Make no mistake – the HTC Incredible launches as the best phone on Verizon and the best phone in America – but is it for you? Our in-depth review of the “Droid Incredible” dives into all the features, discusses all the specs, tours the software, picks apart the 8MP camera (with lots of samples), compares the device head-to-head with the Motorola Droid, and gives you our conclusions that we hope will assist you in drawing your own.
The HTC Incredible is very closely related to the European HTC Desire and you could essentially consider it to be an upgraded version of the Nexus One – likely the reason Verizon Wireless decided not to carry the first “Google Phone” afterall. Perhaps the best compliment we can give the Incredible hardware is our difficulty in finding things to complain about.
With a large capacitive touchscreen (3.7-inch WVGA AMOLED), simple and functional layout and design, uniquely stylized rear, 8MP camera, 3.5mm headset jack and powered by 1GHz Snapdragon processor with ROM/RAM/Memory improvements, the Incredible has a solid foundation for success.
While I would prefer a trackball to a trackpad, I find its use as a dedicated camera key to be pretty perfect. Partially due to the rear contours, when you lay the camera flat on its back the lens comes into direct contact with the surface below; this may or may not be an issue in the long-run, but these same contours free up the speaker, helping create a loud and crisp audio experience. Beyond always wanting bigger and badder specs, most of the “points of contention” one could make about the Incredible come down to gadget reality – tradeoffs.
No gadget can be perfect, but as a high-powered smartphone with multimedia in mind, the HTC Droid Incredible tries its darndest. Everything you would EXPECT on an Android phone is of course present – Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, Accelerometer, etc – but the Incredible attempts to kick it once notch beyond what is expected and offer things other Androids don’t.
One prime example is including 8GB of onboard memory in addition to the MicroSD slot that can hold up to 32GB of its own. Although some people have reported problems/issues/concerns with saving Application data to the onboard memory (with no MicroSD card), this can be at least partially attributed to the Incredible being a bit ahead of its time. Lack of internal memory on phone after phone after phone has been a top point for Android critics to pick on, and the Incredible is really the first limelight device to tackle internal memory head on.
HTC has done a tremendous job crafting the Incredible and its specs speak for themselves. The design manages to be simultaneously modest and edgy, packing a lot of punch for a device only half an inch thick and 4.5 ounces heavy. The phone has done a bit of “creeking” – just about the only thing that worries me – but “worries” is probably a gross overstatement. Because when it comes down to it I really, really love the Incredible hardware all-around.
Android 2.1 and HTC Sense are at the heart of the HTC Incredible and both serve the device very well. But the 1GHz processor and beefed up RAM serve the software equally well in return: the UI is speedy to say the least and the extra processing power offers a notable improvement over competing devices that struggle or crumble under the processing demands of Android 2.1 and Sense.
We can’t rewrite an encyclopedia with every phone launch, so instead of doing in depth reviews of 2.1 & Sense we’ve hit on some of the highlights of each.
Android 2.1 brings:
- Voice-to-Text in more places. At first, voice to text was only available for Google Search: say what you want to search out loud and watch Google work its magic! Add in the ability to “Navigate To” a location with a voice command and search through other areas of your phone with voice and things are even sunnier. But now you can use voice-to-text in almost anywhere that requires text-input including composing text messages and E-Mail… pure awesomeness!
- Live Wallpapers. A novelty that some love and some would rather live without, but if they’re your cup of tea, you can get them on the Incredible.
- Google Navigation. This isn’t unique to the Incredible or even Android 2.x, but it’s a feature that’s well worth mentioning. Google Maps is an application I use almost daily and with the added ability to get Turn-By-Turn navigation, you’re mobile phone truly escalates its value to another level completely. And oh yeah, it’s free.
HTC Sense brings:
- Sexiness. One look at the weather widget and your knees will be wobbly.
- More sexiness. There is more where the weather widget came from – choose from a long-list of beautiful widgets with an expanding list that you can have updated automatically.
