HTC Droid Incredible (Verizon Wireless) Smartphone Review

The world of mobile phones is constantly evolving. With the average contract commitment being 2 years, most smart phones are considered to be obsolete by the end of their initial contract. Today we look at another phone to further the continual upgrade cycle, the HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon Wireless.

This post is older than six months. You may find a more recent article pertaining to your topic by visiting our homepage or using the search box in the upper right.

The world of mobile phones is constantly evolving. With the average contract commitment being 2 years, most smart phones are considered to be obsolete by the end of their initial contract. Today we look at another phone to further the continual upgrade cycle, the HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon Wireless.

Intro

The HTC Droid Incredible has the same internals as both the Google Nexus One, and the HTC Desire (In Europe). However, HTC has made some tweaks, such as the addition of the Sense UI, and the expansion of internal flash memory capacity to 8GB from 512MB. Can these changes oust the Nexus One from the top Android phone slot?

Hardware

As I mentioned before, the basic hardware of the HTC Droid Incredible is based on the same platform as the Google Nexus One, also built by HTC. The most stunning feature of the Droid Incredible is the 3.7″, 800 x 480 pixel AMOLED (define?) touchscreen. The AMOLED screen provides for a more vibrant display, without the need of a backlight. This screen uses more power than a traditional LCD when displaying a white background, but saves power when displaying blacks and other dark colors. The dark tint to the HTC Sense interface helps makes this less of an issue.

Overall, the basic design feel of the Incredible is very industrial. Like the recently leaked iPhone prototype, this Verizon color scheme phone features hard lines and edges throughout most of the device. However, the back battery cover is a unique part entirely. Instead of just sitting flat, it has several areas where it is raised above its surroundings, creating more grip, and makes for a more visually interesting design.

The Incredible features an ARM-based, 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, currently the fastest mobile phone processor in use. Along with the 1GHz processor, HTC has equipped this phone with 512MB RAM, doubling the RAM of the Motorola Droid.  This may be due in part to the fact that Android apps run in the background, and for most apps, you need to terminate them manually using a task killer. While it is nice to have applications running in the background, having to use a task killer makes it a kludgy implementation. As this is an issue with Android in general, HTC did all they could by adding more RAM. Having a fast processor also makes tasks like dynamically animated wallpapers possible, something that we wouldn’t have dreamed about in mobile phone computing just years ago.

An upgrade from the 5 Megapixel camera of the Nexus One, the Incredible features an impressive auto focusing, 8 Megapixel camera with a dual LED flash. The quality of this camera is more comparable to dedicated point and shoot cameras than 99% of camera phones now on the market.  The video features of this camera are disappointing however, since video is only shot at a resolution of 800 x 480. While the video still looks good, it seems there is wasted potential with the camera having such a high-resolution sensor, and we would have liked to see 720p video capabilities. Scroll through the gallery below for sample photos.

[imagebrowser id=10]

Usability

Along the bottom of the screen are the four main navigational buttons, and an optical trackpad. The Home, Menu, Back, and Search buttons are used fairly regularly in navigating the Android OS, but the optical trackpad seems fairly useless. Instead of swiping left and right on the track pad, the majority of the time, it is just easier to swipe left or right on the large touchscreen instead of the tiny trackpad. This trackpad also functions as a button, allowing you to hit enter on certain fields, which is definitely more useful.

One major caveat I have run into with the Incredible however, is the battery life. Like most current smart phones, charging this phone at the end of the day is absolutely necessary. From a full charge, I have had the battery wear down to about half capacity by the end of the day without even using the phone. While some background actions like fetching email were going on in the background, this is still unacceptable. As most people would have these features enabled by default, and on top of using the phone all day, the Incredible may require you to top off the battery in the late afternoon to power through the rest of the day. This is disappointing personally since I am coming from the iPhone 3G, where I can survive at least an entire day with one battery charge.

Coming from using the iPhone as my main phone for the past serveral years, typing on the HTC Incredible has been a challenge for me. While I would consider myself to be used to most touch screen phones, something about the default Android keyboard in portrait mode tends to throw off my accuracy. It may be a subtle difference in the size of the virtual keys, or maybe a less responsive touch screen, but it is something for potential buyers to be aware about. Landscape mode however, I have found to be a much more pleasant experience, and orders of magnitude more accurate. One nice thing about Android is that replacement keyboards can be downloaded, such as the Swype Keyboard , so you should be able to find something that fits your style.

