Review: AT&T Tilt - A Powerful Smartphone with a Twist

By Joseph Moran

February 22, 2008

New Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone from AT&T strikes a good balance between business and pleasure.

Today's smartphones designs generally fall into one of two categories. You've basically got the traditional vertically-oriented (aka portrait mode) handset, as well as the kind that also functions in a two-handed horizontal (landscape) mode with a concealed keyboard. This latter style is often favored by those that tend to do a lot of text entry from the field, and it's to this kind of device that AT&T has introduced a twist—or a tilt, to be exact.

Specifically, we're talking about the AT&T Tilt, a device penned by prolific smartphone manufacturer HTC, and whose signature feature is adjustable screen.

Like most horizontal-slider type smartphones, the Windows Mobile 6 Professional-based Tilt has a relatively small footprint, but at nearly three-quarters of an inch thick, is also quite chunky. Still, that's down more than a tenth of an inch from the Tilt's predecessor, the 8525. (The Tilt's exact dimensions are 4.4 x 2.3 x .73, and it weighs in at 6 ounces.)

Being an AT&T phone, the black-clad Tilt is quad-band GSM/EDGE device that also boasts 3G UTMS/HSDPA for data connections. If you live in an area that lacks AT&T's 3G coverage, you can avail yourself of the 802.11g/b Wi-Fi. (It also supports AT&T's optional Push To Talk service.)

If the Tilt's 128MB storage capacity proves insufficient, you can bump it up via a microSD card whose slot is, thankfully, not under the battery or even in the battery compartment, but easily accessible at the bottom of the unit. (AT&T says the Tilt can accommodate up to a 32 GB memory card, though 6GB is the biggest you can get today.)

What is in the battery compartment is a 1350 mAh battery that AT&T rates for up to four hours of talk time or 8 days on standby. Those claims seem reasonable given that we used the Tilt regularly over a period of nearly four days before it needed a recharge.

Almost all the Tilt's frontal real estate is consumed by a spacious 2.8-inch touch screen that displays 240 x 320 resolution (or the inverse when used in horizontal mode) with 64K colors.

Flanking the D-Pad beneath are dedicated Windows, Internet Explorer, and E-mail buttons, along with the obligatory call and soft keys. A jog dial on the upper left edge eases one-handed navigation when you don't want to remove the stylus from storage, and it doubles as a volume control for calls and applications. For no-handed operation there's a Voice Speed Dial feature-to use it to call contacts or launch applications you must first record voice tags for each item, but once you've done that it works well.

Sliding the display over to the left (rather than the right as with many similar phones) unveils the Tilt's full QWERTY keyboard with keys large enough for comfortable typing. (This also exposes the Tilt's SIM card slot which happens to be on the underside of the display.) An embedded keypad is offset in a light gray, in contrast to the black of the rest of the keys. An especially nice touch of the Tilt's keyboard are indicator lights that show when the Caps/Shift or Fn keys are engaged.

Once the Tilt is open, you can pull the display up toward you and adjust it to your liking at almost a 45 degree angle. If you do tilt it all the way upwards, however, access to the keyboard's top row is somewhat compromised-you can still get to the buttons, but mistypes will be more common. The display's hinge feels solid and not particularly frangible, and it's tight enough to allow a pretty precise control over the screen positioning. 

The Tilt's articulating screen may seem gimmicky or like a relatively minor innovation, but it really can enhance the usability of the device a great deal. For example, it makes it feasible rest the Tilt on a tabletop instead of having to hold it, which is handy whether you're actively using the device or just passively viewing material like photos or videos.

This being a Windows Mobile device, the included software is a pretty standard compliment. But since the Tilt uses Windows Mobile 6 Professional, it comes with a version of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, plus Outlook) that can edit and create new documents, as well as view existing ones.


This review originally appeared at PDAStreet.com. To read the rest of this review, click here.



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