First Look: The AT&T Tilt Smart Phone

Slider phones have become increasingly popular; but until now, they've been limited to handheld devices that are best used in two hands. That changes with AT&T's newest Windows Mobile device, which you can either hold in your hands or rest comfortably on a surface.

The AT&T tilt, with its screen open.
The aptly named AT&T Tilt (also known as the HTC 8925) has a hinged display designed to accommodate various viewing scenarios. When open, the roomy adjustable screen gives the phone the look of a a tiny laptop, complementing the phone's use for computing or entertainment. (The phone costs $400 when purchased along with a two-year contract from AT&T; unlimited data plans are priced at $45 a month.)

Good design isn't the only thing the Tilt has going for it. It's also AT&T's first Windows Mobile 6 device. And it's a quad-band GSM world phone compatible with EDGE/GPRS and with high-speed 3G UMTS and HSDPA broadband networks. This makes it a great phone for travelers, especially if they can take advantage of high-speed networks.

Specs

The device has slimmed down ever so slightly from its predecessor, the Cingular 8525: It still measures 4.4 inches long by 2.3 inches wide, but the product's maker, HTC, scaled down its depth by nearly 0.2 inch and its weight by 0.2 ounce (to exactly 6 ounces). It also has double the ROM (256MB) and double the memory (128MB). The display remains the same--a generous 2.8 inches, with 320 by 240 resolution and 64,000 colors. The processor is still 400 MHz, too, but now the unit uses a Qualcomm MSM7200 instead of a Samsung CPU.

The new phone is rated by AT&T to support up to 4 hours of talk time and up to 8 days of standby time. Our battery tests are pending, and we'll update this review with a full rating once those tests are completed.

Pros and Cons

In my informal tests, I found the audio quality over AT&T's network pleasing. I heard a faint (but not disturbing) hissing noise in the background, but the other person's voice consistently came through loud and clear. Another positive: The people I called could discern little background noise, even though I was in a noisy locale.

The volume wheel helped augment the sound considerably. When I used the wheel, my voice sounded louder When I spoke--even to myself--than it actually was. I still sounded clear enough to the other party, but this unadvertised amplification caught me by surprise. The effect diminished when I reduced the volume to its minimum level. The speakerphone, meanwhile, sounded tinny to my ear, and audio became distorted at higher levels.

The device can handle up to six Bluetooth pairings simultaneously--a good thing, since you may want to use it with a Bluetooth headset and an external keyboard at the very least. No headset--wired or wireless-and no keyboard are included in the package.

Let's Tilt

Though HTC is a popular manufacturer of other Windows Mobile devices, the Tilt's subtle and not-so-subtle design improvements--including the tilting screen--help distinguish it from the rest of the pack

The hinge permits a tilt of 40 degrees, making the unit far more functional than competing handhelds are. The design makes it feel a bit like a smaller cousin of the Psion Series 5 PDAs of a decade ago. Thanks to the tilt, I could rest the unit on my desk and type more quickly using my index fingers, instead of having to hold the device in my hands and use my thumbs. The tilting screen also makes the device more conducive to use with a Bluetooth keyboard, as well as for hands-free sessions of video or TV watching (the MobiTV 2 app comes pre-installed).

The AT&T Tilt's spring-loaded screen feels slightly sturdier than the screen on the T-Mobile Wing, another HTC slider phone of similar size. The tilting hinge appears to be relatively strong: I could hold the unit by the screen and not feel as though it might detach from the phone at any moment. I don't know how the unit would withstand a drop with the screen in its tilted position, however; and when in its flat, fully open position, the screen exhibited a slight give on the right side, causing me to wonder about the Tilt's long-term durability (a similar problem plagued the Wing--but there, the give was evident on both sides of the screen, and much more pronounced).

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