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Review: HTC Droid Incredible

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Apr 18, 2010, 11:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Phone Scoop offers up a full review of the HTC Droid Incredible, Verizon Wireless' new flagship Android phone. This monster offers a 1GHz engine, an 8 megapixel camera and HTC's Sense UI. Dare we say it's better than the Droid?

Form

Is It Your Type? 

If you're looking for the best Android handset, the best touch handset, heck, the best smartphone, on Verizon's network, the HTC Droid Incredible is for you. With a 1GHz processor running things under the hood, a 3.7-inch display, and an 8 megapixel camera, you know that this is a high-end device. HTC has delivered one of its best Android devices yet, and the Droid Incredible will instantly make Motorola Droid owners feel envy that they've never felt before. HTC and Verizon, however, don't get it 100% perfect, and the Incredible is not without its flaws. Are they enough to make the Incredible merely marvelous?

Body 

 

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The HTC Droid Incredible ("Incredible") is one of the sharpest-looking handsets to hit Verizon's shelves in recent memory. It looks eerily similar to the iPhone, but makes some classy design improvements that help to set it apart.

It is large, but lightweight. It is soft, yet solid. The battery cover has a soft-touch finish, and it feels really nice in the hand. I like that its edges are all rounded in shape, rather than angular like the Droid's. It slips into a pocket much easier than the Droid, and is far more comfortable to leave there for any amount of time. I find it to be just the right weight. It's not so heavy as to be a brick in your hands, but not so insubstantial as to make you think it was cheaply made.

The Incredible is obsidian and reminds me of the famed monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey" more than any other phone I've encountered. The grill covering the earpiece speaker at the tippy top of the phone is the only color, a thin strip of red. The display is huge, but not so awkward as the HTC HD2's dinner plate dimensions. There are four capacitive buttons along the bottom of the screen, just as with the Droid Eris and Moto Droid. Finally, at the bottom, is an optical mouse / button. The optical mouse works well as a button and a mouse. I found it to be responsive, though I used it more when editing text than for any real on-screen navigation.

The volume toggle is on the left side, fitted snugly towards the top corner. It presents just enough of a profile so that your fingers can find it. I didn't care for the action, however, which I thought was mushy. Below it is the microUSB port. The port does not resemble the microUSB ports we're used to seeing. In fact, it looks more like a FireWire port. It does accept microUSB cables, but it's not obvious which way to put the cable into the port. This had me scratching my head.

There are no buttons or controls on the bottom and right side of the device. That's fine with me, though I suppose a physical camera key on the right side would be nice. Along the top, HTC has included a 3.5mm headset jack for stereo headphones and a power/lock key. This key is about perfect. It's just large enough to find it easily, but not so large as to be annoying. Travel and feedback were spot on.

The battery cover is where the design gets more interesting. Rather than create a flat, smooth back plate, HTC has added contours to the backplate that match the hardware underneath (see the pictures). The contours, which in no way affect the usability of the Incredible, add a modern appeal to the phone that I really like.

The lens for the camera is perhaps the one oddity; it juts out from the back surface of the phone. Due to its shape, it looks like a mechanical eye. The ring around the lens is red, making it stand out starkly from the otherwise pitch black battery cover.

Under the battery cover, the entire interior surface is red. Ferrari red. Blindingly red. Nice design touch. It gives the Incredible some much-needed personality in a space that's becoming crowded with me-too design language and little ingenuity.

The Three S's 

Screen

The Incredible has a 3.7-inch AMOLED display that packs in 480 x 800 pixels. It looks great. Colors are rich and text, icons and graphics are smooth. Finding rough, pixelated edges anywhere is a challenge. Indoors, it looks fantastic, and outside it was surprisingly readable. The Droid is awful outdoors, the Incredible is a great improvement there. It isn't going to boggle your mind, but it is usable, and that's more than we can say for most displays when out catching some rays.

