HTC Titan 4G (Telstra): Review


review The HTC Titan 4G is the first Windows Phone 7-based smartphone available through Telstra which supports the telco’s speedy new 4G network. But does the Titan 4G’s powerful innards and suave design justify its hefty price tag? Read on to find out.

Design-wise, the Titan 4G can be considered quite similar to several of the other major smartphones which HTC has released in Australia over the past year. With a high-quality light and dark grey combination casing highly reminiscent of the HTC Incredible S, but with a more smooth design which reminds one of the white HTC Sensation XL, the Titan 4G is a melding of HTC’s overall recent style philosophy.

The good news for buyers is that this means a great deal of consistency. The camera is the top back of the smartphone’s case, volume buttons on the right-hand side, a headphone jack and on/off button on top, and standardised Windows Phone 7 buttons on the bottom. There’s also a dedicated camera button on the bottom right-hand side of the Titan 4G’s case, designed so that you can hold the phone horizontally and operate it as a traditional digital camera. Unlike some smartphones such as the Galaxy Nexus which come with slightly curved displays, the Titan 4G’s touchscreen is flat. The case has a little lip at the bottom of the screen, making it comfortable to hold in the hand and easy to press the touch-sensitive Windows buttons.

What we liked about the Titan 4G’s design was this feeling of consistency. There are very few surprises here; if you’ve used a non-Apple smartphone in the past 2-3 years, you’ll likely know what to expect here. Virtually everything is in the right place, and generally easy to access, although the physical buttons on the side of the Titan 4G were a little finicky to push — a little thin for our hands. We also liked the soft matte plastic feel of the Titan 4G’s back. The surface is grippy, meaning the phone is hard to drop, and this feel goes well with its overall weight for a nice fit in the hand.

What we didn’t like about the Titan 4G’s design, however, was that in comparison to other new HTC models such as the One line-up or Nokia’s Lumia line, the Titan 4G just felt like it didn’t stand out in any way, shape or form. It’s a nice little lump of grey and black plastic with a nice large touchscreen, but that’s about all. HTC doesn’t appear to have put the same amount of design innovation into the Titan 4G as it has other lines, and we found the phone a little boring, visually. In some models, such as the Samsung Omnia W, this can work to the phone’s advantage. But we didn’t really find this with the Titan 4G.

In addition, be warned that the Titan 4G is a little large, at 132mm by 69mm, for those with small or even medium hands. The model is no monster Galaxy Note, but it’s not too far off. Many people will find it a little odd to be holding something of this size next to their ear, and we would suggest that the Titan 4G is clearly in the class of new smartphones which are being used more for their Internet and app capabilities than they are basic voice calling. This isn’t unusual in 2012; apart from Apple, most major smartphone manufacturers have launched gradually larger models over the past year or so.

There are several hero features on the Titan 4G which help it stand out of the crowd.

Firstly, and most notably, this is the only Windows Phone 7-based smartphone in Australia which supports Telstra’s 4G network. That network currently reaches across 1,000 or so base stations across major slices of all of Australia’s capital cities, and offers typical download speeds ranging from 2Mbps to 40Mbps and typical upload speeds from 1Mbps to 10Mbps — as compared with the 1.1Mbps to 20Mbps available on the 3G portions of Telstra’s Next G network in most non-4G areas. So basically, if you want to access those kinds of speeds, and you want a Windows Phone 7-based device, the Titan 4G is really your only option at this point.

Perhaps the other major feature which the Titan 4G offers is a camera with a whopping 16 megapixel rating, plus dual-LED flash, image stabilisation and so on. In an age where most phones have half that megapixel rating, the Titan 4G’s camera rating is quite attractive, although it only shoots 720p video, as opposed to the 1080p rapidly becoming standard on high-end phones. We’ll have more info on the performance of these two hero features a little further down in the review. The other features of the smartphone are still very high-end, but more similar to most high-end smartphones sold in 2012.

