minimize the cons, of building a phone with a silly-big screen. From the slim 9.9 mm profile to the unibody construction to the even distribution of weight across the entire phone, Titan is a joy to hold, a pleasure to use, and somehow feels a bit smaller than it really is. I will complain about the top-mounted power/lock button as it’s harder to poke than it should be. Also, the device’s chassis is prone to a little wiggle due to the way it snaps into the outer plastic shell (battery cover), but it’s an entirely silent action and not at all worrisome creaking. I only wish HTC had supplied brightly colored outer shells in the retail package so I could transform Titan from stealthy black slab to electric blue objet d’art when the mood struck. Ah well, that’s what eBay’s for.

As for using the thing, Titan works really, really well. I’ve got the unlocked GSM version and have been running it on AT&T (via my iPhone 4 microSIM shoved into a cheapo microSIM adapter). Calls have been clear, reception has been strong, and data’s been of the HSPA+ variety so long as I’ve stayed out of known weak spots on Ma Bell’s coverage map. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work just fine, the main camera takes solid 8MP stills and 720p video and the dual LED flash doubles as a surprisingly bright flashlight. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Connector software ain’t iPhoto/iTunes but it does a solid job of transferring media between Titan and my OS X Leopard computer, which is more than anything Google-made has ever done for Android users.

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango really feels custom-made for Titan’s enormous display. The giant color-block live tiles, the huge header type on menu screens, and the overall feel of the Metro UI all really come to life on the 4.7-inch, WVGA (480 x 800) screen. HTC’s Super LCD panel is superlative: Blacks are deep, whites are uniformly lit, and everything in between is rich, vibrant, and easily seen in all but harsh lighting conditions. Spec sheet mongers will cry foul at the Microsoft-imposed limitation of “so few” pixels on such a big screen, pointing to Android devices that offer 720p (720 x 1280) on slightly smaller pieces of glass. I’ll counter by saying that for what it’s worth, I’ve found I prefer fewer, easy to read elements on my phone’s display to more but smaller items that require more effort in order to scan my home screen. Your preferences may well be different, but I’ll take Mango’s big blocks of color over Android’s widget-packed action when it comes to high-tech on the go.

That said, I do yearn for more customization and file management tools across Mango in general. Watch the video above for more detail on this point, but it boils down to this: As much as I like the live start screen, it can only do so much before constant, heavy swiping becomes necessary to navigate to and from various regularly used apps and shortcuts. Combine that with the alphabetical list of apps on the next screen over, and Microsoft’s built an OS that becomes cumbersome to navigate once you’ve added even just a small handful of tiles and/or apps to the base install. That’s not HTC Titan’s fault, but it is a limitation of the only OS it was built to run.

Oh, and believe it or not, Titan’s battery life is totally solid. You’d think a giant screen would be a total power drain, but between the 1,650 mAh lithium ion pack inside and WP7’s ability to offer fast, smooth performance running on a relatively low-power single core processor, things have been good in the battery life department. I haven’t hit the battery meter’s warning zone yet, and have twice used the phone for two full days without a charge. You probably text more and otherwise hammer harder on your smartphone than I do, but my usage is generally moderate to kinda heavy, at least.

HTC Titan Buying Advice

After years of loyalty to iOS, I’ve de-SIMed my iPhone 4 and left it to rest in its alarm clock dock. That’s how much I’m enjoying using the HTC Titan. Maybe I’m just a bored tech blogger who’s seen one too many a phone over the past few years, or maybe Mango really is that good. Either way, this is what it’s come to: Titan is my daily driver and Windows Phone my operating system of choice. Both are big, bold, visually delicious and easy to use. That said, Microsoft has some work to do on Mango if they’re serious about trying to make it a serious competitor to the Android/iOS duopoly, and Nokia’s prepping a flagship WP7 device that will no doubt give Titan a serious run for its money as my personal phone of choice. But for now, Titan is my favorite.

You, the one with a sane notion of how big is too big when it comes to cell phone displays, you might want to check out Samsung’s Focus S (4.3-inch display) or the utterly gorgeous Nokia Lumia 800 (3.7-inch display) if you’re interested in the Windows Phone experience. Both offer the same great Mango platform in high performing but overall smaller packages with gorgeous displays. Lumia lacks a front-facing camera but offers stunning industrial design, while Focus S trades on Samsung’s proven formula of combining high-tech with ultralight – if rather hollow and plasticky feeling – build quality.

But if you want the big, bad baller in the WP7 world, look no further. Titan is here and it’s the king. At least for now.


Noah Kravitz

Noah Kravitz mourned the day that Star Castle was replaced in the pizza parlour he frequented as a kid. The sadness ended when he saw an older kid...

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