GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (LIN) - Thinking about the current state of the smart phone industrymakes me think of the lyrics from a certain Ben Folds
The Motorola Droid came out almost six months ago, and if itwere a person I would tell it there's always someone cooler thanyou. (For the sake of brevity, the review will refer to the HTCDroid Incredible as simply "Incredible", heck even the box eschewsthe "Droid" moniker, which I would presume is the branding assignedto it by Verizon.) If you were waiting to upgrade your phone forthe next great thing, I'd point you to the Incredible. If you arelooking to jump into the smart phone space, I'd point you to theIncredible. The hardware and software combine to create the bestmobile experience I've had. The Incredible is the best smart phone on the market rightnow.
At its base, the Incredible runs Android 2.1, but HTC didn'tleave the stock Android experience alone, it put its polish on topin the form of the latest Sense UI. HTC's Sense UI adds a goodamount of functionality to Android in the form of widgets andsubtle software tweaks. For example, if you bring the Incredibleback from hold, the phone will mimic the weather outside. If it'sraining, little drips will appear on your screen before awindshield wiper squeegees them away. I was asked on Twitter ifthere was a way to remove the Sense UI, and right now there's not.But I don't know that I'd remove it if I was given the optionbecause I really feel it adds to the experience.
My favorite aspect of the Sense UI though is its expanded homescreens and the navigation on the home screens. On the Incrediblethe number of available home screens jumps to seven, compared tothe three found on previous iterations of Android phones. Theadditional home screens adds a lot of functionality because it letsthe user fill it up with widgets. During testing I ran sevenwidgets and still had two completely open home screens to fill up.In addition to the seven home screens there are also differentprofiles you can set that will change the home screens themselves.You can set yourself work, social and other layouts to be even morecustomizable.
Some of the widgets included with the Sense UI leave theirAndroid equivalents in the dust. The Sense UI clock has 12different functions, my favorite being the one that integratesweather to show me the current forecast. Another Sense UI favoriteof mine is the People widget. It integrates a speed dial functionwith social networking and messaging. You can tie your family andfriends Facebook and Twitter accounts to their profile on yourphone and little numbers appear next to their name if they've had astatus update.
With the additional home screens HTC also created an elegantsolution to manage them. A quick pinch of the screen will show youall seven of your home screens in an "expose"-like fashion. You canjump instantly from the screen you're on to any of the other seven.It's a fantastic implementation that shows even more the amount ofpolish that went into the phone.
On top of all of the surface level changes the Sense UI offersan improved copy and paste and a modified keyboard from the stockAndroid. I found it to be pretty decent to type on as far assoftware keyboards go and with time, I think I could become quite aspeedy typer. The Sense UI adds a tremendous amount of depth to theAndroid UI. I'd say it's like going from jumping into the deep endof your community pool to jumping into an Olympic level diving poolfrom the top deck.
There's a lot to like about the software on the Incredible andthat's even before opening the browser. The browser is now equippedwith Flash lite. It's not the best implementation of Flash I'veever seen, but during my testing it was functional, showinganimations on websites and allowing me to head to Hulu. Still, theexecution wasn't 100-percent because watching videos was a bit of astruggle. I could navigate around the Flash-based website withease, but when trying to stream a video, it gave me an error. It'sa start, though it reminds me more of how the tortoise started outthan the hare. Beyond Flash, the browser is improving from previousDroid iterations. The addition of multitouch to zoom is welcome,though I do wish the double-tap zoom function was a bit differentand locked in on text easier. The browser is great, and seeing asgoing to websites is one of my favorite aspects of a smart phone,that's an important staple. I think I'd still prefer the WebOS orMobile Safari browsers because of their better multitouch support,but the Android browser is improving.
The integration with Google services remains top-notch onAndroid. There is no better smart phone OS at keeping me connectedto my Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Voice accounts. I can alsokeep connected to my work emails with the Exchange setup, gettingboth emails and calendar details.
The software on the Incredible is top notch, truly at the headof the mobile class. The same can be said about the hardware.
Taking up nearly the entire front of the device is the stunning 3.7" OLED screen. On an OLED, you'llnotice there's a much brighter and vibrant picture than on a LCDscreen. The Incredible boasts a 480x800 resolution. When I held upthe Incredible to my Palm Pre, the difference was amazing. Videoslook great on the Incredible and text is incredibly crisp, evenwhen zoomed in. The Incredible's screen lives up to its name andreally is incredible. There have been some reports that theOLED screen cheats to achieve its pixel count. The reallytechnical details can be found in an Ars Technica post on the
Under the hood is a beast of a processor. The Snapdragon's 1Ghz speed devoured everything that Ithrew at it. Paired with 512MB of RAM, the Incredibleshows amazing speed. Everything was quick, snappy, responsive.Scrolling through apps there was nary a hitch. It's the firstSnapdragon phone I've reviewed, and it's truly noticeable.
