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HTC Titan - Windows Phone 7.5 - the Joy and Woe of Closed Systems

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams


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Overuse of the term "iPhone killer" since Apple's phone hit critical mass, following the release of the iPhone 3G in 2008, has robbed it of most potency and meaning - but it's what Windows Phone 7 was originally intended as. Things haven't quite worked out for Microsoft's smartphone OS yet, but that doesn't mean it isn't rather brilliant.

One of the best things about the HTC Titan, compared to an Android or Symbian phone, is how wonderfully quick it is. The core user interface implements are hardware acceleration, letting it benefit from the handset's graphics power all the time, rather than just when you're trying to play a 3D game or HD-quality video. HTC Titan 8

It's intensely fast - not just in how quickly it responds to gestures on the super-responsive capacitive touchscreen, but in how fast menus are able to scroll and how snappily animated transitions are. This speed, combined with the aggressive styling of the system, makes using Windows Phone a very refreshing experience - like a pint of ice cold lime juice following days of drinking lukewarm, half-flat coke. Of course, not everyone likes lime juice and not everyone will love the unique look of the Windows Phone 7 interface.

The Titan's home screen is a scroll of very sharp boxes Microsoft calls Live Tiles. These are shorcuts - some animated, some static - to apps, phone features and contacts. They're fairly uniform in appearance, 90 per cent of them adhering to whatever colour scheme's in place, but do helpfully show you updates. The Google Mail and Hotmail tiles show a number, for example, indicating how many new emails you have. It's a notifications system and a home screen all in one, and while it's not very flexible or customisable, like an Android home screen, it's immensely easy to get on with.

You can move Live Tiles around, add and remove them, as well as changing their colour from a selection of 11 hues. Windows Phone is really into uniformity, and you can't pick and choose - it's strictly one colour at a time.

Custom UI

The look can be customised a bit. But only a bit.

At the launch of Windows Phone 7 in 2010, the system had all the rigid styling and speed it has now, but the recent Mango update filled-in the many feature holes that peppered the software. Including multitasking, which is simple and intuitive.

Hold down on the touch sensitive back soft key to bring up a row of snapshots of any running apps, which you then tap on to restore. There are still technical limitations when mulitasking with third-party apps, though. For example, skip to another app during an Angry Birds level and you'll be directed to the initial load screen and main menu upon returning. It's not quite the real deal yet.


Multitasking feels good, but is technically a bit "meh" at the mo

Social networking integration has improved too. You can pre-tag photos of your friends before uploading them to Facebook, and clever messaging updates lets you carry on conversations with people over multiple platforms - IM and SMS, for example. The Mango update is an enrichment that has added depth to the Windows Phone OS, without dramatically changing the basic experience - you can now simply do more within its ornate walls.

Like an ornate, marble-walled museum, though, you can't simply do what you like while inside. To transfer files, most crucially videos and MP3s, you have to use the proprietary Zune software - you're not given access to the file system when you connect to a computer. Using the HTC Titan is a bit like living within a totalitarian regime. Accept its rules and marvel as everything ticks along nicely, the trains arrive on time and the streets are clean. If you like to go your own way, though, you may not find the Windows Phone life so accommodating.

This being a smartphone, these rules can be bent a little with the use of apps.

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September 2, 2011, 10:05 pm

I expect MS to give financial incentives to app developers to create cross platform apps. That should open app stores to real competition and grow the WP userbase


September 3, 2011, 5:49 am

@Dave Gilbert: The two reasons you've given against choosing this handset - the OS and the utilitarian design - are exactly the two I'd look for when buying a phone. The sheer clarity and cohesiveness of WP7 are qualities that even iOS can't manage let alone the afterthought that is Android. The application market is constantly growing and with quality submissions. I have an Android tablet (Nook Colour) and visiting the app store feels similar to shopping in a pound shop - mountains of tat hiding the odd gem.

David Gilbert

September 3, 2011, 6:20 pm

Point taken, but it was not the OS itself I have an issue with, more the lack of support given by developers, a similar problem facing the Android tablet market. I think that WP7 is indeed a powerful OS, but like MeeGo could disappear due to lack of support, which would be sad as diversity if always good.
By the way, I completely agree regarding the Android app store, it's like shopping in the discount bin of a bargain basement shop.


September 3, 2011, 11:03 pm

The support while no where near the level of even Android is gradually growing. I was pleasantly surprised to find 'International Snooker' a wonderfully realistic game and a personal favourite of mine having already been ported from over from iOS and Android. You have to remember that Microsoft has a lot riding on WP7 and few would bet against it pulling it off. Meego sadly took too long to enter the market and lacks the devotion from it's parents Nokia and Intel to really make even a late effort. All being said who really what the future really holds.


October 21, 2011, 5:25 am

The Apps are just too expensive to consider buying a windows phone. Don't care why, it just makes WP7 a big no no.

Greg Shewan

October 21, 2011, 12:17 pm

I disagree about the screen size issue, I think these powerful smartphones are content driven and anything under 4 inches is just underselling the entire point of owning one. However the phones themselves could use a bezel trim, with that accomplished I think we could see significantly smaller phones with large screens.

Case in point: the Galaxy Nexus. It is about the same size as the SGSII but has a screen with a .35 inches larger diagonal. If WP7 and iOS ditched hardware controls like Meego and ICS then this would be possible. Only a thin strip would be needed for the earpiece, sensors and camera. On my SGS the top and bottom of the bezel are almost 15mm when they could be as small as 4-5mm, perhaps even smaller if Samsung could make the branding smaller.

Martin Daler

October 21, 2011, 1:18 pm

The huge screen seems like a waste of space, literally. It is just a regular 3.7" screen stretched out to 4.7". Had they instead kept the same pixel density and added more pixels, that would have been a benefit. But to simply make a 3.7" screen take up more space, why? When I could achieve the exact same benefit simply by holding a 3.7" screen a bit closer to my face?

We don't want 'bigger' screens for the extra space they take up, we actually want more screen.


October 21, 2011, 2:16 pm

Andrew (The reviewer), you say the multi-tasking is a bit meh as the app is restarted when you tap on it again. Well it also did this on the iPhone when it was first introduced. Apps have to be modified to work properly with multi-tasking just like the iPhone.

Luan Bach

October 21, 2011, 2:46 pm

They'll get lots of cross platforms apps as soon as they let people develop in C++

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