- More homescreens. Typical Androids get 3 homescreens. Some lucky 2.X Androids like the Nexus One enjoy 5 homescreens. But devices with HTC Sense? 7 homescreens – that’s a lot of room for icons and widgets!
- Even more sexiness. With “scenes” – different groupings of 7 homepages – you can switch between various icon/widget setups to be used in different settings and scenarios.
- Helicopter View. With one touch you can get a quick overview of all 7 homescreens on your current “Scene”. I wish you could also use this view to flick left and right between different scenes and hopefully this is something HTC thinks about adding – I think a lot more people would use HTC Sense.
- FriendStream. Essentially HTC’s version of Motorola BLUR, Friendstream attempts to consolidate all the points of your interwebz socialness into one easy to access app/widget. Great for those who want to casually keep tabs on friends and family in a passive, non-obsessive way. If you want to see every single tweet and every single facebook status update, you’ll probably be downloading two separate dedicated apps anyways.
A lot of what the Incredible has to offer goes beyond your typical Android 2.1/Sense discussion.
My absolute FAVORITE new feature of the HTC Incredible is the FM Radio which can only be enabled when you have headphones plugged into the 3.5mm headset jack. Simple to use, and just like Google Navigation, adds a completely new dimension to your phone. Sure, we know that Android Market has a ton of kick butt streaming apps, but I welcome the FM Radio with arms as open as they’ll stretch. This feature is SO easy to use its ridiculous and I think it’ll be plenty popular.
Web browsing with the HTC Incredible is fast and enjoyable on the 3.7-inch screen and pages load quickly. The experience is further improved by:
- Pinch-to-zoom capabilities
- Flash Lite 4 (likely upgradeable to Flash 10.1 soon)
- Enhanced Copy & Paste features
The copy and paste system is greatly improved, and somehow we forgot to touch on that in the software video. Basically if you long-press text from within your browser, two push pins will show up on either side of a highlighted selection. move those push-pins around and touch one of the three icons – (1) Copy to clipboard, (2) Search, (3) Share. Searching includes the ability to immediately look-up the selected text on Wikipedia, find the definition provided by Google, or translate the text to a different language.
I’d definitely include watching videos, listening to music, and playing games as part of the overall software experience and I’m happy to report that the HTC Incredible does all three things very well and with grace. Videos are fairly quick to display, crisp looking and play with excellent sound quality while we’re blessed with the familiar HTC organization/management tools for our music. Games render smoothly and those that might have previously choked on 3D high-performance graphics are now much more playable thanks to the improved processor and RAM.
There truly is too much to mention when it comes to covering software, but lets not forget Footprints, QuickOffice, CityID, Peep, Voice Recorder, and other apps that aren’t on typical Android devices but instead custom-provided by HTC. The HTC Incredible also comes with some exclusive apps courtesy of Verizon such as Skype Mobile and NFL Mobile that sweeten the software pot even more.
Camera & Camcorder Review
The HTC Incredible can take some AMAZING pictures with its 8MP camera… there is no doubt about that. Here are some of my favorite pictures I took over a few days with the Incredible (click to enlarge).
Try and tell me some of those don’t look all sorts of Bob-Rossed-up.
While the hardware (8MP camera/sensor, auto-focus and dual LED flash) can certainly take credit for a large chunk of the camera (and my pictures) success, the software behind the camera and camcorder experience provided a new level of versatility that made these pictures possible. Some of the more advanced features you can toggle include: Flash, Zoom, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, White Balance, ISO, Size, Quality, Self-Timer, Auto-Focus, Geo-tagging, Metering and Time stamps. Wow.
And here are a couple examples to illustrate the camera’s successful use of zoom and flash. In terms of flash, the first picture was taken with ample lighting and the second was taken from the exact same place in the pitch dark – it performs pretty well but you should understand the flash will only work in close quarters when the subject is only a few feet away.
That definitely doesn’t mean the Incredible camera is perfect – its far from it in fact. I found the auto-focus to be average, the sensor’s handling of lighting to be kind of extreme, and the lack of “quick pic” settings such as portrait/close-up/scenery/etc… to be tedious given the other extensive options available.
