With Windows Phone 7.5 Mango being the same across handsets from every range, it is up to the exclusive, proprietary software add-ons tip the scale in favor of the Lumia 900 or the Titan II. Both manufacturers have put a significant effort in adding their own apps, which aim to provide additional appeal to potential users.
Their survival as a leading smartphone manufacturer at stake, Nokia have understandably put extra effort to make their WP7 line stand out in the crowd. With any Lumia phone you get Nokia Drive - a complete SatNav solution with downloadable maps free of charge.
The other household names are Nokia Maps, App Highlights and Nokia Music, but some of them are, or will be available across the platform soon enough. App Highlights offers a selection of apps to get you started, while Nokia Music works as a general music player but with a location-aware twist. You also get access to the Nokia Music store, which is an alternative to the Zune Marketplace.
The Titan II has a pretty good alternative to Nokia Drive, called HTC Locations. The HTC exclusive app is also free, can download maps for use when offline, and is (arguably) better.
Furthermore, the Taiwanese alternative to the Nokia Lumia 900 offers you several other exclusive apps, which are taken straight from the HTC Sense UI for Android. We particularly liked the weather app, as it adds a serious touch of eye candy to an otherwise plain looking Windows Phone homescreen.
The HTC Titan II also comes with a sound enhancer and a few equalizer settings preloaded. We found them to provide a significantly better audio experience than what the Lumia 900 had to offer. If multimedia playback is important for you, the Titan II looks like the better alternative.
Both Nokia and HTC would tell anyone who would listen that their WP devices have two of the best snappers on the market. HTC makes sure to focus your attention on the 16 megapixel resolution, while Nokia is bragging left and right about the bright F/2.2 lens on the Lumia 900.
Sadly, none of those fared particularly well in real life tests. It's not that the cameras in question are inadequate - they are both perfectly fine for most of your Facebook shots and with some effort could probably produce quite good photos from you BBQ party, it's just that neither of them is the world beater its maker makes it out to be.
With the Lumia 900 you could expect to see images on par with those produced by the Lumia 800. This means visible color noise, but a decent amount of detail and good color rendering. The dynamic range is pretty great though and it's probably the strongest argument in favor of the Nokia WP flagship as most cameraphones suffer from reduced dynamic range.
The HTC Titan II on the other hand counters with slightly higher amount of resolved detail. It's not as great as the twice the resolution rating might lead you to believe - in fact it's only there if you look really carefully. There's quite a lot of noise here too, but most of it is of the less objectionable luminance type.
Here's an impromptu camera comparison between the two in full resolution. We made our best effort to shoot the same scenes, but the shots were shot on different occasions so hence the differences.
Overall, we'd give a good mark to the stills produced by both contestants with the winner depending on your preferences. The Lumia 900 shots look better when downsized due to their superior colors and higher dynamic range, whereas the Titan II photos might be better suited to pixel peepers, though they didn't charm us.
Given the characteristics of the stills produced by the Lumia 900 and the Titan II, we'd expect the Nokia flagship to take an easy victory in the video shootout. With dynamic range and color reproduction being way more important than resolved detail here, the test seemingly plays to the Lumia strengths.
However, it was HTC Titan II to demonstrate the more mature processing with its 720p footage. It uses a more conservative contrast setting, thus preserving more highlights than the Lumia 900 here and while the colors of both smartphones are off in videos, we tend to like the Titan II representation better.
The framerates are about on par and smooth enough for both WP flagships, but sadly the focus tends to hunt quite aggressively in both cases, too. Once again - those aren't the best cameraphones you can imagine, but they will do for the occasional video that will be best shown on the screen of the phone, than on a computer monitor.
Here go the video samples. The HTC Titan II will go first.