Signal

Signal was sorta iffy with the Incredible, much to my dismay. Sitting next to a Droid, the Incredible captured 2 bars to the Droid's 5, or 1 bar to the Droid's 3. It always stayed connected to Verizon's EVDO 3G network, though, and didn't drop down to Verizon's 1X network in the time that I tested it. In the real world, it didn't drop any calls, nor did I miss any. Some data sessions gave me serious hang time, though, and stalled when loading some web pages. Troubling.

Sound

Phone calls with the Incredible were crystal clear. I had no problem hearing people, and they had no problem hearing me. I didn't run into any interference or weird noises. The earpiece was reasonably loud. With the volume set all the way up, it is more than enough to overcome noise in a car or taxi. The speakerphone was also loud enough. It will work well in a closed office or in a bedroom as you scurry about, though don't expect it to be able to fill an executive board room. Ringtones and alerts were just barely loud enough. I didn't miss any calls, but I wouldn't be surprised if you pulled the Incredible out of your pocket to find a missed call -- not from signal issues, but because you didn't hear it.

Battery

The Incredible is a highly connected device. Not only does it offer 3G, but it also has Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi radios stuffed in there. It needs a lot of juice to run. You're going to have to plug it in every night. I easily chewed through the battery in a single day, especially with HTC's FriendStream software running. Most users should get a full 16- to 18-hour day out of it, but power users might run into trouble at the end of the day. Unfortunately, this is simply how phones like the Incredible behave.

Basics

Menus 

The Incredible runs the newest version of HTC's Sense user interface overlay. Sense offers 7 main screens on which to stuff content. The basic menu architecture of Android itself hasn't changed, and HTC hasn't made too many obvious improvements to the underlying menus.

The central home screen hosts HTC's clock and weather widget. Below the time, there are some applications, such as the browser, email, messaging, etc. All of these can be deleted, re-arranged, moved, etc. HTC has improved its "Favorites" widget a bit, which lets users see a number of their favorite contacts on one of the home screens, along with pictures and such.

There are three permanent software buttons at the bottom edge of the screen. The left button opens the main menu, the middle button opens the phone app, and the last button is used for adding widgets, apps, or shortcuts to the home screens. It is nice that these three buttons follow you from screen to screen. It means you can always get at the phone and main menu, no matter which of the 7 home screens you happen to be looking at.

The other nifty trick offered by this version of Sense is a way to jump through those 7 screens quickly. Double-tap the home button or pinch the screen, and all 7 screens zoom out in a manner similar to Apple's Expose tool. You can easily see all 7 screens at once. Find the one you want to jump to, tap it, and voila, there you go. This is nice because it lets you jump from screen to screen quickly, instead of scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.

The 4 capacitive touch buttons below the display quickly take you home, open the alternative menu, jump back, or open the search app. Each Android device treats these functions differently. After using the Droid for several months, I am used to the way they work, but some might prefer physical buttons over these capacitive keys.

One of the other neat features of Sense is that it offers a number of different "Scenes." Each Scene is basically a completely different set of configurations for the home screens. For example, the "Work" Scene prioritizes work email, calendar, and so on. All the screens are rearranged with different applications, widgets and shortcuts to reflect this. Even the wallpapers change from Scene to Scene. Some of the other Scenes are Social, HTC, Verizon, Play, Travel, and Clean Slate. Each can be customized, meaning that users have an infinite way to arrange apps and content on their device.

As far as performance goes, this is the fastest Android device I have interacted with. No hiccups, pauses, or other weird speed bumps slowing the Incredible down. The 1GHz Snapdragon processor is doing its job well.

 

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Calls/Contacts 

Due to the pervasiveness of the software phone button, getting to your phone calls is pretty easy. By default, it opens with the dial pad on the bottom half of the screen and your top favorites above it. You can choose to minimize the dialpad. If you do that, you'll see your full list of contacts, with your favorites pulled out at the top, then followed by the rest in alphabetical order.

