preview Telstra is expected to shortly launch its first smartphone based on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 operating system that will support 4G mobile speeds, with the model to be a 4G version of the HTC Titan II handset which is currently attracting a good level of interest in the US. But will the Titan II be the new king of Australia’s Windows Phone 7 scene? Read on to find out.
Design-wise, the Titan II can be considered quite similar to several of the other major smartphones which HTC has released in Australia over the past year. With what looks to be a high-quality black casing reminiscent of the HTC Incredible S, but with a more smooth design which reminds one of the white HTC Sensation XL (but black), the Titan II is likely to be 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 will be on the top back of the smartphone’s case, volume buttons on the side, a headphone jack and on/off button on top, and standardised Windows Phone 7 buttons on the bottom. Whether you come from an Android or Windows Phone background to this phone, you’ll likely find most of the Titan II’s design to be quite familiar, and you’ll feel right at home.
The phone is a little heavier than most, but its bevelled edges, soft-touch back and curves have been praised by international reviewers, and we expect the 4G version to be no different.
One design caveat applies here: The Titan II’s size. With a 4.7″ screen, this is not a smartphone for those with small hands. If you shied away from the Samsung Galaxy Note and HTC’s large Sensation XL phone, you more than likely won’t want to take a look at the Titan II either. This is a phone designed to make the most of its real estate. A smaller Nokia model (even the Lumia 900 is only 4.3″) may be more your style.
There are more or less three features which you’ll want to take note of on the Titan II 4G, with most of the rest of its specifications being fairly standard and more or less shared with any top-range Windows Phone 7 or Android phone released in Australia over the past few months.
The first is the 4G speeds which it will offer. These will initially only be available on Telstra’s Next G network, and only in certain areas, such as the CBDs of large cities and airports. If you use your phone for multimedia or web browsing at all, in 2012 we would recommend you to buy a 4G model instead of a 3G model, with the reasoning being that most people keep their phones for several years, and in several years’ time the 4G networks of Optus and Telstra will be very well entrenched in Australia.
A review conducted by Delimiter in late January this year of the performance of HTC’s Velocity 4G phone on Telstra’s network found the phone could download data at speeds of up to 27Mbps and upload at speeds of up to 12Mbps in Sydney’s CBD, where Telstra’s 4G network is operational. In comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus only managed speeds of up to 7.51Mbps on Telstra’s 3G network in the same areas.
Real-world tests of applications also showed that real-world Internet usage for tasks like web browsing was just much faster on the 4G model, and we expect the same to be true of the Titan II.
Secondly, there is the Titan II’s camera. At 16 megapixels, and with a wide range of software features built in, the camera makes the Titan II also one of the premiere camera phones in Australia this year. Early reviews of the camera have found it to be stellar, outperforming rival models such as the Nokia Lumia 900, which isn’t even available in Australia yet.
Lastly, there is one negative feature of the Titan II which you need to be aware of: Its screen resolution. The phone boasts a screen resolution of just 480×800, which is quite limited compared with the higher ratings of modern Android and iPhone competitors. You’ll be able to see the pixels on the Titan II’s 4.7″ touchscreen, which is never good, and may turn some people off. The difficulty here appears to be that Windows Phone 7.5 (‘Mango’) requires this resolution. Bummer.
We expect the Titan II’s performance to be very good when it comes to its camera, its network speeds and even its user interface and ability to run applications (it comes with a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 CPU). Actually, in all of these areas, we expect the smartphone to fly.
However, there will quite possibly be a price to pay for all of this whiz-bang hotness: Battery life.
With such a huge screen and support for faster Internet access via the new LTE/4G standards, it’s a little hard to predict how the Titan II will perform in terms of its battery life. US reviews site The Verge (check out its video review below) found that the battery life was solid, getting a day and a half out of the Titan II, even when using it on AT&T’s 4G network, but we’d like to see how the Titan II performs on Telstra’s own 4G network before making any judgements here.
Pricewise, Windows Phone enthusiast site WPDownUnder t expects the Titan II to launch locally any day now, on a $79 plan, with an outright price “around the mid-$800′s”. This makes the phone one of the pricier within Telstra’s stable. But for probably the best Windows Phone-based smartphone we’re going to see in Australia for a little while, that’s not unexpected.
If you really want a 4G smartphone, you want it now, and you want it to use Windows Phone 7, then the Titan II will definitely satiate your gadget lust. It looks like this is a sweet little machine that will deliver a very fast network connection and a great camera to boot, with the certainty that its fast processor will keep you in the game with respect to apps for quite a while.
However, in general, like the HTC Velocity 4G and the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G, truthfully the HTC Titan II 4G is a bit of a mixed bag. Its poor screen resolution hampers it drastically, and this alone makes it hard to recommend to the sort of people who would otherwise pay top dollar for it. In addition, we’re not yet convinced that 4.7″ is a good size for a smartphone … and we have large hands. Phones of this size just feel a bit large.
Right now is a very good time for Australians to hold off for a few months on buying a new smartphone. If you wait until July or so, we’ll have much greater visibility on a number of high-profile smartphones likely to launch in Australia over the next six months, including Samsung’s Galaxy S III handset (although it hasn’t been formally confirmed yet), HTC’s One XL (a great Android phone which will likely support 4G through Telstra) and perhaps even the next Apple iPhone, which will doubtless also support 4G.
Like most of the 4G smartphones available in Australia right now, the Titan II is a bit of a bastard stepchild. We’ll likely see some more polished offerings soon, and we recommend you wait for them.
Note: As with all previews, we haven’t actually played with the Titan II 4G yet, although we’ve asked for a review model when the phone launches locally. So consider this article with a grain of salt; it is, after all, little more than informed speculation.
Image credit: HTC