HTC Droid Incredible Review| By Eric Lin
The Incredible is the third addition to Verizon's Droid line, and its new flagship phone following the Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Eris devices. It features an Android 2.1 platform with a quick and responsive 1-gigahertz processor. At first glance, the Incredible is reminiscent of the Google Nexus One, also from HTC. The feel of the handset is sturdy and comfortable with its impressively bright and clear AMOLED touch screen display.
It includes an 8-megapxel camera with dual LED flash along with a generous 3.7-inch screen to boot. With the addition of an optical joystick, which replaced the trackball, navigation is swift if at times sensitive. The Incredible offers power and storage for leisure as well as business users in an understated design. The Incredible's compact size makes it ideal for media-lovers and professionals alike.
The Incredible represents HTC's continued refinement of its Droid line, packing in rich features in a smaller, easy-to-carry size. Weighting in at 4.6 ounces, it is light yet feels sturdy with its rubberized back casing. Measuring at 4.6-by-2.3-by-0.5 inches, the handset feels comfortable in hand. With the exception of the volume and power buttons, the Incredible takes a cue from Apple and is void of any protruding buttons.
The front of the phone is flat and smooth, dominated by its 3.7-inch touch screen display. There are four additional touch-sensitive shortcut keys for the standard Home, Menu, Back and Search functions. Unlike the Google's Nexus One, which had missed sensors that "looked" up, the soft buttons on the Incredible are very responsive. The previous trackball, now replaced by a recessed optical joystick, works much like a computer touchpad, by sliding a finger any direction and pressing down to select an item. The optical area is small and can be a bit sensitive for individuals with large fingers.
The Incredible uses HTC's "Sense" user interface for swiping, tapping and pinching. It has a "swipe-down" to unlock feature which can be a bit confusing, but overall it's similar to functions on the iPhone. The virtual keyboard is much improved in accuracy and responsiveness over previous Android devices. With hepatic feedback, you get a slight vibrating response when you press a key -- for a better feel. The option can be disabled. On the back of the phone is the lens to its 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash and external speaker.
The top of the phone contains a standard 3.5-millimeter headset jack along with the power button. The bottom shows a small pinhole that's the microphone. An outlet for the USB cable and charger, regrettably micro-USB, is located to the left of the phone along with the volume up and down button. The Incredible does have a bit of flare in its red earpiece and bezel ring around the camera lens, but aside from that, it's mostly dark, brooding and black. It's smaller than the HD2 so it's easier to handle during those occasionally in-the-moment photo ops. And it fills commutes with fun and entertainment while still looking professional.
Out of the box the HTC Droid Incredible comes with a battery, a USB wall charger and micro-USB cable, but without a stereo headset.
The Incredible has a powerful 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash -- both of which are unique. The dual flash does wonders, providing enough light to brighten any low-light condition, but still falls short, in distance and efficiency, to a flash on a digital camera.
Its main lens takes rich and colorful photos. The zoom feature also does an acceptable job, however, at maximum zoom, pictures became pixilated. The camera also includes the standard accoutrements of features: exposure brightness, white balance, widescreen or standard screen mode, time stamp option, effects (grayscale, sepia, negative solarize, posterize or aqua), image properties (contrast saturation and sharpness), flicker adjustment and geo-tagging with its built-in GPS.
Both focus and flash can be either manual or automatic. And one feature that was absent from the Nexus One but returned here is the ability to control shutter sound separate from the media sound. Sharing of photos is simple with the "Share" option, including a vast array of social networking connections including Facebook, Flickr and Picasa.
The Incredible's camcorder shares the same features as the camera, but its resolution tops out at the standard 640-by-480 pixels. There's no native editing capability, but you can easily find it in the Android Marketplace. In short, the Incredible's camera is simply stunning -- particularly in daylight. Colors were true to the source, without any splotches that plagued prior HTC devices. The shutter speed was also quick with minimal delay. There were a few slight issues the flash and auto-focus being mistimed, but it wasn't a big enough concern.
By comparison, the iPhone 3GS has a mere 3-megapixels, while the Nexus One comes short at 5-megapixels. For outstanding photo quality, the Incredible is the ideal phone for those looking to ditch the digital camera on that next trip.
The Incredible runs on Google's latest Android 2.1 software and HTC's own "Sense" user interface for iPhone-like interactions like tap, drag and pinch navigation, for a refined, polish feel.
The phone has seven home screens to add tons of icons and widgets -- quick links to apps. It comes with a standard bundle including shortcuts for the Android Market, Camera, Internet, People (Contacts), Messages and Mail. Swiping the screen left and right reveals the six additional screens. At the bottom of the display is a position arch that lets you know which screen you're on. Sense is an HTC-only interface -- not all Android phones have it -- and ties Google's standard features together for a complete OS feel, comparable to what Apple is offering. And the 1-gigahertz Snapdragon processor ensures there are no hiccups or stalling for blazing fast responsiveness, even when fully-loaded with apps.
HTC took an already impressive Google platform and added small touches -- such as improved cut and paste, word prediction, finger tracking, typing speed, etc. -- to develop a system that's very similar to the iPhone -- if not better. Not to be outdone, Verizon added a few enhancements to the Incredible as well -- integrating Visual Voicemail into the messaging app and refining the Google Navigation.
Overall, the flow and experience of Android 2.1 and Sense is truly impressive. The Incredible was fast and efficient, able to multitask, without any sluggishness or other performance issues.
The Incredible's touch screen is very similar to one on Google's Nexus One; they're virtually identical, which is a good thing. Its 3.7-inch -- 480-by-800 pixel -- screen is nothing short of spectacular. The colors are crisp and vivid -- almost too much so with overwhelming saturation that doesn't look true to life. But movies and photos reveal clarity and great detail.