The Incredible also features Haptic Feedback for certain key presses. When using the keyboard, and when you use the navigational buttons, every keystroke makes the device send out a small vibration. This is supposed to create more of a tactile feedback, but whether people find it annoying seems to be a very polarizing issue. This feature can be disabled in the settings though, so it is not a deal breaker if you do not like it.

Of course, the function that still matters the most is actually making phone calls. HTC manages to accomplish this well with the Incredible. Audio quality on both ends of the call seem to be above par, and an all around pleasant experience. The speakerphone is also extremely loud compared to other phones I have used over the years. When playing back audio from the music app, both the 3.5mm headphone output, and the speaker both seemed to be clear, although the speaker seems to lack bass a bit. This isn’t a surprise for a mobile phone, but I found it to be worse than my iPhone 3G, and other phones I have used.

HTC Sense

From the start, one of the most differentiating features of the Incredible from phones like the Motorola Droid and Google Nexus One is the addition of the HTC Sense UI. Sense is a custom interface that HTC has chosen to implement on all of its Android and Windows Mobile phones, over the standard Google interface. It is obvious that HTC tried to pack as much information as possible into this new UI. Gone is the home page full application icons, and in its place we get room for 6 apps and large stylized clock which also displays the Weather. When you swipe the home page left or right, you have options for pages such as Mail, Contact Speed dial, SMS, Social network updates, and more. All of these can be customized and even deleted to create whatever configuration you desire.

[nggallery id=11]

Among these customized home screen options, HTC also ships some customized apps with Sense:

Peep: A simple Twitter client which features notifications for @ replies and Direct Messages, along with a home screen widget that allows you to update your status without actually launching the app.

An improved Music app: One of my major qualms with the Motorola Droid was the default Android music player was very barebones and basic. The HTC Music app turns out to be a much nicer experience, with an easy to use and quick interface for navigating your music library. HTC’s offering also adds options like sharing music over Bluetooth, and the ability to view the properties and ID3 tags of a mp3 file, which is a nice touch if you are trying to tell two similar tracks apart.

Clock and Weather apps: Beyond possessing some nice interface eye candy, these apps provide pretty much the same functionality as you would expect. Some nice features would be the “desk” mode for the clock app which is perfect for a night stand or other times when you just want to be able to glance at it and see the time without hitting any buttons. The Weather app provides some nice graphical touches, such as an animated depiction of the current weather when you unlock the phone. Although it doesn’t really add any functionality, seeing clouds drift across the screen, or raindrops falling is a nice touch and allows you to see a visual representation of the weather without you even realizing it. These animations are interrupted as soon as you start to use the phone so it does not impede the user experience at all.

Overall, the small interface adjustments that Sense makes over the default Android OS help make the user experience on the HTC Incredible better than other phones on the market, and on par with universally acclaimed phones such as the iPhone and Palm Pre.

Wrapup

From the initial launch of the Android Operating system on the HTC Desire (known as the T-mobile G1 in America), about 18 months ago, it is apparent that both HTC and Google have come far. Android has become a major player in the mobile phone space, with about 60,000 activations of Android devices per day as of February 2010 according to Google.

In the runup to the release of this phone, Google has announced that it no longer plans to bring the Nexus One to Verizon, and that this is the phone that is taking its place in their lineup. After using this phone, it is obvious why Google has made this decision. Building off of the strong foundation that Google and HTC created with the Nexus One, the HTC Droid Incredible is the best Android phone on the market, and one of the best smart phones I have used.

That being said, if you are carrier agnostic, it would be beneficial to wait for the launch of the HTC Evo 4G phone on Sprint this summer. The Evo is poised to take the specs of the Incredible even further, with a 4.3″ LCD and 720p video recording. Along with the 4G data network, it will certainly be a phone to watch. Look for our review coming up this summer.

However, if want to stick with the Verizon Wireless network, then the HTC Droid Incredible the definitive smart phone to buy.

Add your comment

XHTML : You may use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled website. To get your own globally-recognized avatar, please register at Gravatar.com