You won't find a keyboard on the Incredible, which helps keep itslim. It measures 4.63" (H) x 2.3" (W) x .47" (D) and weighs 4.59ounces. It has a topographical edge to it. I'm not sure if they hadmap-makers in on the design of the phone. I liked the way the phonefelt in my hand.
Besides the screen, on the front of the device are an opticaljoystiq and four touch-sensitive buttons: home, menu, back andsearch. They're pretty standard fare. On the side are a pair ofbuttons for volume and the micro USB port. On top there's a holdbutton along with the 3.5mm headphone jack. There is no dedicatedcamera button.
Speaking of the camera, the Incredible offers more than thetraditional megapixel count. At 8 megapixels, the Incredible'scamera is more than you'd expect to find in a phone. It has a bevyof options for you to adjust including brightness, contrast,saturation and sharpness. On top of that you can set differentpicture effects like grayscale, sepia, negative, solarize,posterize, posterize and aqua. Beyond that, you can even set theISO at various levels, the number of options are many. Geotaggingis available if you'd like to know where you took your pictures aswell. There's also a touch to focus option, so you can choose wherethe camera is focusing the shot. I found the pictures to be prettygood, and probably among the best I've seen when comparing it toother cell phone cameras. That being said, I don't think we're at alevel yet where it will replace my point-and-shoot camera. TheIncredible also records video at a 480x800 resolution. Again, itwas pretty good, but isn't going to replace my HD Flip cam.
Prying off the back of the case will reveal the Incredible'sdecidedly red heart. The guts of the phone are a bright Verizonred. The same red styling can be found on the earpiece and cameraedges. You'll also find the microSD slot. Right now it's listed onVerizon's website that the Incredible will come with a 2GB card inaddition to the 8GB of internal memory. This is upgradeable,provided you have a larger card or you buy one. I'd be inclined totoss a 16GB card in there because prices have come down a bit.
The same Android Market is available, with an app catalogthat is growing, by last count it's breached 50,000 apps. That'sjust a quarter of the apps found in Apple's App Store, but when youhave that many, you can find quality. I found free apps for almost every purpose.Facebook is represented with a pretty decent app. I checked out theSeesmic app for the first time while reviewing the Incredible andfound it to be quite a worthy Twitter app. I didn't spend much timeplaying games, but they are there and plentiful. The Android Market really expands the capabilities of thephone and is a key reason why you'd want to jump into the smartphone experience.
With all of these fantastic features, HTC didn't forget that theIncredible was a phone at its base. I found audio quality to be superb through the earpiece.When paired with a Bluetooth device quality was dependent on thedevice it was paired with. Through the
The Incredible is not incredible in every way. My mainreservation is with battery life. During my time with the device,it didn't have spectacular battery life. There were a couple oftimes it didn't make it through a full day of use. If I wasgoing to use it full-time, I'd want to have a charger around andwould be much more meticulous about turning off functions likeBluetooth and GPS that I didn't need to run all the time.
There's also an issue with some of the apps I downloaded off theAndroid Market. Some of the apps are not used to having internalmemory and will look to the microSD slot for storage. If there'snothing in the microSD slot, it will think there's no memory. WhenI tried using a video player app, it could not see the movies I hadon the phone. I could still watch the movies through the phone'snative player. The problems will likely be fixed on the popularapplications, but that's up to individual developers. (Thankfully this is also addressed by the included 2GB card andit's easy enough to grab a new one.)
Incredible Software + Incredible Hardware = Incredible Incredible
"Smile / like you've got nothing to prove / No matter what youmight do / there's always someone out there cooler than you." Theway smart phones are improving, the reign at the top of themountain will not be a long one. I heaped praise upon the MotorolaDroid when it launched. I still think it's a great phone, but it'staking a backseat in my recommendations. If someone interested in a new smart phone asks me what toget, I'm telling them to grab the HTC Droid Incredible. Ifsomeone wants a Verizon smart phone, I'm telling them to go afterthe HTC Droid Incredible. That being said, there's always somethingaround the corner. I don't want that to sound like I'm telling youto wait though. The people who grabbed the Droid still have a greatphone. When the next coolest thing comes out, Droid Incredibleowners will still have an incredible phone. I'm of the mindset thatyou're better off getting the phone you want and not worrying aboutwhat else is coming until you can get your next phone.
Right now, this is the best phone on the Verizon network and probablyany American network. The HTC Droid Incredible is on saleright now. It runs $299.99 with a $100 mail-in rebate for a 2-yearcontract. If you're looking for a new smart phone, this should beamong the ones you consider. In fact, I'd dare say it should be theone you choose.
Questions or comments? Shoot me an
GRAM Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in front of a festive downtown crowd at Rosa Parks Circle Friday night.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.
Police say snow is making roads "treacherous" and are urging people to stay home if possible.