The HTC Droid Incredible: with a name like that, expectations are high for HTC’s latest Android release. It’s comparable to the HTC Desire, but it packs some extra features and it’s the only device of its kind, at least for now, that’s geared for the US market. Meaning, this is the first time we’re seeing Android 2.1 with HTC’s stunning Sense UI on such a powerful device in the States, so that alone certainly has Verizon Wireless subscribers in a frenzy. Verizon looks to capitalize on the “Droid” craze with the HTC Droid Incredible, but does it live up to its title? Read on to find out!
Although the Incredible comes with a slew of features regarding its hardware and software, the packaging it comes in is rather bare bones in nature. It’s wrapped in Verizon’s conventional packaging, which is basically a white box with a picture of the device on the front and back. Inside, you get the device, manuals, a charging/syncing cable and wall charger. The unit we unboxed did not include a memory card, but Verizon’s apparently offering a 2GB microSD card as an introductory offer to those who purchase early.
What’s under the hood? For starters, the Incredible is rocking a 1GHz Qualcomm QSD8650 Snapdragon Processor, 8GB of internal storage, 748MB of ROM and 512MB of RAM. There’s also a microSD card slot to supplement with up to 32GB of memory. The device boasts a large 3.7″ AMOLED capacitive multitouch display with WVGA resolution (480×800). Attached on the back is an 8MP auto-focus camera with dual LED flash, which is capable of WVGA video capture as well. The removable battery has a capacity of 1300mAh. Other components include WiFi, aGPS, Bluetooth, an FM radio, proximity/light sensors, a microUSB port, rear-mounted speaker, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The Incredible is locked to Verizon’s CDMA/EVDO network.
The Droid Incredible feels quite good in hand. It has just enough weight at 4.59 ounces (130 grams) and a generous size that doesn’t overstep comfort boundaries. The front of the device has a glossy black finish and a gorgeous 3.7″ capacitive display. We’re working with AMOLED technology here, so colors are strikingly rich and vibrant; and unlike traditional displays, blacks appear extremely black. Finally, the touch screen supports multitouch for all your pinch-to-zoom needs.
The capacitive touch buttons are flush with the screen and will illuminate under low-light conditions. The buttons are perfectly sensitive and function as follows: Home, Menu, Back and Search. Additionally, there’s an optical trackpad below the buttons for navigating and selecting onscreen items. This is considered to be more favorable than that of the track ball found on devices like the Nexus One. I didn’t find myself using it much, but it’s nice to have as an option.
As we flip the slab device over, we get an overview of the controversial battery cover. The topographic map-like back plate is a risky design move as many people probably won’t be too thrilled to part ways with styles more familiar to them. I like to think of it as an acquired taste; you may dislike it now, but find that it grows on you later on. Three quick reasons why it’s a positive thing: improves grip, allows room to breath for the speaker, and it’s original.
I’ve found that onlookers are more curious about it than they are turned off. Also worth mentioning, HTC has opted to go with a snap-on cover. It feels secure and doesn’t exhibit any peculiar behavior, but this may be of concern down the road as it could lose its proper fitting.
Here we get a detailed look at the 8MP camera with red trimming and dual LED flash. The external speaker hole and larger branding that we’ve been seeing lately out of HTC make their presence felt on the soft-touch cover.
Turning the device on its side, we get a good look at the depth of the multi-layered design found on the battery cover. The camera also protrudes a bit, so you’ll want to be careful when placing it down on a hard surface. A microUSB charging/syncing port, which also supports a TV out cable, is found just below the volume rocker. Although the unique cover can make the unit seem bloated from some angles, it’s actually fairly thin at just 11.9mm (0.47 inches) thick.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the space behind the battery cover steals the show. It’s completely decked out in red, which is reminiscent of some high-end sports cars or gadgets. The splash of color leaves a memorable first impression and continues to surprise with each successive removal of the battery cover. Unfortunately, we don’t exactly get to see this part of the device too often, since it’s concealed. “Wow” was the typical response I received when showing others.
As with most touch screens, especially ones with AMOLED displays, visibility is at its poorest under direct sunlight. You can view it decently at the highest brightness level, but if you’ve turned off the automatic adjustment setting in favor of conserving battery life, you’re in trouble. Again, this is normal with similar devices.
