Review: HTC DROID Incredible is the iPhone killer

HTC DROID Incredible on Verizon Wireless is an iPhone killer Photo: Justin Fox

This week, I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with the new DROID Incredible by HTC. Being an iPhone user myself, enslaved by AT&T, I look at the Droid (and Verizon) through the eyes of a newbie to the whole experience. From the moment I took this little Incredible piece of tech out of the box, I was blown away at what life could be like without an iPhone….not bad.

DROID Incredible by HTC Key features:

  • Android 2.1 with HTC Sense experience
  • 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon™ processor for maximum responsiveness
  • Friend Stream for unified Flickr, Facebook and Twitter updates
  • “Leap” view for quick access to all seven home screen panels
  • 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash for crisp, detailed images
  • Razor-sharp 3.7 inch WVGA (480×800) AMOLED capacitive touch display
  • Optical joystick for smooth navigation
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search keys
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)
  • 3.5 mm headset jack

Breaking the features down…

Apple iPhone next to the HTC DROID Incredible Photo: Justin Fox

Hardware

Droid Incredible by HTC is the first Verizon Wireless phone that takes advantage of Qualcomm’s 1GHz superfast Snapdragon processor. This is where this device smokes anything else I’ve ever used in a phone. The launching of apps is instant. Once open, they are smooth and effortless. Loading the web browser is so fast, everyone I showed couldn’t help but to say “wow” out loud when pages loaded. When connected to Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g), the internet speed feels more akin to computer browsing than what we are accustom to on a phone.

Another gem on this Droid is it’s gorgeous 3.7 inch WVGA (480×800) AMOLED capacitive touch display. This is one of the major features that clearly demonstrates why this phone is dubbed Incredible. The touch sensitivity and detail is fantastic. Long gone are the days of Verizon phones being called touch screen when it was a horrible joke. The contrast ratio is also terrific. While the screen is bright and vivid, the blacks stay pitch black. When compared to my iPhone, this screen is far superior in resolution, contrast, and color. Movies, pictures, games all look fantastic and compliment the great GUI of the Droid 2.1 OS.

Along with the bad-ass screen, the phone has an 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash. Again, I was blown away. The pictures were of a quality not found on phones of just a few years ago. Dark locations where the shots usually end up blurry and always grainy are lit up like daylight with the dual LED flash. So bright in fact, its more like a real flash on a real camera. It definitely gets the job done. While I didn’t take pictures until the battery died, it seemed to do a decent job of not draining the battery even when using the flash.

Got a craving for the inner Spielberg in you? This HTC device also does a terrific job at video. It records only in standard definition (640×480) but it also does wide screen (800×480). What would have been “incredible” would be the ability to record 720p video, but I’m not going to be greedy or unrealistic. Next year. Definitely, the camera-phone quality has finally arrived as an actually usable feature for more than Facebook shots and tweets.

My iPhone is starting to feel pretty lame in comparison.

HTC DROID Incredible on Verizon Wireless Photo: Justin Fox

Software

Droid Incredible by HTC features the newest version of what they call the “HTC Sense experience”, which is a seven-panel home screen GUI with a wide selection of interactive widgets so the most important content is immediately available at a single touch. After a few minutes of playing around with the OS, I was transformed from confused to comfortable. The whole interface is organized and evolved from the endless scrolling I do on my iPhone. I especially loved the the amazing animations and transitions in the interface.

Some of the other features that I really enjoy are the dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search keys. Kind of a foreign concept to iPhone users is the addition of more than one button on the phone for navigation. Again, after a few minutes, I began to really appreciate the ability to instantly access those features in any app or page.

There is also an optical joystick, what is akin to that of a ball-less mouse, but it wasn’t as cool as I was hoping it would be. In my opinion, even slightly redundant to the whole touch-screen thing. I found its use was limited in purpose in most situations. I can see that for certain apps or games it might come in handy as a great alternative to having your fingers covering all the action up.

Sound Quality

One of the things I noticed right away after the amazing screen and speed of the Droid Incredible is the little phone’s sound quality. Again, fantastic. Calls are clear and loud with little speaker distortion. Being an AT&T user I’m not sure if its Verizon or the phone itself but I noticed the calls were “gated”. A term and technique used in the music industry to describe when audio is muted once it falls to a certain level of volume to reduce noise. Everything in between the words spoken in my conversation were gated. The silence while nice, also is a bit unnerving as it I found myself repeatedly asking to see if the call was dropped “can you here me now?”. Something I’m used to with AT&T.

Calls aside, the speaker for playback of apps, music & movies was fabulous. Loud and clear. One of the loudest speakers I’ve heard in a phone. You tube clips and songs played back with booming command without the few in audience having to strain to hear the punch line.

