Nextel's iDEN network may not be the most advanced one out there, but the Direct Connect feature that comes with their phones has been coveted for years. So much so that Sprint has held on to the network much longer than made sense. iDEN may be going the way of the Dodo in 2013, but Sprint is still pushing out devices that use the expiring network. The Motorola Titanium is one of those phones and it's being touted as a business device, though I have a feeling that most enterprise users will need more power than the Titanium provides. It's a low-end smartphone by all means, but it's one of the few that has a physical QWERTY keyboard. Is the Titanium the phone you should go with?
Design & Features
The Titanium is a rugged phone and meets MilSpec 810G for dust, shock, vibration, low pressure, solar radiation, high temperature, and low temperature. The hardware design is more attractive than other rugged phones. The shell has comfortable, rounded edges, a soft-touch coating, and metallic accents; however, it is built entirely out of plastic. The phone measures 4.71-inches tall, 2.44-inches wide, and .53-inches thick, and weighs 5.2 ounces. It feels solid, but heavy.
As displays go, the Titanium's 3.1-inch panel is on the small side, but it makes up for it by having a portrait keyboard. This means that you won't have to cram your thumbs onto the display in order to type. The display has a resolution of 320x480, a pretty standard resolution for low-end smartphones. I have no real complaints about the display; it's clear enough, but small text is pixelated.
Between the display and the keyboard are four buttons for Phone/Send, Menu, Home, Back, and End/Power. The Android Search key has been moved to the bottom right corner of the keyboard. On the right spine of the phone is the microUSB port and a camera shutter key. On the left spine is the Direct Connect key and volume rocker buttons. The top of the phone contains the screen lock key, the 3.5mm headphone jack, and a button that silences the phone. This is a very useful button to have. One quick press will turn all ringers off. In order to ensure its rugged specifications, all ports are covered.
The Titanium ships with a 2GB card to supplement its 192MB of available internal memory. The microSD card slot is underneath the battery cover, but it is not necessary to remove the battery to access the card. The phone supports up to 32GB of additional memory.
Usability & Performance
It's disappointing that the Titanium ships with a version of Android that is two generations old along with a version of Motorola's UI that is also out-dated. In a time when high-end phones ship with Android 2.3 and mid-range and even low-end phones ship with 2.2, it seems inexcusable for the Titanium to ship with Android 2.1. This can either be attributed to laziness on the part of Motorola or a sign of how highly they think of the device. I know it automatically makes me lower my standards a little. Not only that, but the phone is powered by a measly 504 MHz Freescale Zeus ARM11 processor. As it is, Motorola's UI already has a tendency to slow down a phone so I can only imagine what this poor, underpowered processor is going through trying to keep up with everything. I can tell you from experience that it doesn't do a very good job of it. Basic tasks like scrolling through homescreens or opening the app drawer are still somewhat smooth, but when I made a quick attempt to play Angry Birds or do some web browsing and I quickly ran into lag. The phone was unable to handle a Quadrant Standard test to I can't give you any solid scores for the processor. I can tell you, though, that the lag is present throughout nearly every task.
Back to Motorola's UI, it's a love it or hate it thing. Thankfully, this is not the original "in your face" version that Motorola first came out with, but it's also not the most recent version that has gone through several refinements. The dock at the bottom of the homescreen gives you basic options for Calls, the app drawer, and Contacts, all illustrated in bland, blue boxes. The blue gradient design feature that was added after a few refinements is present in this version, but the ability to resize Motorola's widgets is inexplicably gone. I've searched through every setting I can find and the UI's only redeeming feature is nowhere to be found. So if you're a Blur fan because you enjoy the resizable widgets, think again.
Being a Sprint phone, the Titanium ships with Sprint's NASCAR app, Sprint Football Live, and Sprint Zone. The phone also ships with a few corporate apps like Quickoffice, Personal Portal, File Manager, and Corporate Directory. The corporate e-mail client is also being advertised as a bonus for the Titanium, but I feel obligated to point out that a corporate e-mail client is available for every Android phone, so don't feel like you have to get the Titanium in order to have that feature.