On the software side, the Droid Incredible is powered by Android 2.1 with the latest version of HTC’s Sense UI. So, not only will you get the most current build of Android, also known as Éclair, you will also get HTC’s custom user interface and widgets. These add-ons to the Android experience are blissfully responsive thanks to the super-powered hardware of the device.
HTC has added a new feature, called Leap, which allows users to conveniently jump from one side of the seven home screens to the other simply by performing a pinch gesture on the display. I found this function to be handier than expected. A new widget to fill your social networking needs also makes an appearance. Aptly labeled Friend Stream, this widget/app aggregates your Facebook, Twitter, and flickr accounts all into one convenient status feed.
Other notable features include Google Maps with turn-by-turn voice navigation, voice recognition software, visual voicemail, and live wallpapers. Verizon’s custom apps can be downloaded from the V CAST section of the Android market. Fortunately, these apps are options and aren’t necessarily forced on you. The only intriguing app I encountered was Skype Mobile, which is exclusive to Verizon subscribers for the time being. The camera software has a variety of settings to aid in taking pictures or video. The web browser works like a dream and even supports flash in most cases. As with other Android devices, you can download tons of apps from the Market.
The 8 megapixel camera can shoot impressive photos under ideal conditions. Sadly, this can be quite difficult to control, but overall the pictures come out very nice. The dual LED flash does help for low-light situations, but don’t expect too much under extreme conditions. Photos didn’t suffer from the pink discoloration problem that has plagued HTC devices in the past. Pictures can sometimes be fuzzy at the fullest resolution, but sizing them down a bit will dramatically improve them. Here are some sample photos: indoor close-up, indoor low-light with flash, outdoor close-up, outside with plenty of light. The camera is also capable of shooting WVGA video, here’s a sample in 3GP format.
Performance was superb during the week that I put the device through testing. Thanks to ample program memory and power, I can confidently report that the user experience has been quite enjoyable. There were hiccups, which happened on rare occasion, but I was dazzled by the speed and fluidity of the device overall. I’m a big fan of HTC’s widgets, so I was delighted to see that I could run them on all screens and still maintain that sense of satisfaction.
Call quality was fantastic. The earpiece speaker was loud and clear; and contacts expressed similar results on the other end. The speakerphone packs a mean punch with loud audio for calls and media playback. It did distort at the highest volume setting, but that rarely happened and I was content most of the time. Reducing that level a notch or two would produce flawless audio results every time.
The battery life wasn’t impressive by any means. You can, however, expect to last about a day with a moderate amount of use. Heavy hitters will be hungry for power near the end of the day. It’s odd that the battery is rated at just 1300mAh compared to the Incredible’s cousins, the Desire and Nexus One (at 1400mAh).
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The Incredible can be had now for $199.99 with a 2 yr contract or $529.99 outright from Verizon Wireless. It’s flying off the shelves at the moment, so it may be a while before Big Red actually ships one your way.
+ AMOLED display is excellent
+ 748MB of ROM, instead of 512MB listed on spec sheet
+ Extra internal storage and a microSD card slot
+ 8MP Camera with dual LED flash, shoots WVGA video
+ Runs latest version of HTC Sense UI
+ Great performance translates to enjoyable experience
+ No issues with capacitive buttons
+ Red backing makes it unique
+ Great call quality
+ Loud and crisp speakerphone
+ Feels good in hand
- Battery cover design takes time to get used to and has questionable build quality
- No case, headphones, etc (2GB microSD card is only an introductory offer)
- Battery is rated slightly less than similar devices why?
- Occasionally throws an error in Android
- Poor outdoor screen visibility
The HTC Droid Incredible offers the most features, through both hardware and software, of any Android device to hit US shores and it’s certainly the best available from Verizon. Now that the Nexus One has been axed from Verizon’s plans, it makes perfect sense for their customers to focus solely on the Droid Incredible. A simple rundown of the specs is enough to sell most users on the device, which speaks volumes. I must say, after handling the phone for a fair amount of time, I found that it actually does a great job of living up to its name. I rate the Droid Incredible a 4.5/5.