You could tell the launch of HTC’s latest handsets was going to be sexy. I had to sign a form swearing not to breath a word of it to anyone. Like a super injunction, I wasn’t even allowed to mention the existence of the hypothetical event, let alone what said event may have been about, if indeed it existed.
It didn’t disappoint. It was in a neon-lit basement. There were models, apparently hired for the sole purpose of standing around looking slightly uncomfortable. The bloke from Hot Chip was DJ-ing (no, not that one, the other one).
On show were HTC’s new Titan and Radar handsets, both running the latest version of Microsoft’s Mango operating system, which we will see in the UK in October.
Living up to its name, the Titan is a giant among phones. You can marvel at yourself in its 4.7-inch screen like Narcissus gazing into his mirrored pond. Any bigger and you’d have to start calling it a small tablet. But, at less than a centimeter thick, it pulls off the difficult trick of looking smaller than it actually is. It isn’t the prettiest phone in the world – it’s uneasy grace brings to mind an obese ballet dancer and it looks more like a latter stage prototype than a finished product – but there’s something satisfying about its industrial heft.
The eight mega-pixel camera takes superb pictures, and its impressive processing power allows you to scroll through the giant images without a hint of glitching. It’s mind-boggling to think that the speed of this phone rivals the Apple Powerbook I was still using until earlier this year, when it fell victim to a freak red-wine related accident.
The Radar is less impressive. It lacks the turbo-charged specs of the Titan and the smaller, more feminine design feels a little too familiar – a tweaked chassis for Microsoft’s engine, rather than a fully developed new handset.
The question is, will either of HTC’s new offerings be enough to convince people to give up Android?
Of the two companies, it’s Microsoft that really needs this to work. HTC is the hip young gunslinger, wooing the cool kids with its sexy handsets. Microsoft is its recently divorced friend; it used to be popular but its really lost it. Now it wears dorky jumpers and its waistband is too high.
Windows Phone 7 commands a paltry one per cent of the smartphone market (despite being a very good platform, as I’ve argued here before) and after all the billions chief executive Steve Ballmer has ploughed into the software, it’s going to have to start pulling in some users pretty quickly.
Like a striker going through a lean patch, it needs to score one off its shin to get its confidence back. Rumours persist that we will see a Galaxy S II running Mango soon. Until then, the Titan is Microsoft’s biggest hitter for its flagship software.
Unfortunately, it won’t be enough.
The Titan’s mythological namesakes were a race of powerful deities. But they were overthrown by a group of younger gods, the Olympians. To stretch this analogy to breaking-point, it’s difficult to see the Titan, or its younger sibling the Radar, staying on top for very long.