The Titan 4G’s sharp and colourful 4.7″ Super LCD display is unfortunately set at a resolution of 480×800 due to Microsoft’s standard Windows Phone 7 requirements, a major disappointment given the screen’s size and the fact that most modern smartphones these days feature a higher resolution. Its CPU is more acceptable, running at 1.5GHz (it’s a single core Qualcomm S2 Snapdragon model), while it comes with the latest Windows Phone 7.5 version of its operating system (‘Mango’) and 16GB of storage. The front-facing camera is 1.3 megapixels. An FM radio comes built-in, and the Titan 4G’s battery is a 1730mAh model, rated at 4 hours, 20 minutes of ‘talk time’ and, according to HTC, up to 290 hours of standby. The phone connects to its charger and USB cord via a micro-USB cord.

First, you’ll want to know about the speed.

It’s difficult to test the Titan 4G’s real-world speed in Australia, as the platform which we normally use to test Internet speeds to Australian servers is not available for the Windows Phone 7 platform, and Windows Phone 7 doesn’t support the app’s Flash-based website.

To get around this issue, we used several methods. Firstly, we tested the Titan 4G’s speeds using network speed test applications which connect to US servers (instead of’s Australian servers). Secondly, we connected a HTC One XL handset to the Titan 4G through Windows Phone 7’s Internet Sharing facility, and tested the network speed of the One XL when accessing’s Australian servers through Wi-Fi connected to the Titan 4G. We conducted this testing in six different locations in Sydney’s inner suburban areas, ranging from the Eastern Suburbs to various parts of the CBD. All of the areas where we tested the Titan 4G had support for Telstra’s 4G infrastructure.

What we found through these tests is that you can consistently (even during peak hour on public transit routes) achieve download speeds of between 15Mbps and 20Mbps on Telstra’s 4G network with the Titan 4G, and upload speeds typically ranging from 8Mbps to 12Mbps.

However, even this probably isn’t the real story about the Titan 4G’s capabilities. In the exact same places, we also tested HTC’s One XL model, which has very similar specifications and design to the Titan 4G, and is obviously manufactured by the same company and released in a very similar timeframe in terms of mobile phone hardware. In these same areas, we found the One XL capable of regularly achieving speeds of between 25Mbps and 35Mbps downlink, and between 20 and 25Mbps uplink.

When we did real-world tests such as web browsing and YouTube access, there was very little real-world difference between the network performance of the two models; their latency, download and upload speed ‘felt’ the same in practice.

What this leads us to suspect is that the Titan 4G is capable of very similar network access speeds to the One XL on Telstra’s network, but that the lack of accurate speed measuring tools means the device was taking a percentage hit in practice when compared to its sister model. Is the Titan 4G capable of achieving the top-line speeds possible on Telstra’s 4G network? We strongly suspect that yes, it is. You can safely buy this phone knowing that it will be able to take advantage of the full speeds which Telstra’s 4G network is capable of.

And this is great. The browsing speeds of the Titan 4G and the One XL blow every 3G device we’ve ever used out of the water. Get used to never waiting for a web page to load, as long as you’re in a 4G zone on Telstra’s network. These new 4G phones are fast; as fast as being at home on an ADSL2+ or HFC cable connection, and very often, in our estimation, faster. We simply love Telstra’s 4G network; it speeds up everything network-connected that your smartphone does inestimably.

Secondly, what’s the camera like? In our estimation, pretty awesome.

We took a variety of shots using this 16 megapixel monster in both low light and well-lit conditions, and had trouble faulting the shots it took. It focused well, the flash worked well, and in general this is the sort of camera which will lead you to stop using dedicated digital cameras for 90 percent of your shots. For us, in 2012, it’s generally now our camera phone plus a digital SLR when needed, and we suspect many people will feel the same way.

For comparison’s sake, we took these three shots on a rainy night this week in Sydney’s CBD. The first was taken with the Titan 4G, the second with the HTC One XL, and the third with an iPhone 4 we had sitting around. If you get up close, you’ll see that the iPhone 4, now several years old, has a bit less fidelity than the newer phones. The Titan 4G shoots a bit warmer than the HTC One XL, and the One XL seems to have a bit more light bleed from bright lights such as traffic lights, but they both seem to take excellent shots.

Shot taken with HTC Titan 4G:

Shot taken with HTC One XL:

Shot taken with Apple iPhone 4:

In terms of other factors, you should be warned that the Titan 4G’s battery life is not that great, as you might expect from a whopping huge 4G phone. We had to charge it after about a day and a half, and we’d suspect that many people will need to charge it every night, if you’re a heavy 4G and multimedia user.

