Just when they thought Windows phones were finished, along came Mango...
HTC TitanHTC Titan with Windows MangoOne of the best, and funniest, technologies that came my way in 2011 was a loan HTC Titan Windows 7.5 Manga phone. Funny because of the looks on the faces of Apple iOS and Android aficionados when: told that respected Microsoft contacts said Mango would be impressive; hands-on experience showed it was true, and Microsoft designers could “think different”.

Maybe a retrospective “How could we have done it differently?” sparked the inspiration, because Mango is fresh, effective and surprising. And it was a challenging brief to come up with something to rival the leading Apple and Android mobile phone benchmarks.

The biggest surprise is the way it makes things so personal. Instead of having to go from app to app for your social networking updates, you can bring them all through People, one of “tiles” on the home screen that you can tailor to your own satisfaction. Simply direct your feeds from Twitter, Facebook and suchlike through here but be careful the flow doesn’t get overwhelming.

And it could get overwhelming because this technology is incredibly good at sucking all kinds of information from all sorts of sources right to your fingertips. A PR contact with a new Nokia Lumia Windows phone simply couldn’t work out how his father’s telephone number got into his phone. “You must have pulled it in from Facebook,” a friend suggested. “Nope, he’s not into any of those things,” was the reply from the baffled contact.

It’s like that with photos too. The Titan’s 8 megapixel camera takes pretty good pictures and its 4.7-inch touch-screen (with 480x800 resolution) is great for viewing them, particularly those of the new granddaughter (the lovely Lylah, below). But how Mango handles its photos is even more impressive. Sharing them to social networks and the likes of Flickr is simplicity itself, and what really turns heads is how it brings in photos from other sources in much the way it brings data into People.

HTC Titan with Windows MangoHTC Titan: great for photosThe People feature within the Pictures tile can deliver photos from Facebook so well it can be delightful. And, at times, almost creepy – family and friends will be surprised when they see their pics so well displayed on your phone. But at times it feels a little odd explaining why you’ve got them there: “Hey, I’m not a stalker but I’ve got some fabulous pics of you...”  So Facebook peeps, do be careful what you put up there.

You’ll see photos you’re not likely to get to with a browser, and having them in one place, and so well presented, can bring some truly pleasant surprises. But hey, that’s why your friends put them on Facebook – to share them – so I guess there’s no need to feel self conscious.

Impressive for Apple and Android users too

Microsoft has taken its time coming up with a compelling offering in the mobile phone market, but Manga has been worth waiting for. For those of us used to Apple and Android it’s impressive and convincing. We’ve grown used to seeing HTC phones like the Desire which can rival those from Apple and the Titan is no exception. It may be big (131.5 x 70.7 x 9.9mm and weighing 160g) but that has real advantages for photos and web pages. (It’s also good to see Nokia turning heads again with the Lumia, thanks to Mango).

There might not be as many apps available but that’s surely only a matter of time. Apple users may think the world has turned their way, but there are still a lot of Windows customers out there, and deep brand loyalty. Now the market is maturing and Manga has upped the competition in a very good way (it seems to be helping Windows 8 too).

Visitors to the Microsoft stand at the BETT 2012 show at London's Olympia were given some previews of what Mango phones could mean for school users beyond general smartphone capabilities. The advantages lie in the way these phones can work with Microsoft's Sharepoint, the technology behind so many school learning platforms. This is an area worth watching.

For this Android (Desire Z) phone user the HTC Titan with Mango gave me everything I need apart from a keyboard (journalists do have special needs) and it’s beguiling enough to keep me topping up the Vodafone pay-as-you-go tariff to hold on to what has been a good experience. Of course it's good for linking into Microsoft services but there were no problems with Google either. It didn't feel as though there were any exclusions apart from, like Apple, no access to services that use Flash.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose   4
Ease of use               5
Features                    4
Quality                       5
Value for money        4

HTC Titan with Windows 7.5 Mango

HTC smartphone, currently the largest running Windows 7.5 Mango (131.5 x 70.7 x 9.9mm and weighing 160g). It has a 4.7-inch touch-screen with 480 x 800 resolution, 1.5 GHz processor, 512MB RAM. 6GB internal memory, 8-megapixel camera with F2.2 lens, dual LED flash, and BSI sensor (for better low-light captures), 1.3-megapixel fixed-focus front camera, HD video recording (720p) with stereo audio. Rechargable and replaceable Lithium Battery for up to 410 minutes talk time (460 minutes standby time),
Available on tariff from most mobile suppliers, or SIM-free from outlets like Amazon for around £400.