Unihertz Titan Review: A BlackBerry-Inspired Rugged Handset
Smartphones with full physical keyboards are really hard to find these days. BlackBerry was one of the last companies to manufacture such smartphones, and unfortunately, the company is out of the business at this point. That left people who really want physical keyboards with almost no options in the market. Well, Unihertz decided to cater to such consumers.
In comes the Unihertz Titan. This is one of the most interesting smartphones I’ve used this year. This handset not only comes with a full physical keyboard, but it’s also rugged at the same time. On top of that, it’s rather hefty… and all of that is quite an odd combination. I haven’t used phones with physical keyboards for quite some time now, so getting used to it was a challenge.
I’m glad to say that the experience with the device was really good, in most areas, at least. There are some issues, of course, which we’ll talk about in this review. You may be pleasantly surprised with it, however, especially if you consider the price tag of this handset. That being said, let’s get into it, shall we.
Bulky and wide, but quite sturdy at the same time
The Unihertz Titan is made out of metal and plastic. The phone feels incredibly sturdy, which was to be expected, considering that this is a rugged smartphone. The sheer shape of the device is unconventional, as its bottom has a slight spear shape, while there’s an arc at the top. The device is fairly wide, and quite thick, but that’s also not surprising considering everything.
The phone measures 153.6 x 92.5 x 16.65mm, and weighs 303 grams. So, it’s shorter than most modern smartphones, but it’s also a lot wider, thicker, and heavier. If you don’t like heavy phones, this device is definitely not for you. If you’re okay with that, or prefer such devices, you’ll feel right at home here. As already mentioned, this is quite a sturdy phone.
Metal and plastic for the win
The metal frame is accompanied by a plastic back, and that backplate feels really sturdy as well. Nothing is creaking, it doesn’t feel hollow, or anything of the sort. There are even some metal accents on the back of the device, along with a single camera, and an LED flash. The phone’s speaker is also placed on the back, unfortunately.
Unihertz branding is present on both the phone’s front and back side, by the way. Bezels on this handset are quite thick, so if you’re into thin bezels, once again, this phone is not for you. Along with a rather spacious physical keyboard, the company also included a touchpad here, in the middle of navigation buttons. That touchpad also doubles as a fingerprint scanner. It’s not the fastest around, but it was quite accurate, at least for me.
The Unihertz Titan does include a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top as well. Unihertz did include a Type-C USB port at the bottom of the device, thankfully. The company also included a customizable physical button on the left, which is a nice touch. You can customize it to do basically anything you want, and it includes a long-press option as well. On top of all that, the company also included an LED notification light above the display, which is a nice touch. All in all, the phone’s design is completely out of the norm, but it’s not bad by any means. You do need to look for hefty, wide, and thick phones in order for this handset to fit the bill.
Not the best display around, but it does the job
The Unihertz Titan features a 4.6-inch HD+ (1430 x 1438), so the display almost has a perfect 1:1 aspect ratio. This is not great when it comes to consuming multimedia, of course, but it has other uses. This is an LCD display, by the way, and it’s flat. On top of that, we’re looking at 60Hz refresh rate here, nothing fancy.
This is not one of the best displays around, that’s for sure. Is it good? Well, the vast majority of people won’t have any complaints, but if you’re coming from a higher-end AMOLED display, this will seem washed out. The blacks are definitely not black as on OLED displays, or anything like that. The display does get plenty bright, and viewing angles are okay, so there’s that.
The colors on this display are also not as vibrant as they’d be on AMOLED displays, but that was to be expected. The display is sharp enough, even though pixel peepers may notice the lack of high resolution here. The display is not too large, though, so the HD+ resolution is not too bad, not at all. The bottom line is, for the vast majority of people, this display will be good enough.
Surprisingly good performance, with a couple of issues
So, what about its performance, is it good enough? Well, it’s good enough, but it’s not great. When it comes to regular daily tasks, such as multitasking, running various apps, and so on, the Unihertz Titan performs really well. I had no real objections to that, as the phone did a really good job. The fingerprint scanner was slower than I had hoped, but other than that, I had no regular user complaints.