The phone app automatically sorts through your contacts as you dial a number, so you can easily jump though a large contact database quickly. There is also a teensy button in the bottom right corner of the phone app that takes you to your most recent calls and groups. You can also get that info by pressing the menu button.

If you've synced the Incredible with a Facebook account, the device automatically adds not only your friends' Facebook profile pictures to their contact info, it also ports over any phone numbers stored in their Facebook profile. Very useful, especially for quick access to those old high school flames.

Each contact can hold what appears to be an unlimited amount of data. Have more than 10 phone numbers? No problem! Have 50 email addresses? No problem (though you probably have issues)! Contacts can also include notes, web sites, addresses and on and on and on. I like that Android adds your friends' Facebook status updates to their contact profile. This lets you see what your friends have been up to recently when they call or message you.

The synergy between the calling and contacts apps are very well done with Sense. I like what HTC has done to make them one tool, rather than separate functions.

 

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Messaging 

If you can think of a way to send a digital missive to your friends, family and colleagues, the Incredible can do it. Email, SMS, MMS, IM, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Picasa, Flickr, Fuhgettaboutit. It's all in there.

Let's tackle email first. There are several different avenues to get your email. First, there is the HTC-made Email program, which was very specifically designed to support Exchange email accounts. HTC made this email program before Android supported Exchange. Now that Android does, this email program isn't a necessity for business users, but it offers a nice user interface for sorting through messages. Then there's the native Gmail client. I like the Gmail app for Android. It's probably the best way to interact with a Gmail account from a mobile device.

The Incredible also works with pretty much any POP3/IMAP4 email account you could throw at it.

Next up, SMS. There are two SMS apps on the Incredible. One is the native Android SMS app, the other is the HTC-made Sense SMS app. Both offer threaded conversations, and a similar tool set when it comes to composing messages and responding to threads. Again, however, HTC has done a nice job of creating a widget for its SMS app that works well on the home screen and lets you page through your messages without having to open the actual SMS app. Another advantage HTC's Sense has over Google's stock Android.

Google Talk is the only native IM app on board.

There are a number of ways to connect to social networks with the Incredible. First, there's HTC's FriendStream. The FriendStream app reaches into your Facebook and Twitter accounts and pulls down status updates in a, er, well, stream that you can look at quickly. You can also use HTC's Peep application for Twitter, though I prefer Seesmic (downloadable from Android Market). There's also a Facebook app, which works pretty well, though it still doesn't go as far as the Facebook app for iPhone does.

Long story short, the Incredible is a connected phone, and lets you manage your myriad connections in pretty much any way you see fit.

 

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Extras

Music 

HTC has upgraded the music experience a bit for the Incredible. Not the function so much as the form. The music application does all the same things, but it does them with more style. HTC has updated all the icons and the way users can sift from song to song when using the application. The underlying architecture supporting the application doesn't appear to have been updated all that much, but the new icons really do make a difference.

You can sort through tunes in the usual way, via artist, song, album, genre, composer, etc. There are no V CAST apps on this device, so if you want to purchase music, you'll have to do so from the Amazon MP3 store. Oh, but you'll have to download the Amazon MP3 Store app, first.

I am actually pleasantly stunned that the Incredible isn't laden with Verizon's V CAST (a.k.a buy stuff here!!!) apps. If you want to purchase media through the device, you have to be pretty serious about it.

Music playback sounded so-so through the speaker, great through stereo headphones, and acceptable through stereo Bluetooth headphones.

There still isn't any sort of equalizer, but the Incredible offers the first music experience on an Android phone that I don't hate.

It also packs in an FM radio, which must be used with headphones. Reception wasn't that great. My favorite station, which is broadcast from about three miles from my house, sounded somewhat scratchy. Weird.

There is a problem, however. There is still no native video player on board. This is ridiculous. There are a number of video players available for free in the Android Market, but c'mon! For a device that shoots HD video, how can there be no freaking video player! Ridiculous! This is a Google/Android problem more than an HTC/Verizon problem, but HTC and Verizon could have done something about it and chose not to.