One of the Titanium's few redeeming features is its keyboard. The design is very reminiscent of the BlackBerry Bold's terrific QWERTY. In fact, if you've ever seen or used that keyboard, then you already know what to expect with the Titanium because it is pretty much identical to it. Each key is angled either to the left or the right depending on which side of the keyboard it's on. The design is excellent; however, the keyboard feels a bit too small. My thumbs felt cramped on the tiny keyboard. Now, this is going to vary from person to person so I can't say that it will be too small for everyone, but I already have small hands so I can only imagine what it would be like for the 80% of people whose thumbs are larger than mine. I also wish that the keyboard had more dedicated punctuation keys. You would think, being a business device, that Motorola would understand that most people who use this phone will be typing out e-mails and that grammar is important to them. There is a dedicated period key, but no dedicated comma key, a punctuation mark that will, presumably, be used a lot. Overall, I give the keyboard a B-. It has a great design, but it felt too small while using it.
The Titanium ships with a decent 5-megapixel autofocus camera with a flash. Pictures taken with the Titanium's camera had good detail but were grainy. Compared to other 5-megapixel cameras on mid-range to high-end phones, the Titanium's definitely falls short; however, because the detail in each picture is surprising, I wouldn't count it as a negative against the phone. In fact, I'm actually surprised that Motorola would put such a high-spec'd camera on a phone that otherwise shows a lack of effort by the manufacturer. Video capture, on the other hand, is a negative. Granted, Motorola hasn't made any big promises here, outfitting the camera with a video capture resolution of only 352x288. Expect terrible video and audio quality.
Battery life will vary greatly depending on usage habits, but because the Titanium ships with an 1820 mAh battery, quite a large for a phone like this, most users will be able to get a full day of use. Even so, I would still recommend charging it every night. You can do a few test runs to see if you can squeeze two days out of the battery, but don't be surprised if it goes dead in the middle of the day.
I'm not sure why Sprint is still pushing out iDEN phones. It's only real use in today's market is Push-to-Talk (Direct Connect) technology and even then Sprint can use other network technology for that. Regardless, iDEN is what you get with the Titanium which means that all of Nextel's Direct Connect features are available like Group Connect, Group Messaging, and more. The downside is that this network wasn't really made for data services like web browsing so don't plan on doing a lot of that with the Titanium, unless you're connected to WiFi. Otherwise, you can try to browse the web, but you won't be able to see much because the data speeds will be painfully slow. The phone does ship with Opera Mini, a version of the web browser that is typically saved for featurephones, but even with this condensed browser, PhoneDog.com still took over a minute to load.
On the call quality front, there's no surprises here. Callers could be heard clearly and the speakerphone was excellent, partially thanks to the large speaker on the front of the phone just below the keyboard. Voices tend to get garbled when the volume is magnified that loudly, but when using the Titanium, I could hear every single word clearly.
As the Teen Lifestyle Editor, I mainly work with and test mid-range and low-end smartphones. I understand what they're capable of and I appreciate their place in the market. The Titanium, however, doesn't have a place in the market. The features are there, but the performance is not. The spec-sheet alone does not always tell the whole story when it comes to a mid-range smartphone, but it does with the Titanium. There simply isn't enough power to make this one worth it. Skip the Titanium and look into something else on Sprint.
What's Good: Good 5-megapixel camera; excellent call quality; rugged phone; good battery life; Direct Connect features; great physical keyboard.
What's Bad: Terrible, slow processor; iDEN network; Motorola's UI is not the best one out there; ships with an outdated version of the OS; keyboard is great but may be too small for some.
The Verdict: Unless you absolutely need the PTT features, I would recommend looking into one of Sprint's other offerings.