Can a phone ever truly offer the quality of a point-and-shoot? The HTC Titan II ($199.99) takes its best shot with a 16-megapixel camera, the highest resolution available on any smartphone in the U.S. This Windows Phone for AT&T isn't a slacker when it comes to other features, either. It delivers 4G LTE speeds, a huge 4.7-inch WVGA display and Microsoft's slick OS. But are these features enough to trump the $99 Nokia Lumia 900?
Click to EnlargeThe Titan II looks similar to the original Titan but curves up slightly at the bottom for improved grip and a more elegant silhouette. With a 5.1 x 2.8 x 0.4-inch design, the smartphone definitely makes its presence known in your pocket or bag--and it tipped our scales at an equally substantial 6 ounces. That's heftier than the Nokia Lumia 900 (5.6 ounces; 5 x 2.7 x 0.45 inches), which has a smaller 4.3-inch screen.
Some may prefer the Titan II's metal chassis, but we like the Lumia 900's bright cyan color option--it definitely stands out more than the subdued Titan II.
Click to EnlargeOf course, the Titan II's centerpiece is its 4.7-inch display. The massive screen dominates the front, and the back has a slate-gray matte finish. We like the small textured section at the bottom of the phone's rear; it's a neat aesthetic touch and has a nice feel.
Below the display are the three standard Windows Phone buttons: Back, Start and Search. A speaker and the Titan II's front-facing camera sit above the display, while a volume rocker and camera button rest on the right. You'll find the microUSB port on the left side and the headphone jack and power button on the top. The phone's other main attraction, the 16-MP camera, is on the back next to a speaker.
Click to EnlargeAlthough it's saddled with the standard Windows Phone resolution of 800 x 480, the Titan II's display is bright enough for reading indoors and out. We measured 451 lux with our light meter, compared with the smartphone average of 303; the Lumia 900 notched 262. Scanning articles and email on the Titan II's display was a pleasure. We didn't have to zoom in constantly to read text.
However, we slightly preferred the AMOLED ClearBlack display on the Lumia 900; when playing the trailer for "The Avengers" side by side, the Lumia 900's screen showed truer blacks and more vivid oranges and reds. Viewing angles were wider, too.
The Titan II delivered satisfyingly loud audio, but audiophiles will find the sound too tinny. When we streamed "Love Long Distance" by the Gossip, the vocals we know and love sounded warped.
Click to EnlargeThanks to the 4.7-inch screen, typing on the HTC Titan II's on-screen keyboard was comfortable. The keys are large enough to write emails with few errors in portrait mode, though flipping to landscape makes the layout even roomier. The keyboard layout is exactly what you'll find on other Windows Phones: You get @ and .com keys, along with a whole page of emoticons should you feel the need to inject some cuteness into your messages.
Software and User Interface
Click to EnlargeThe HTC Titan II runs Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango), with its dynamic Live Tile interface. As with other Windows Phones we love the Start screen and its tiles such as the People hub for streamlining your contacts' information and social media updates. Also included on the Start screen is HTC Hub, which displays free apps available from the Windows Marketplace along with news and weather updates.
Swiping right reveals the apps page, which displays all your apps in alphabetical order. As we've said before, it would be nice if we could organize apps into folders, but Windows Phone 7.5 doesn't offer this functionality. What you can do is pin apps, websites and other content to the Start screen and then move the tiles around as you see fit.
Click to EnlargeWith a 1.5-GHz single-core processor and 16GB of internal memory, the HTC Titan II is snappy and responsive--for the most part. We found it sometimes took two to three seconds to flip from portrait to landscape modes.
On the WP Bench test, which measures CPU, memory and storage and GPU performance, the Titan II notched 97.5, which is actually a tad lower than the original Titan's score (98.5) but higher than the Lumia 900's (89). It's also above the smartphone average (91). When we put the HTC Titan II through its paces in Benchmark Free, it scored 39.5, the same as the Lumia 900.
Web Browsing and Data
Click to EnlargeUnlike the previous Titan, which was limited to AT&T's HSPA+ speeds, the Titan II rides on the carrier's 4G LTE network. When we conducted a speed test with the BandWidth app, the Titan II notched 10.6 Mbps downloads and 5.1 Mbps uploads. Those results are good but lower than for other 4G LTE phones, such as the LG Lucid on Verizon Wireless (12.9 Mbps down, 7.8 up). The Lumia 900, also running on AT&T's 4G LTE network, got 15 Mbps down and between 4 and 5 Mbps up.