Storage

The Incredible is equipped with 8GB of internal storage as well as a MicroSD slot which can handle an additional 32GB, which you’ll need if you want to use that amazing 8MP camera to go crazy with. This is also a feature that gives this device a leg up on the Apple fanboys out there waiting for the new iPhone next month. Apple will most likely never allow external memory as an option to protect their OS and their business model.

Remainder

Some of the other features: the phone also has seamless integration with Exchange ActiveSync, quick and easy access to Flickr for sharing and viewing pictures, video, and Android Market with more than 30,000 Google applications. One app I immediately setup was the Facebook app (which came pre-installed). It was fast and hit the major points, however it fell dramatically short of the features offered in the iPhone’s version of the app. While I didn’t download other apps, I hope developers realize that many (most) people use phones other than that of Apple’s.

Price and availability

  • Droid Incredible is available now online at www.verizonwireless.com and in Verizon Wireless Communications Stores. Pricing is $199.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate with a new two-year customer agreement. Customers will receive the rebate in the form of a debit card; upon receipt, customers may use the card as cash anywhere debit cards are accepted.
  • Droid Incredible customers will need to subscribe to a Verizon Wireless Nationwide Talk and an Email and Web for Smartphone plan. Nationwide Talk plans begin at $39.99 monthly access. Email and Web for Smartphone plans start at $29.99 for unlimited monthly access.
  • For additional information on Verizon Wireless products and services, visit a Verizon Wireless Communications Store, call 1-800-2 JOIN IN or go to www.verizonwireless.com.

Bottom Line

With the release of the DROID Incredible by HTC, I find myself for the first time really considering jumping ship on the whole Apple thing. The other kids on the playground have finally caught up to little Stevie, and in some instances kicked his butt. The speed of phone in general is ridiculously fast thanks to that 1GHz processor. The Droid 2.1 OS is nimble, beautiful and intelligent. The camera and video ability is superior to anything else on the market today. Finally, the whole purpose of the device, that of being a phone, is loud and clear and sips on the battery like a gentleman.

For those who looking for a new phone: look no further than the DROID Incredible by HTC.

For those who are waiting for the new iPhone to be announced, if Apple doesn’t at least meet all (or most) of the features in this device, feel confident in jumping ship with me.


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8 Comments

  1. Michigan says:

    I have just been continually confused by this Verizon vs AT&T battle. In my area (rural southeastern Michigan), Verizon has trouble maintaining a usable 1X signal, while AT&T has consistently 5 bars of EDGE, or 2-3 bars of 3G. So for me in the real world my iPhone was great, but more than that, other places Verizon works much better, I just don’t see which network is really better everywhere.

  2. Genio says:

    There are two extended battery options for this phone already that solve the battery issue. One is 1750 mA and the other is 2175 mA. The 1750 does not add thickness to the phone but adds to battery life significantly, from what I’ve read. The 2175 does need a different cover for the back (which is included when purchased).

  3. Brad says:

    Oh by the way, the preempted text can be a pain if your not paying attention.

  4. Brad says:

    As an incredible owner, I would have to agree with most everything the author stated except for the battery life. I am not a heavy user and my battery will barely make it through the day. I must admit the location services, Google maps and nag are stunning on this device. I gave away my harming because this phone rendered it useless.

  5. David says:

    brilliant phone, but for this money and serious users who travel, why no GSM chip?

  6. Derek says:

    Did you do a review on the other droid products like the Droid Eris? just so I can compare your data

  7. butchyon says:

    Great review. And you’re right, the Incredible lives up to it’s name. And best of all, it’s on Verizon, the best network in the US. I do a lot of traveling, mostly not on the major highways, and I almost always have a good Verizon 3G signal anywhere I am. My traveling partner, who has an iPhone, often has no signal at all when we’re in the boonies. Verizon’s network coverage kills AT&T’s and Sprint’s. The maps don’t lie, folks. While I agree that the iPhone is a nice unit, you might as well be carrying around a rock if you can’t get a signal! I guess if I lived in New York or Atlanta, having the iPhone wouldn’t be a problem. But out there in the real world, I gotta have my solid Verizon network! And my new Verizon HTC Droid Incredible is AWESOME!

  8. Ben says:

    Overall, a pretty good review. A couple of points though.

    Android Market currently offers over 50,000 apps, more than the 30,000 you mentioned. http://www.androlib.com

    Also, I agree with you about the facebook app. it is definitely lacking. It’s even got less than what I had on my blackberry FB app.

    Other than that I use a ton of apps. I currently have the Motorola Droid. The two features i really love are the physical keypad and the D-pad. The dpad is great for games and typing (getting the cursor in just the right spot for a correction/etc). the keyboard is great for full screen viewing and superfast typing.

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