For shame.

 

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Camera 

Camera

The Incredible's 8 megapixel monster is one of the best I've used on a cell phone. Lack of physical camera key aside, it nails pretty much every other detail. If you think about the features you'd find on any 8 to 12 megapixel point-and-shoot camera, the Incredible probably has it, too.

Once you find the camera app, it launches in about 1 second. That's pretty good. There are controls on the screen that let you control the flash and exposure levels without opening the menus. This is nice. Fast access to the flash is a must-have feature for me.

There's a tab on the left side of the screen. Press it to get at many of the camera's other controls. The controls let you adjust the shooting mode, exposure, saturation, sharpness, add effects, as well as dial down and alter the core settings. ISO (the camera's "speed") ranges from an incredible 100 to 1250. The camera's resolution can be dialed from VGA up to 1, 3, 5 and 8 megapixels. The camera natively shoots in a 5:3 aspect ratio . You have to change it to 4:3 to get the full megapixel count, which is a little weird. Most people won't notice or bother with this.

The Incredible uses the touch focus model. If you see something on the display and you want it to be in focus, press it. The camera will focus on that spot (which hopefully is your friend's radiant smile). Press the optical mouse key to actually take a picture. The Incredible focuses fast and shoots pictures fast. This is, perhaps, where the 1GHz processor is most evident. The Droid's camera, while respectable, still falters a bit. The Incredible is the first phone I've used that comes even relatively close to being as fast as a stand-alone camera.

The review screen lets you send the photo off wherever you want to send it with just a few quick taps.

Speed and easy-to-understand controls make the Incredible's camera painless to use.

 

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Gallery

Oddly, the Incredible forgoes the Cooliris-made gallery app that is present on the Droid and Nexus One (with Android 2.1). Instead, it has its own, new gallery application that I've not seen on an Android handset before.

It can be opened from either the camera or the menu, and presents pictures in either a timeline or via grid. The timeline mixes pictures and videos into one long stream of images and movies. The first picture you shot is to the far left, the most recent to the far right. The entire stream flows back and forth as you swipe your finger to and fro in a very fluid manner. I dig it. If you want to fly from one end of the spectrum to the other, it's best to resort to the grid view, which lets you see more than one or two images at a time.

There are always some software buttons along the bottom of the screen that let you access menu options, share photos, delete them or get back to the camera. Unfortunately, there are but two editing functions. Pictures can be cropped and rotated. That's it. Users can't make any other adjustments or edits. That's a shame.

 

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Photos/Video 

Photos

The fast camera, insanely bright flash and whopping 8 million pixels on the sensor make for very good images. The camera was spot on with exposure, white balance and color. The flash is so bright, you're going to annoy anyone in eyeshot in a dark place, like a bar -- but that also means you're going to have good pictures. Most cameras don't perform at night at all. The Incredible does better than most, thanks to the twin lighthouses beaming out into the darkness.

It is entirely reasonable to replace your point-and-shoot camera with the Incredible. Images look good, good enough to share online, good enough to print in sizes larger than 10 x 14.

 

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Video

The Incredible can capture video at 640 x 480 pixels. Videos look pretty darn good. Colors are exact, focus is solid, and there is no waviness or ghosting. If you're an iReporter for CNN, CNN is going to be happy with the material you contribute from your phone. Solid performance all around.


MPEG-4 format (viewable with QuickTime)
File size: 4.8 MB

Browse/Customize 

Browser

The browsing experience on the Incredible is really no different than that of any other Android phone. The browser software is the same, and other than the substitution of Verizon Wireless' home page, you might not be able to tell it apart from the Droid.

You can use your finger to navigate around web pages directly on the screen or use the optical mouse on the front of the phone. There is a full list of settings that let you customize how the browser operates (such as enabling / disabling JavaScript, managing passwords and privacy).