Don’t really aim to play games on this handset, though. It can run them, but it has issues with graphically-intensive games. Besides, this display is not really made for gaming, now is it. The device is fueled by the MediaTek Helio P60 64-bit octa-core processor. That is an okay chip, but it cannot measure up to current mid-range and high-end offerings from Qualcomm, not even close. The phone is also backed by 6GB of RAM, by the way.
I did notice some issues
During my usage, I did notice some issues. Now, the major one that stuck with me has to do with background memory handling. The phone basically kills off any currently ongoing process that has high battery consumption, no matter if you told it to or not. So, if you run a torrent, for example, and leave it to download something, the phone will kill the app. It doesn’t matter if it’s excluded from optimizations on a system level. Speaking of which, you cannot lock an app in multitasking (overview screen).
The phone did the same thing when I was transferring files via OTG. I was copying some files to my USB stick, just to test out the process. The file was around 2GB large, and soon after the display got shut down, the phone basically killed the process. I’ve seen the issue with killing off a torrent app in the background, but a phone never did that to me with copying files on a USB stick, which is a system process. That managed to annoy me quite a bit. If you don’t do anything like that, though, this phone does perform really well.
Truly excellent battery life & wireless charging
The Unihertz Titan comes with a huge 6,000mAh battery, an HD+ display, and software that aggressively kills background processes. That sounds like a recipe for great battery life, right? Well, yes, yes it does, and yes, this phone offers great battery life. The company claims that the phone can sit on standby for about a week, and offer 42 hours of talk time. We were not able to test the talk time bit, but after I finished my initial testing, I left it on standby on the side. It has been well over a week at this point, and the phone still has 4-percent of battery life. It was at around 90-percent when I stopped using it.
You’ll get a ton of screen-on-time with this device
What does that mean in terms of screen-on-time? Well, that will largely depend on your usage of the phone, but expect great results in this regard as well. I’ve been using the phone intensively for several days, and after two days of use, I had around 9 hours of screen on time. The phone still stood strong at that point at around 20-percent. During that time, I messaged a lot, sent a lot of e-mails, took quite a few pictures with its camera, watched a lot of YouTube and so on. This phone can handle heavy use, without a problem.
It will take this phone quite a long time to charge, though, so keep that in mind. Charging it overnight may be the best call. The phone does support 10W wireless charging as well, if you have a wireless charger laying around. No matter whether you charge it wirelessly or not, it will take quite some time to charge. Luckily, you won’t have to charge it in the middle of the day, considering its great battery longevity.
Camera performance is quite possibly the weakest aspect of this device
Camera performance is one of the downsides of this device, no doubt about that. It has a single 16-megapixel camera on the back, and that camera offers mediocre results at best. It’s an older sensor on top of that, and it’s really bad in low light. Let’s talk about daylight shots first, though. The phone tends to oversaturate colors, while the pictures themselves do seem a bit washed out.
The dynamic range on this device is also not great, quite the contrary. The phone tends to overexpose HDR shots, quite a bit, in fact. In low light, you’ll notice a lot of noise, and the images simply don’t get bright enough. There is no night mode here, so you’ll have to reach for that LED flash. The camera is usable, but it’s not good by any means, so if you’re looking for a camera phone, look elsewhere.
The front camera has more or less the same issues as the rear one. It’s not that good at all, but it can handle a quick selfie or something, as long as you’re not too demanding. Video recording is not good either, but that is to be expected at this price point, and considering this is a rugged phone.
A rear-facing mono speaker… not a good idea
The Unihertz Titan, unfortunately, features a mono speaker. To make things worse, that speaker is located on the back of the device. There are two separate speaker grilles, but we’re looking at only one speaker here. That speaker is not exactly bad, but it’s not one of the better ones we’ve heard. It’s not exactly tiny, but you will hear some distortion, even though it gets quite loud.