Without wanting to go too far into the many user interface inconsistencies of Windows Phone 7 (a subject for another whole article), we should note that the Titan 4G implements the platform well, with some additional customisation and unique apps bundled in from HTC and Telstra, such as HTC Hub, Garmin’s Navigator app, Telstra’s gradually improving TelstraOne and FOXTEL apps. Due to the Titan 4G’s snappy CPU, we had no user interface slowdowns, and the device played video and carried out all tasks with aplomb. CPU speed and memory are not issues here, as they rarely are on modern smartphones, which are typically overpowered for their tasks.

If you want a 4G smartphone, and you want Windows Phone 7, run, don’t walk, to your local Telstra store and buy the Titan 4G now. It’s the only device in its class, and you won’t walk away unsatisfied, although as the device is primarily sold on a $79 plan, you also won’t walk away without a hit to your wallet.

For the rest of us, however, the decision is a little more difficult. While it has some of the best Internet speeds and camera hardware available in the smartphone market, the Titan 4G suffers from unremarkable design, mediocre battery life and all Windows Phone 7’s normal quirks. We’d suggest that most people are better off right now with a HTC One XL right now than a Titan 4G; it’s a more sophisticated smartphone in a large range of areas, as our review of it next week will make clear. The Apple and Samsung faithful, of course, have their own options — but without the game-changing 4G access which HTC enjoys right now through Telstra, most rival smartphones are looking a little weak. And, if we haven’t recommended it enough by now, listen again: You do want a 4G smartphone. The difference in network access speeds is extreme, and very visible. It’s time to get on the 4G bandwagon.

Image credit: HTC, Delimiter


  1. Excellent review Renai :) Will we get a One XL one? I know it’s basically the same as the X mind you.

    I got my One XL 3 days ago. Been mucking around ever since. Got an MHL adapter today and just streamed iView to our office TV….very cool/geeky :D

    It’s a bit more stuttery than I was expecting though. Might be the security app I’ve got checking everything, but I don’t think so (uninstalled it to test). It’s still miles ahead of my Desire (even running CyanogenMod as it was) but it occasionally lags for no apparent reason. I hope this isn’t because of Telstra’s guff. I’ve read ICS was supposed to take care of this inconsistent performance. And Google Chrome Beta doesn’t like Delimiter….it kept crashing the launcher. At least Dolphin and the stock browser display it….sort of….

    But the 4G speeds, as you say, are brilliant! I couldn’t keep up with the web page loading, I was so used to 3G. I kept looking away to find it had loaded and was waiting by the time I looked back!

    I think it comes down to preference for a brand/style/OS ultimately. I like WinPhone, but to me it’s not mature enough yet. It’s about where Android was 4 or 6 months before I got my Desire IMO. And that’ just not quite good enough for me now, as I took a gamble when I got my Desire, because it was another 6 months before it REALLY stabilised. I know how to use Android and most of my life is organised around Google services (calendar, contacts, gmail) so it’s easier. But come next upgrade, I’ll be looking very closely at WinPhone, ESPECIALLY with the undoubted boost with integration between it and Win8.

    • Cheers! Yup, I have a One XL with me now, and the review will be up next week. I have personally been flabbergasted by the 4G speeds it offers … the loading speed of Internet sites and resources is just insane. Kudos to Telstra.

      I am thinking of personally upgrading to the One XL, as I am still having trouble often in the Sydney CBD with Telstra’s 3G network. In the same areas, the 4G network is gold class.

      I like WIndows Phone 7, but it’s still behind the eight ball. I think the next release might be better. One bugbear I have with both Google and Microsoft is how both of their platforms automatically sucks data out of my online services (Gmail and Windows Live) and onto your phone as soon as you log in. I don’t want my Gmail address book synched with my phone, please. I would have told my phone if I had wanted that. This kind of thing is really insidious — I’m never quite sure how much data is being sucked down, whereas Apple is usually pretty clear.

      • Yeah, I can understand the frustration.

        I, personally, like the sync features, but I can understand where people won’t. It’d be ok if you could turn it off, even if it was opt-out. But as far as I know you can’t.