 

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Customize

Thanks in part to HTC's Sense software, the Incredible can be customized by end users more than most. Wallpapers of all kinds can be customized, as can the live (animated) wallpapers. Ringtones, alerts, picture IDs, etc., can all be adjusted. Because the Incredible has 7 home screens, users can practically load so much content as to be able to avoid the main menu altogether. The widgets, shortcuts and apps spread across those screens make for a highly personalized experience. Throw in the extra, customizable Scenes that Sense UI offers, and the sky is the limit when it comes to making the Incredible your own.

Extras 

Apps

According to Google, the Android Market now has more than 38,000 apps. That's plenty to choose from. The Android Market on the Incredible has a special storefront for Verizon-branded/sanctioned apps. These include Visual Voicemail, My Verizon, V CAST Media Manager, NFL Mobile and some other third-party apps such as Kayak, Geodelic, and a doodling program.

Bluetooth

Mono headsets and stereo headsets are about all the Incredible supports. Sound quality through both is fine. I had no trouble pairing with devices, and music streamed to a stereo Bluetooth speaker actually sounded pretty decent.

Clock

If you know anything about HTC devices, you know that HTC is serious about the clock. It's there, it's huge, and it is mated to HTC's animated weather application. Even when you wake the phone from sleep, the time is easy to find and read. There are also a host of different digital and analog clock faces from which users can pick. The HTC Deck Clock app is off the hook. Basically, every clock-related function you can think of is packed in, such as stopwatch, countdown timer alarms, world clocks, etc. The weather is thrown in for good measure. It looks classy and is a breeze to use.

GPS

Believe it or not, Verizon Navigation is not on the Incredible. Only Google Maps is pre-loaded. Google Maps, of course, works just fine. The Incredible has the newer version of Google Maps, which offers turn-by-turn navigation. It works well enough, and is free.

Wrap-Up 

The Incredible is incredible. Despite its few weaknesses, the Incredible outmatches every other handset that Verizon Wireless currently offers.

Its faster processor, better camera, Sense UI, and extra customization features make it much better to use day in and day out. HTC has done a good job of optimizing Sense UI (which ran like a dog on the HTC Hero) so that it runs smoothly now with no hiccups.

The 8 megapixel camera works well, takes good pictures, captures good video, and is a solid stand-alone camera replacement. The music experience is also slightly better than that of other Android phones, though the Incredible still suffers from a lack of baked-in video playback support.

The radio performance wasn't perfect, but calls didn't suffer as a result. Wi-Fi is always an option if cell strength starts to dwindle. The browser hasn't been tweaked much, but the mobile web looks great on the Incredible's large and pixel rich display.

Social networking and other message-making tasks are accomplished with ease, and the Incredible helps organize them in a way that makes sense (pun intended). Perhaps the only niggle that might keep some at bay is the lack of a physical QWERTY keyboard. If you don't mind typing on glass, the Incredible is the best device Verizon offers.

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Comments

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Subject Author Date
Droid Incredible Signal Issue - Appears to be Software Prob electrocality May 3, 2010, 3:12 PM
I just pre-ordered mine mike1650 Apr 18, 2010, 11:34 PM
The camera and your sample pics.. Livefortherayz Apr 26, 2010, 2:48 PM
Incredible vs. N82/N95 (Eric or Rich) Icyhot Apr 21, 2010, 1:20 AM
No VZ Navigator?? ronleon Apr 25, 2010, 7:59 PM
How long can it capture video? GTECHEE Apr 23, 2010, 11:27 AM
i ♥ android but... gringo.mexican112 Apr 20, 2010, 2:21 PM
Verizon's best phone until the holidays, but it's still an Evo mini sublimeandetc Apr 19, 2010, 12:00 AM
Thank you for the review! iNat Apr 19, 2010, 12:16 PM
Incredible Handheld Multimedia Device? chansonion Apr 19, 2010, 10:58 AM
 
 
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