It’s an okay speaker if you’re not used to stereo sound or something of the sort. If you have, this will bother you. It doesn’t help the fact it’s rear-facing, and that it’s fairly easy to cover with your hand, depending on how you use your phone. Getting that speaker to the bottom of the device would help things, that’s for sure.
Software is close to stock, but with quite a few additions by Unihertz
Ah… software. The Unihertz Titan comes with a stock-ish build of Android. It does look like stock Android 9 Pie, but it’s not. Unihertz actually placed quite a bit of its software on this phone, for a good reason. That button on the left is customizable, you have quite a few options for the phone’s keyboard as well, and so on. We’ll talk about the keyboard part separately, in the next paragraph, while the rest will be covered here.
So, that button on the left. You can assign different actions to it. You can use a single click, double click, and press-and-hold to assign different actions. So, you can basically use it to launch a camera, fire up your favorite messaging app, and turn on the flashlight. That makes it extremely useful, and truth be said, I’ve missed something like that. I do believe that every OEM should include such a physical key on their devices. That’s just me, though.
I’ve already talked about some software-related issues in the performance section of this review. I’ve had issues with aggressive process terminations even when they shouldn’t occur. Other than that, the software has been quite solid. The phone even comes with the ‘Toolbox’ app pre-installed. That app contains a lot of useful tools, such as a speedometer, Plumb bob, Magnifier, Heart rate, Noise test, Compass, Flashlight, and so on.
I don’t have major complaints about this software, other than the ones I’ve mentioned in the performance section. It would be nice to have Android 10 on the device, to be quite honest, but Android 9 Pie works really well here.
BlackBerry-inspired features make for a really good keyboard experience
Many of you who purchase this phone will get it for one major reason, its keyboard. The Unihertz Titan comes with a full QWERTY physical keyboard on the front. Now, you’ll be glad to know that the keyboard is really well made, and that it’s quite spacious as well. It doesn’t really offer that BlackBerry feel that you may have hoped for, but it’s good enough. The build quality actually surprised me a bit.
What you’ll be glad to know is the fact this keyboard has some BlackBerry features built-in. So, you remember that feature that allowed you to scroll a website by simply moving your finger across the keyboard. Well, that feature is available here. It’s called ‘Scroll assistant’ in the Settings, and you can select which apps you want to use it with. That feature is useful, though it’s not as well-implemented as on BlackBerry phones. It’s not as sensitive as the display is, so it takes a bit getting used to. Once you do, though, chances are you’ll love it.
Programmable shortcuts… check!
The Unihertz Titan also allows you to program some shortcuts for its keyboard. That is yet another feature that we’ve seen on BlackBerry phones. So you can program a specific key to launch a specific app / action once you hit it. You can assign both short and long presses to those keys, by the way. So, for example, you can assign the letter ‘C’ to open Chrome when you short-press it, and Calculator on a long press. That is immensely useful, and I missed it quite a bit once I finished using this handset.
The keyboard is quite responsive, and clicky. Truth be said, I would have preferred more if it weren’t so flat, and if keys had more travel. I would have also preferred a narrower phone, even if that means a narrower keyboard. That’s just me, though, as this keyboard is quite spacious if you don’t mind a wider device. Typing on it was a good experience, and the keys are also backlit, in case you were wondering.
For people who want a phone with full physical keyboard, it’s probably worth it
So, is the Unihertz Titan worth $339.99? Well, if you don’t mind a hefty and wide device, while you prefer a rather capable physical keyboard, and solid performance… then yes. Just keep in mind that the audio and camera aspects of this device are not exactly something to brag about. For those of you who are still used to physical keyboards, this phone certainly offers some nice features. $339.99 surely is not a high price to ask for such a device, despite its shortcomings. I’ve enjoyed using the Unihertz Titan during the review period, even though I’ve completely lost touch with phones that feature full physical keyboards.