However, the Titan II rendered full Web pages quickly: The mobile versions of the New York Times and CNN loaded in just 1.5 and 1.3 seconds, respectively, and our own Laptopmag.com took 8.2 seconds. Suffice it to say, you won't be tapping your feet impatiently waiting for pages to load.
Click to EnlargeThere are now 80,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, which is still behind the selection you'll find in the Apple App Store and Google's Play Market. Still, you'll find many of the big-name apps you're looking for, including "Angry Birds," Evernote and Facebook. Instagram is missing, though HTC pre-loads its own Photo Enhancer, which offers similar effects for altering your photos. We'd like to see Zynga games like "Words with Friends" added to the mix, as well as popular music apps like Pandora.
Click to EnlargeHTC pre-loads only the Photo Enhancer, but it offers a number of free apps for download through the Windows Phone Marketplace. These include HTC Watch for viewing movie trailers and Locations for navigation. AT&T pre-loads a number of apps, including Code Scanner (pictured), Navigator, Radio and U-verse Mobile. The latter is useful only if you pay for the carrier's U-verse service. YPmobile, a Yelp-style app, also comes pre-installed.
Click to EnlargeAs with all Windows Phones, the HTC Titan offers music and video through Zune. For $9.99, you get unlimited streaming and downloads via your phone or PC. We've long wished that the Zune app would let you download movies and TV shows over the air; instead you have to connect to a PC running the Zune software.
We like the History page, which displays your recent tracks on Slacker and videos you've shot with your phone's camcorder. Of course, you can also download media from your PC.
Camera and Camcorder
Boasting a 16-MP sensor and dual LED flash, the Titan II's camera is clearly the phone's major selling point, and it more than impresses. In a shootout with the Nokia Lumia 900, which has an 8-MP camera, the HTC Titan II delivered more-accurate colors and fewer artifacts when zoomed in. The Titan II also did a better job of focusing the photo, though in some instances (such as when trying to capture a photo on the sly), we found that the camera couldn't pinpoint where to focus and required us to specify an area with our finger on the touch screen.
Shots of blooming orchid trees against a bright blue sky delivered the rich colors and crisp leaves we saw in real life. Indoors, tones were more muted and gave most photos a yellowish cast, but the results were still better than what you'll get with other smartphones. There was a delay of about two seconds between shots, but if you need to catch action without delay, you can enable the Burst mode for continuous shooting.
Unlike the rear camera, the Titan II's 1.3-MP front-facing cam is standard smartphone fare. On a test Tango video call over 4G, our caller appeared pixelated, though the quality was about on par with the Nokia Lumia 900's camera.
HTC includes some very useful settings to take advantage of its camera. HTC's Photo Enhancer app is fun, offering Instagram-style filters such as High Contrast and Vintage. Other camera features include face detection and smile capturing, along with controls for brightness, contrast, white balance and ISO.
If you're content to keep the camera settings on Auto and just want to add some pizazz to your photos, Panorama mode stitches together multiple images you take by panning in one direction. We really liked this feature, and it worked very well provided we took the time to align our images correctly.
Let's not forget that 720p camcorder. On our tests, it captured indoor and outdoor action well. A sample video of cars whooshing down Manhattan's Eighth Avenue was clear and accurate, without excessive blurring or jerkiness.
Call Quality and Battery Life
On our test calls with the Titan II, people on the other line sounded loud and clear. Callers did note that we came through a bit fuzzy, though they could still catch all of our words.
We all know that LTE and battery life are bitter enemies, but the HTC Titan II won't have you reaching for a power source come lunch time. HTC rates the phone for 4.3 hours of talk time and about 12 days of standby. Our fully charged Titan II got through an eight-hour workday before we needed to recharge its 1730mAH battery. We will update this review with the results of our LAPTOP Battery Test.
Click to EnlargeThe $199 HTC Titan II is a very good Windows Phone, offering the polished Mango interface on a brilliant 4.7-inch screen. The 16-MP camera is a standout feature, and it mostly lives up to the hype with crisp photo quality and plenty of features to enhance and liven up your photos. What you don't get is the speed offered by the Android-powered HTC One X line or the ability to shoot photos while you capture video. In addition, the Titan II's 4G LTE speeds aren't the best we've seen, and some people may not like its large and heavy design. Overall, the Titan II takes better photos than the Nokia Lumia 900 and gives Microsoft's OS a bigger and brighter canvas, but you'll have to really want the camera to pay the $100 premium.