Back to the future
I’ve always been a big Blackberry fan, and seriously missed smartphones with a physical keyboard. So, as soon as the Titan Pocket was available in my country, I dumped the Microsoft Duo and other foldables in a drawer and jumped right on it. Just a week before, I finally quit the last of the social networks that I was active on, and so my smartphone needs changed dramatically. I wanted a tool to get things done again, and this seemed just right.
Therefore, I will be reviewing this device as a tool for business, and not as a normal smartphone.
This is actually not the first qwerty-phone from Unihertz. But it is the first one that made me want to try it.
The first question most will ask is: is it as good as a Blackberry? The answer is: not completely, but in some ways, it is even better. I used the Android Blackberries like the Priv and the Keyone, and they seemed to be great at first, but there was something about them that made me stop using them. For me, the Titan Pocket actually feels more like a Blackberry than the Priv or Keyone ever did. My feeling is that Android runs a lot smoother on the Titan Pocket.
Most people will want to compare this with a Blackberry Classic, however. The Classic was a better device if you ask me. The Classic was a bit bigger, and most of all: it ran an operating system that was adapted to the small screen. The Titan Pocket is a bit too small. But you get used to it. The main problem is that not all Android apps will display correctly on the small square display. Some things are so tiny on the display that you need a magnifier to read them. Most apps, however, respect the font-size setting of Android, and you can set that to a higher value. Some, like Telegram, do not, and it makes them difficult to use. In real life, this is not a deal-breaker. This is not a phone that you will use to waste time scrolling social media or watching YouTube. This is a voice call, e-mail, and messaging machine.
So, how does it perform as a voice call, e-mail, and messaging machine?
Calling is a joy. The phone feels great in the hand. Calls are clear and loud enough. Thanks to the keyboard shortcuts, you can dial your most frequent contacts with just 1 press of a key. Speakerphone is loud and clear. It feels great to have a device that can reliable handle voice-calls, after coming from the Duo. This really feels like a phone again.
The e-mail, texting, and messaging experience will greatly depend on the keyboard. Some people report that the default keyboard software is no good and they recommend replacing it with Googles Gboard or Microsofts Swiftkey. I had no problems with it, however. Prediction and auto-correction works fine for me, and there is a helpful small virtual keyboard that makes entering numbers and punctuation easier. This works like on the Blackberry Passport. But the older method by pressing the Alt-key in combination with another key is also still available. Pressing space twice ends the sentence and starts a new one with the first character capitalized, just as you expect. I have no real complaints about the keyboard software. Flicking up suggestions as you could do on some Blackberries is not available, however, and it seems you can not move the cursor by swiping on the keyboard.
So, how is typing on the keyboard? The keys are tiny, and the layout is not optimal with the spacebar on the bottom row between the V and B keys. But you get used to it after a couple of days. It comes very close to typing on a Classic.
A small device with a big battery seems promising. But for some reason, battery life is less stellar than expected. You will have no trouble getting through a day. Maybe two. But that is mostly because your screen usage will greatly decline with this device. I went from at least 4 hours of phone usage per day to less than 2 hours since quitting all social media and using this phone.
Performance & Connectivity
This is not a fast phone, but nothing feels slow. It will handle everything fast enough. I never felt that the phone was slowing me down.
Wifi and cellular data connections are on par with other smartphones. No complaints here. Calling over 4G LTE works fine and you can browse the internet using cellular data while on a call.
Bluetooth is mostly OK. No problems with speakers, headsets, and handsfree connections in my car. Garmin smartwatches connect without any issue, but I did not manage to connect my Tissot T-Touch Solar to it. Update: I managed to connect the Tissot. It seems it is a bug in the Tissot app.
The fingerprint sensor is very fast and reliable. It doubles as a home key and activates Google Assistant (or any other assistant that you set as the default) on a long press. This can be annoying, however, because you often touch the sensor by accident. I solved this by setting an option that requires a double tap on the sensor to work as a home key, and by setting the default assistant to ‘none’. I now activate the Google Assistant by a long press of the letter G on the keyboard.
Not much to say here. Some Blackberries had better cameras. In good light, you can get a usable picture out of it. Pictures look great on the small display. But as soon as you open them on a PC or zoom in, the flaws are clearly visible: lack of sharpness and almost no dynamic range. Colors are great, however, and the pictures have a bit of a vintage look to them. The camera is only intended to use when you really need a picture to remember things or as proof, for example. The selfie camera is a bit closer to what you find on other smartphones. Not great, but usable. Video calls work good enough.
Tip to get much sharper pictures: always tap something on the display to focus on. After a couple of seconds, you will hear a beep, and a green circle will appear. Now take the picture. If you let the camera decide what to focus on, the result is usually blurry.
Below are Some low-light pictures taken with the Titan Pocket. We didn’t use tap to focus, as explained in the tip above, otherwise, results would have been a bit sharper.
The Titan Pocket runs on Android 11 at launch. It has a simple but effective launcher. Most of the OS is stock Android with some extra things in the settings menu.
Out of the box, the launcher behaves like an iOS device: all apps are visible on the home screen and adjacent screens. There is a setting “Menu mode switch” in the “Start settings” that you can reach by long-pressing on an empty space on the home screen, which will allow you to switch to the normal Android behavior. If you activate this you can add and remove apps and widgets on your home screen(s) and you can swipe up to access the complete app drawer.
Some more things we liked
I love the keyboard shortcuts. No more looking for an icon to open an app. And there are also some actions you can assign to them. I can switch off the alarm system of my home by pressing a key on the keyboard just before I enter my home. I open my inbox just by typing “i”, and most of my apps in a similar way. And on top of the keyboard shortcuts (2 shortcuts per key), you can also assign some things to the red extra button at the side of the device. You can also still open the camera by double-pressing the power button. So there are tons of possibilities here.
I also like that an on-screen button to close all open apps at once is immediately visible in the recent apps overview. Many other phones require you to scroll past all open apps first.
And I also like that there is a notification led. Colors and settings are limited, but it’s still nice to have.
The touch-sensitive keyboard is a nice extra. Just as with some Blackberries, it allows you to scroll through content.
Things that could be better
It mostly comes down to the fact that the device is just a tiny bit too small. If the device would be one centimeter wider, a bigger display and slightly larger keys would be possible. It would make it easier to use without becoming too big to handle.
Scrolling through content using the keyboard is a nice feature, but it can be a bit jerky and rough at times. This should be improved.
Should you buy it?
If your smartphone usage is mostly interacting on social media or sending pictures to friends or playing games: definitely not. The display is too small for that and the camera quality is not good enough.
If you use your mobile phone to review large documents or to edit Office files on a regular basis: also not. The display is really too small for that. You might consider their larger model, however. But that is a beast. We hope they will make a device that is in between the two sizes.
If you are done with social media and you are looking for an efficient communication device, and you always missed a physical keyboard: definitely YES!
(if you belong to the target audience)