Android realizes its full, heart-warming potential
Aesthetically, HTC’s Droid Incredible lacks the neo-industrial panache of the iPhone 4, but it does have a sturdy, almost ruggedized feel. The brain is a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC, which, in conjunction with 8GB of storage and 512MB of RAM, provides for peppy multitasking. We tried to saturate the Incredible’s CPU and memory by simultaneously running and downloading apps and web pages, and it never broke a sweat.
The display is a vibrant, 3.7-inch, 480x800 AMOLED touch screen that will please just about everyone—except iPhone 4 owners. HTC’s 252ppi pixel density comes close to matching Apple’s 326ppi, but when you place the two screens next to each other, the disparity is clear.
One of the Incredible’s finest attributes is its 8MP camera, which out-pixels every other phone in this round-up. Like most smartphone cameras, it’s particularly well-suited for daylight, and it has a fast shutter response and some fairly flexible focusing options. Like all tasks within the Android OS, sharing photos is easily accomplished through a few simple button presses.
The Incredible lacks a front-facing camera, which shuts down the video-chat option. Our hunch is that while most of us won’t miss it now, we’ll all wish we had front-facing cameras in about a year when they’re a standard feature and software support is ubiquitous. Ironically, the only other “pure” smartphone we’ve seen that does have a front-facing camera is Nokia’s N900 outlier. (The Dell Streak? Not a pure smartphone!)
Much has been made of Android’s multi-tasking environment. While we appreciate it—particularly the ability to download data while performing other tasks—where the Android OS really trumps the competition is on the home screen. In addition to directory shortcuts, you can place functioning widgets for everything from applications to data feeds to settings screens directly on your desktop.
Furthermore, if you don’t like the way your home screen, keyboard, or virtually any other element of your phone looks or feels, you can change it by either modifying the settings or downloading alternatives from the Android Market. The Incredible currently runs Android 2.1, but HTC has implemented a modified version of the standard Android interface known as HTC Sense, which works quite well. Key differences include several customized apps and widgets for mail, social networking, and more. We particularly appreciate the Backup Assistant, which we set to automatically back up our contacts to Verizon’s servers every evening.
The default touch-screen keyboard is squarely average and offers up useful, intuitive and customizable auto-correct options. Nonetheless, you’ll be happier downloading a third-party keyboard, such as Better Keyboard or Swype. If you’ve been using a BlackBerry for years, expect a fairly significant learning curve, and know that you probably won’t ever type as fast as you did on a BlackBerry QWERTY.
Our biggest concern with the HTC Incredible is its meager battery life. With mostly default settings (except display time-out, which we always reduce to the minimum) and four email accounts running, we found ourselves draining the battery in less than 24 hours. That’s unacceptable, but at least we were able to extend battery life to close to 36 hours by reducing the frequency of email checks, downloading a third-party power manager app, and turning down screen brightness.
And let’s not forget how much network service matters: Verizon’s speedy network data rates give the Incredible a huge advantage over AT&T and the iPhone. We consistently, unfailingly, found the Incredible pulling down web pages and other data at rates up to three times faster than the iPhone.
This review is part of a Maximum Tech smartphone roundup.