      • The new Data Monitor tool in ICS will let you know exactly how much data each app is using, and you can disable any app’s background data as well if you want. Also, you can disable syncing with Google the exact same way you can disable any other service, through Accounts in settings.

        • True Aryan, but not quite what we meant. As SOON as you turn on the phone for the first time you MUST put in your Google account details and it automatically syncs your data first time. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’d be fine if you could say “log me in to gmail, but DON’T sync all my other services” but you can’t first time. You have to turn it off later and that means clearing out all the contacts you DON’T want in both your phone and Google accounts.

          It’s not a HUGE issue, but for people who, unlike me, don’t want to sync their Google account with their phone, it is an annoying frustration when swapping phones and takes several dozen minutes to fix. It just seems like a cheap way to get more information out of you is what Renai is trying to say I think.

          • I’m sorry this is absolutely not true. There is a skip button right there where it asks you to put your Google credentials in. You can completely use an Android phone without ever having a Google account, sure you will lose access to Google services like the Play store and Gmail and the like, but it is completely usable (phone, browser, email, etc) without ever needing to do anything with Google.

          • +1

            I was trying out custom ROMs on my One X the other day, and just skipped the whole setup process so I could try out each one quickly.
            I didn’t need to input any accounts to start using it.

  2. I’m sorry Aryan but that would be the equivalent of using an iPhone without access to the app store. The whole POINT of a smartphone is apps. To say you can certainly use your phone, but without access to the thing it was built around is simply silly.

    What Renai is saying is, he’s happy to link his Gmail account, its not a big deal seeing as Gmail is free to anyone, but he’d like the option of NOT syncing EVERYTHING on the phone WITH that Gmail account when he sets it up.

    It is an attitude I agree with, even if I do use the snyc myself. Other people don’t use Google services as their storage online, why should Google, or ANY company for that matter INSIST you sync first time rather than give you the choice? Why? Because they assume the average person will start to use it automatically even if they don’t want it, because its easier. That’s not right. You should have the choice right off the bat.

    It’s not as bad as Apple’s INSISTENCE that you give them your credit card EVEN if you plan on never BUYING anything from the app store ( quite possible to use the app store without paying and one of the many reasons I am disgusted at Apple), but it is unnecessary and I agree you should have the choice.

    What is wrong with that?

    • No, it is not the equivalent of using an iPhone without access to the App Store, the two are fundamentally different. With an iPhone (unless you jailbreak), there is no other way of getting apps on your phone other than the official App store. The same is true for WP7. On Android you can install any app you want, directly using its APK file, without rooting or modding or voiding your warranty or anything like that. There are a multitude of third party app stores that specifically compete with the Google Play store. There is GetJar, the Amazon App Store, there are app stores specifically catering and only accepting open source apps and many many others. There is even an app store that only contain Adult (i.e., porn) apps!

      Perhaps it is the circles that I frequent in, but I know quite a few people who use Android perfectly functionally without ever logging in to a Google account.

      Which leaves me to ponder, what exactly is it that you want Google to do? Android lets you use your device without any Google accounts, and if you do decide to use a Google Account with it, it gives you various tools to transparently monitor its data usage and sync options. Could you tell me, in practical terms, what exactly is it that you think Android should do different?

      • I’m sorry Aryan, but you are missing the point entirely. It’s perhaps the way I’m explaining it.

        Google provide the phone in it’s normal state for normal people to use. It’s fantastic that Android has the ability to side load apps and is in fact one of the things I love about it. But you and I are advanced Android users. We KNOW about these things. The VAST majority of Android users don’t know there is another way to put apps on the phone.

        Google is COUNTING on people using the phone normally, as it forces them to convert to Google services as a matter of course. They WANT that info. It furthers their business plan. People who don’t want to, and aren’t tech heads, will not not know there is an alternative.

        There is a responsibility Google has, as Microsoft did with its IE antitrust. You COULD install other browsers, but BY DEFAULT that browser was used because it was included and people didn’t necessarily understand there was a different choice. This is EXACTLY the same as Google here, its just more insidious because most people know the app store (Google Play) and to sign up to it you MUST sign in to Google. They may not KNOW there is a way around it and it is decidedly more inconvenient to boot.

        Withholding the truth constitutes the same as lying in most legal precidents. Why is this any different? It is called ANTItrust for a reason.

Comments are closed.