Review – HTC Titan (X310i), Windows Phone 7.5

I felt slightly guilty enjoying a new Microsoft product on the sad day of Steve Jobs’ death. However, this is the phone I preferred over an iPhone (particularly as the 4S fell somewhat short of expectation) but, certainly, were it not for that popular Apple product, Team Redmond probably wouldn’t have had a model on which to better. Yes, better. Of course better is subjective and I’m not going to go down any IT sectarianism. I rate Steve and Bill’s contributions to tech equally. Add Torvalds too.

Why the HTC Titan Windows Phone then? Why not would’ve been an easier question to answer before the new 7.5 “Mango” update because, well, not too many people cared about the platform; true, not too many people care about it now but the fact that this upgrade brings it up to standard with the likes of a fruit and a green robot in previously lacking areas means that it is now a serious contender. While the Windows marketplace (i.e. app store) is still waiting for a few more big hitting apps (*cough* Skype) there are tons there to satisfy for now; not to mention that a lot of core functionality like social networking is deeply integrated into the OS.

The Titan was a fairly easy choice to make for handset; it’s the first UK Windows Phone designed for Mango, and, well, whenever I’ve nabbed a phone I’ve never stuck with the same brand; I seem to like jumping manufacturer just for freshness. Some people might think that the Titan’s whopping 4.7” screen is too large, but one real-life glance at it and you’ll feel that it is ideal. I’m sure a 6” screen could feasibly fit into a hand (and I don’t have huge ones). Sure, when you hold it as a phone against your ear it’s borderline Dom Joly-ish, but it’s not that bad, and of course purchasers of this will see it mostly as an internet tablet first that has a mobile phone with it. You almost certainly might need to employ your usually free hand to sometimes access touch options on the other side of the screen, but I don’t find it bothersome. At 160g it is weighty than other smartphones, but in practice I find it rather light, so anything lighter must be like a feather. The beautiful aluminium unibody probably adds to this and that reassures you it’s durable. Battery life is rather good as you can juice out a number of days with conservative usage, and it is interchangeable.

What I don’t like about iOS in 2011 is that it doesn’t look much different from iOS on release. That OS, no doubt, was striking on inception with its Mac recalling look that beat the drab basic faces of the competition, but now it just looks tired. The fact that Android apes this to some degree despite offering customisation is another turn off. Icon grids are boring now.
Mango, on the other hand, doesn’t even look like a current desktop Windows OS. It looks similar to what we can expect in Windows 8, and for that reason people who see Bill Gates…No, Steve Ballmer as Darth Vader (I don’t know why) should give this a good look. The OS is just zippy, colourful and logical; a real joy to use. It’s like thumbing through a glossy magazine. Data focus means you spend more time glancing at and accessing your data than jumping between disconnected apps. The tiled look, while a simple idea, is a stroke of genius as we just have not seen that in an interface before, to my knowledge. Also, having the social accounts of my contacts consolidated into single address book entries saves having to flit between different apps when communicating through a number of mediums.

Windows Phones like the Titan currently feature single core processors (there’s a 1.5Ghz in this) and while in print that seems fairly behind, Mango was designed for use on a single core and runs brilliantly. Androids feature dual-core because they actually need it. The fact that Windows 8 will run on computers slightly older than my desktop is proof that Windows is getting svelte (and Windows 8 will unify all Microsoft devices in future). Resolution is a little lower than the iPhone and equal to Androids. However, the lack of pixel density is not at all noticeable to me. Graphics and text look crisp, and movie trailers are a cinematic experience. If you’re expecting to see any blockiness and blurring you will be sorely disappointed. Don’t just go by the specs, go and actually handle one.

Web browsing is handled by Internet Explorer 9. It doesn’t look anything like the desktop version but is a fine browser, though I hope Opera put out an app for this (just as I prefer them on any platform). Rendering is very fast. As with the iPhone there’s no access to Flash, so some content just will not play, but if iPhone users don’t complain much about it I suspect I won’t either, particularly as HTML5 will demote this technology. Web searching by default, unsurprisingly, is handled by Bing, but I don’t mind that as Bing does give great results. A Shazam-like integration also helps you identify music from a snippet. Putting miniature versions of Microsoft Office in is also a solid addition. Having a word processor on a phone is mind-blowing to me.

Like with other recent smartphones you are able to share 3G data wirelessly, meaning you could surf the net on your computer through the phone, if your provider allows…Oh, and let’s not forget about voice integration, which is sweet.

Should you get a Windows Phone? I’d imagine if you own an iPhone or Android handset it will be hard to leave all your purchased apps behind, but if like me you never had a smartphone before (or at least one defined by iPhone standards), it is a no-brainer, personally. It just looks the most advanced. I imagine this handset will last me a great many years. Windows Phone is great as is, but will fly if enough people support it. Nokia‘s forthcoming phones will probably make or break Windows Phone, and by extension themselves.

Owning a Windows Phone, currently, is probably like owning a Mac; sure, not enough people use it – neither is it playing an ‘arms race’ – but popularity is not necessarily an indicator of quality.

Many thanks to The Smartphone Centre for getting it to me a week early, cheaper and with the speed of lighting from order to doorbell.