Sure… I could snap some amazing photos with the right settings, but that took some time to accomplish if the conditions weren’t just right. And even then sometimes I would fail miserably by user error and sometimes the camera just wouldn’t snap it as good as I thought it might. If something happens spur of the moment and you’re only able to get ONE picture of whatever phenomenon is occurring, whether or not the Incredible would come through in the clutch is more of a coin toss than a sure thing.
Here is a gallery that includes a bunch of other pictures I took – note that I deleted a ton of iffy/cruddy pictures too as I tried to learn the settings and experiment but this should provide an idea of the range of the camera and how different pictures look based on settings:
At the beginning of this section I said the HTC Incredible CAN take amazing photos but emphasized a different word. The key word I’d like to stress in closing is CAN because its all about potential. The Incredible has the potential to take amazing photos and you’ll inevitably enjoy having it in your pocket on a daily basis because of that… but that definitely doesn’t mean every picture is awesome and sometimes you have to work at it.
As for the HTC Incredible Camcorder? It also enjoys the same options and settings you get from the regular camera – white balance, contrast, brightness – all that good stuff. This is something we’re not used to seeing on Android Phones and it was a lot of fun to play with on the Incredible. Unfortunately, I found the video results to be underwhelming compared to the photos.
Below are 4 videos uploaded directly from the Incredible to YouTube. The first is of a goose on a lake that I thought was pretty good while the second is of a bird in a tree that seemed pretty bad. The third and fourth videos were taken of the mascot at the Baltimore Orioles baseball game dancing with a fan. I thought both videos were pretty good and the first of the two is at regular distance while the second I zoom in as far as possible.
One thing to point out in the above video is how GREEN it gets at the end. It was pretty bright out and this problem of going from very dark to very bright depending on where you have your camera aimed, all within seconds, was a recurring problem for me. Sure you could use the “brightness” option to fix that but then those normal looking greens would be incredibly washed out.
I was literally standing right under this cardinal, sitting in the tree (the cardinal, not me), in broad daylight and was disappointed that all I seemed to get on video was a bunch of blurry trees on the Incredible’s default settings. Fooey.
The above is without any zoom.
And that one had zoom. Not bad… not bad at all… but for some reason the photography capabilities of the Incredible seem to be a notch or two above the video results. I was surprised by that conclusion, and I’m not sure exactly why this is the case, but its what the evidence and experience proved.
But as I explained before, this 8MP camera with auto-focus and dual LED flash can be a real gem and you’ll enjoy carrying around, snapping away and sharing with friends and family. Just be careful of what you upload to Facebook!
HTC Incredible vs. Motorola Droid
I absolutely LOVED the Motorola Droid when it launched… if you don’t believe me just read my review – I even bought one. So to say that the HTC Incredible bests the Motorola Droid in practically every category isn’t just saying a lot, it’s confirming the opening statement that on launch, the Incredible is the best phone in the United States.
The Incredible ups the ante in almost every category: brighter screen, better processor, more RAM, extra internal memory, FM radio tacked onto the 3.5mm headset jack, HTC Sense added to Android 2.1, and the list goes on.
The interesting thing to note here is that even though the Incredible breezes by the Moto Droid, the Droid is still not only a very capable phone but also one of the top few phones in the United States.
What more can I say? The HTC Incredible isn’t revolutionary but it speaks volumes about the evolution of mobile phones and Android altogether. Six months ago the Motorola Droid ruled the world. Today, the HTC Incredible easily lopes past the Moto Droid on its way to outclassing it in nearly every category.
The Incredible is the real deal: the spec sheet is weighed down but the device is thin enough and light enough for the average consumer to enjoy. The screen is large and beautiful, the camera is capable of taking fantastic photos, the multimedia experience – especially with the FM Radio tuner – is very enjoyable. Android 2.1 and HTC Sense pack more awesomeness into the Incredible than one review can contain.
Sure… the next best thing is always right around the corner, but right now the Incredible IS the next best thing and even in a year or two, it’ll still be powerful enough to zip along.