The touch and navigation is more responsive than on the Nexus One, likely a software improvement, but all the features, made popular by the iPhone, are there -- finger swipe gestures and context menus. When held in landscape aspect, the widescreen provides a comfortable viewing experience as well as provide a nice, wide keyboard. Vertically, the Incredible is equally responsive.
Compared to the iPhone, the Incredible has a slightly larger but vastly brighter and crisper screen. It uses AMOLED technology for more vivid imaging, but beware -- in direct sunlight, it's just awful. The display is barely visible with colors washed out.
The Incredible has a simple-to-use FM radio and MP3 music player with 8GB worth of internal memory to store a huge collection of songs. It also comes with a solid speaker on the back, capable of pumping out surprisingly loud, high-quality audio -- until the volume is maxed out, then the sound begins to crackle a bit. A downside to the rear-speaker is that sounds are muffled when the phone is held in hand or placed face up on any surface.
Call volume and quality are excellent as well and hearing phone conversation is usually without troubles. However, the ideal is to use a headset, which is not included. The loud speaker, standard MP3 and radio players and clear calling should be more than enough if you're a music lover.
If a hardware keyboard is required, this phone simply won't do the job for you. But Incredible's on-screen keyboard simply outstanding, with a higher-resolution, more responsive finger tracking, faster typing speed and improved word prediction and correction over prior devices.
The software organizes text and visual voice messages into one convenient screen, so you can view everything in a single menu ordered by last item received. Like other Droid phones, Incredible includes a Gmail widget that's linked to Google's email service. It's an excellent tool that synchronizes your contacts on your Gmail account to the contacts on the phone, making contact transfers easy and quick to manage.
Meanwhile, you can check multiple Exchange, POP3, or IMAP4 accounts with a unified inbox -- from AOL Mail, Windows Live, Yahoo and other services. For business, the Exchange active sync is a great plus. But, if you use other services, you're out of luck.
The Incredible has a few entertainment features. Aside from the music player and FM radio, you can load movies onto the phone with third-party conversion software. The quality is excellent and the screen size offer acceptable viewing even with full-length feature films.
For fun, the handset stays connected to all the social-networking sites for instant updates, photos and a built-in Twitter client without having to constantly log in. Additional games and tools content can be downloaded from Android Marketplace, but the selection is much less than Apple's app store. Not to be outdone, Google made sure the Incredible has some advantages over the iPhone.
The Internet search giant developed a number of innovative apps just for Android devices. One such program is Google Goggles, a visual search tool, which can also translate foreign languages from signs, menus and text by snapping a photo of it with a smartphone instead of typing it in. Just point your camera at a word or phrase and press the shutter button -- perfect for the world-traveler looking at interesting sights and sounds.
Another unique application is Google's Sky Map, an app that figures out which constellations you're looking at in the night sky. Using GPS, compass data and the date and time, any Android phone can determine what celestial objects the device is facing at a given moment. While Apple has the lead in the sheer number of third-party applications, Google's labs are always developing new and interesting Android-only software.
Running on Verizon's high-speed Ev-Do "Revision A" 3G network, the Incredible is ultra-speedy and loads Web pages and content quickly. Its browser, unlike the iPhone, supports Flash Lite, and includes standard access to YouTube. Alternatively, you can also access the Internet with Wi-Fi, ensuring the fastest connections depending on what's available.
The Incredible has 8-gigabytes of internal flash memory, likely enough for every day, mobile music collections and on-the-go photo snaps. But, if you intend on loading movies or plan on catching up with the latest missed TV episodes, look into buying a microSD card for as much as 32-gigabytes of extra storage. For comparison, the iPhone comes in 16- or 32-gigabyte models, but no memory card expansion. The Nexus One has 174-megabytes of on-board storage, but has an expansion slot.
The Incredible connects to your computer via an included micro-USB cable, which is a bit disappointing, since you'll have to carry yet another wire when traveling. But this cable is a necessity, since it also doubles as the charger for the phone. The Incredible also supports Bluetooth and works with headsets, handfree devices and connects to computers for file transfers.
The Incredible is a welcome addition to the Droid family of devices. The name, although promising to be something extraordinary, is slightly short of that. With its unprecedented 8-megapixel camera and dual led flash, something not seen on a smart phone, as well as an internal 8-gigabyte flash memory, the device is still incredible.
HTC seems to have made the Incredible the hybrid between the HD2 from T-Mobile, with its 16-gigabyte internal flash memory, and the Nexus One, with its similar diminutive size and weight. This mid-point blind of the two devises does make for a powerful handset with a more manageable practical everyday use.
The new Android 2.1 software has much improved and provided for apps that are unique over the iPhone App Store. With its added home screens, live wallpaper, Google Goggles and augmented reality apps, Android just might be giving Apple a run for its money. And with its 8-gigabytes of internal flash memory, you can load enough apps and media to last an extended road trip. But the lack of a headset is rather inexcusable. While 8-gigabytes of internal memory may seem minuscule compared to the iPhone's 16- and 32-gigabytes, it's the inclusion of the microSD expansion slot that give the Incredible its storage advantage.
With applications that can only benefit from having a headset, it seems odd to have left it out. Without the headset, the FM Turner, which is a great entertainment alternative, is rendered useless. The up side to the Incredible is its size and screen. Even with the Incredible's compact size and weight, it manages to be powerful with its 1-gigahertz chip and 3.7-inch AMOLED screen, which compliments pictures and video taken from its 8-megapixel camera.
HTC's new handset is not without its flaws and shortcomings. But if you're looking for an all-around device, the Incredible is the handset to consider, and a comparable alternative, if not better, to the iPhone and Nexus One. ♦
AMOLED (Accelerometer / Proximity Sensor / Light Sensor)
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