Of course, with the full QWERTY keyboard, e-mail and messaging is also a key feature. The AT&T Tilt ships with Microsoft's Direct Push technology out of the box so you get real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. In addition, the Tilt works with other e-mail solutions, including BlackBerry Connect and AT&T Xpress Mail. There is, of course, continued support for POP3 and IMAP accounts, but now you also can view e-mails in their original HTML format, regardless of account type. The Tilt also comes preloaded with AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo instant-messaging clients and supports text and multimedia messaging.
For voice communication, the Tilt offers world roaming capabilities, a speakerphone, and voice commands and dialing. The Tilt's contact list is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts) and is quite robust. You can store up to 12 numbers for a single entry as well as home and work addresses, an e-mail address, an IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of 26 polyphonic ringtones. The Tilt also supports AT&T's push-to-talk service, allowing you to instantly see the availability of your contacts before calling them and make individual or group PTT calls. PTT plans start at $9.99 per month.
Much to our delight, and we imagine yours as well, the AT&T Tilt offers the full gamut of wireless options: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth 2.0, UMTS/HSDPA, and GPS. The smartphone supports a number of Bluetooth profiles, including those for wireless headsets, hands-free kits, dial-up networking, and A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets. For surfing the Web, you can use the built-in Wi-Fi to hop onto a hot spot, or, alternatively, you can take advantage of the 3G support to get data speeds of around 400Kbps to 700Kbps (with the potential to hit up to 2Mbps) using AT&T's network. In addition, you'll be able to access UMTS/HSDPA networks while abroad. For your convenience, there's a Wireless Manager where you can turn on and off all the various radios.
With the built-in GPS radio, you can use a location-based service, such as AT&T's TeleNav GPS Navigator, and you can get color maps and text- and voice-guided driving directions, and points of interest right on the device. In addition, the TeleNav application can help you find the cheapest gas based on your location, share addresses with your contacts, and more. Just be aware that if you choose TeleNav GPS Navigator, this is an add-on service from AT&T that will cost $9.99 per month for unlimited trips or $5.99 for up to 10 trips; check out our full review of TeleNav for more information.
To get the most out of 3G, the Tilt supports the AT&T Video and AT&T Music services. Using AT&T Video, we watched clips of The Daily Show, MTV Mobile, ESPN sports highlights, and a few other videos. Downloads were speedy with barely any delay for video buffering. AT&T Music is a full-featured service that not only allows you to purchase songs from independent music services, such as Napster to Go and Yahoo Music, but also includes streaming XM satellite radio, music videos, MusicID for identifying song titles and artists, and a music news site called TheBuzz. Unfortunately, not all features of the service were enabled on our review unit, but we were able to listen to XM satellite radio and enjoyed smooth streaming audio. Of course, you can import your personal library of MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files via microSD card, thanks to Windows Media Player 10 Mobile.
Last but not least, the AT&T Tilt is equipped with a 3-megapixel camera with up to 8x zoom and video recording capabilities. The editing options are very similar to those found on its predecessor. In camera mode, you can choose from six resolution settings and four quality modes. Unfortunately, there's no flash, but you can adjust the white balance, add effects, and set a self-timer. The options are a bit more limited in video mode, but you can record clips with sound in MPEG-4 or H.263 format and choose from one of four resolutions.
Picture quality was OK, though not as good as we expected from a 3-megapixel lens. First, it was really difficult to get a clear shot since you have to have a super steady hand when pressing the capture button. It took us multiple tries to get a decent image. Even then, we thought the coloring was a bit dull and hazy, but we were still able to make out the objects in the picture since definition was sharp. As with most camera phones, the Tilt is fine if you need to grab a quick shot for a multimedia messages or an e-mail, but nothing worth printing out.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE; UMTS/HSDPA) AT&T Tilt in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was excellent. We enjoyed crisp audio with very little to no background noise or interference, and we got more than one "wow" from our friends, as they, too, were impressed with the sound quality. We were also able to interact with our bank's automated voice response system with no problem. Unfortunately, things took a dive when we activated the speakerphone. We had a hard time hearing our callers even with the volume cranked to high, as their voices sounded hollow. Meanwhile, they said we sounded far away and could tell we were using the speakerphone. On a good note, we were able to successfully pair the Tilt with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Nokia BH-604 stereo Bluetooth headphones.
As we reported at the beginning, we were sent a preproduction unit of the AT&T Tilt, which we hope explains some of the sluggishness we experienced during our test period. The delays weren't so bad that it prevented us from working, but the lag was particularly noticeable when changing screen orientation and working in various applications. Hopefully, these minor issues will be resolved with the final software update, and we will certainly re-evaluate the performance then.
All that said, we enjoyed working and playing on the Tilt. We had no problems setting up the smartphone to retrieve our e-mail and we were able to successfully transfer and work on various work documents, including PDFs, and Word and Excel files. The Web browsing experience was swift whether we were using Wi-Fi or AT&T's 3G network. However, we ran into some problems with the built-in GPS radio. It took at least 10 tries for the Tilt to get a fix on our position, and it repeatedly told us that the GPS signal was too weak and needed a better view of the sky. We can understand that, but we were already in an open area, so it was frustrating to have to sit there and wait.
Multimedia performance was mixed. We were truly impressed with how great videos looked on the Tilt. Audio and video were always synchronized, and while there was some pixelation, it wasn't as bad as we've seen on other devices. Unfortunately, the phone's weak speaker system takes away from the music experience, as songs sounded tinny and lacked richness. Again, we wish there was a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack to enhance this part of the smartphone.
The AT&T Tilt's 1,350mAh lithium ion battery is rated for up to 4.4 hours of talk time for UMTS and 7 hours for GSM and up to 14 days of standby time for UMTS and 15 days for GSM. In our battery drain tests, we were only able to get 3.5 hours of talk time on UMTS. We are conducting several more tests, so we'll update this section as soon as we have final results.