First look review: HTC DROID Incredible from Verizon Wireless

Summary:The Motorola DROID is a popular Android device on Verizon Wireless, but may have just been bested by the HTC DROID Incredible with 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 8 megapixel camera, and Sense 2.5 experience.

I bought the Google Nexus One for T-Mobile (made by HTC) while at CES 2010 in January and at that time Google stated that the Verizon version would be coming in the Spring. We are now a month into Spring, but there is still no word on when the Verizon one is coming. In the meantime, HTC and Verizon announced the HTC DROID Incredible last week that has better specifications than the Nexus One with a subsidized price of $199.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate. The full price may be $529.99, which is expected for a device with these specifications. I have been using the HTC DROID Incredible for the past three days and think it is the best Google Android device I have ever used. I honestly see no real reason someone would buy the Nexus One instead of the Incredible, unless you want the Google Experience rather than HTC Sense. Personally, I prefer the HTC Sense experience device with more featured Exchange support and social network integration. Check out my image gallery, video, and more detailed thoughts below.


Image Gallery:Check out product images, screenshots, and photos taken with the HTC DROID Incredible on Verizon Wireless.
Image Gallery: Red back of the HTC Incredible
Image Gallery: DROID Incredible in hand

In the box and first impressions

As you can see in my image gallery there is very little in the compact retail box of the HTC DROID Incredible. When you first open up the box you will see the DROID Incredible with a plastic protective cover showing what all the buttons are for. Under this top compartment you will find a document packet with a Tips, Hints, and Shortcuts book, details on how to connect the DROID Incredible to your PC or Mac to use as a modem, and terms and conditions. Under this is a USB to microUSB cable and an A/C USB charger. There is no stereo headset or case in the box.

When I first pulled the DROID Incredible from the box, the first thing that struck me was the width of the device. It is narrower than the iPhone and even a bit narrower than the Nexus One so it really fits well in the palm of your hand. The back has quite a unique style to it, but I found the soft touch back felt good in your hand and the design was not distracting or anything. I love the red highlights and the rather minimalist design of the device with very few hardware buttons.

Specifications

Specifications for the HTC DROID Incredible include the following:
  • Android 2.1 with HTC Sense experience
  • 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • Integrated 8GB flash drive (6.6 GB usable) with microSD expansion card slot
  • 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash for crisp, detailed images
  • 3.7 inch WVGA (480x800) 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
  • Friend Stream for unified Flickr, Facebook and Twitter updates
  • Leap view for quick access to all seven home screen panels
  • Dimensions: 4.63 x 2.30 x 0.47 inches and 4.59 ounces

Compared to the Google Nexus One, we see an improved camera, integrated 8GB flash drive, optical joystick instead of physical trackball, and latest HTC Sense experience. The Google Experience on the Nexus One is good and in theory should get updates faster since there is no HTC customization stage that has to occur first. I actually have received low memory warnings on my Nexus One so having the 8GB of internal memory is a major bonus for those of us who like to load up and try out lots of apps. The guys at Android Central set me straight and said you are still limited to the internal memory for apps until Google fixes this in a future update and that the 8GB drive is good for videos, photos, etc. just like an external storage card. HTC makes both of these devices and doesn't care if Verizon or Google sells them so I imagine they do not care if Google ever launches the Nexus One on Verizon or if Verizon just focuses on the DROID Incredible.

I have the Google Nexus One so I was able to compare both devices side-by-side. The Nexus One seems to have a bit more smooth and solid hardware, but I find the slightly narrower width of the DROID Incredible (2.30 vs 2.354 inches) to feel great in my hand. The optical joystick is a nice touch, but I don't mind the trackball on the Nexus One either. Using the DROID Incredible with HTC Sense on it actually prompted me to go ahead and try out the Desire ROM with Sense on it for the Nexus One with support for Apps2SD so I now can store some application data on my microSD card and Sense is rocking on my Nexus One. Since I now have the new navigation dock (mini review coming soon) for the Nexus One I am happy with that device on T-Mobile.

Walk around the hardware

The front of the DROID Incredible is dominated by the 3.7 inch WVGA OLED display that looks great in most conditions, except for direct sunlight. Below the display you will find four hardware "buttons" that are touch sensitive areas similar to the Nexus One. I did find these to be more responsive than the Nexus One so HTC has done something to improve this technology. Centered below these areas is the optical joystick that actually provides for quick navigation without a hardware roller that will eventually fail. The center of this is indented and moves in when you press it so it does have good tactile feedback for selecting an item. Centered above the display is the Verizon logo with a red speaker grill above that.

There is nothing along the right and the only thing on the bottom is the microphone opening and a lanyard opening that I never use on my devices.

When I first looked at the lower left side I thought HTC switched up the type of port used for charging and PC/Mac connectivity. The microUSB port has a rather odd shape, but standard microUSB male ends fit into it just fine. In the upper part of the left side you will find a long volume button.

The power button and 3.5mm headset jack are found on the top of the HTC Incredible.

The back has a unique shape with three different levels of plateaus covered with soft touch black material. HTC and with Google words appear on the back and I actually found this a bit different since every other device I have seen with HTC Sense did not have the Google branding on board as they seemed to be mutually exclusive experiences. You will find the lens cover for the 8 megapixel camera on the left upper back with two LED flash lights towards the center and a speaker opening farther to the right. The speaker has a red ring around it too, that is made even more apparent when you pop off the back cover. The entire back comes off the DROID Incredible and as you can see in my image gallery the back of the device is bright red and the battery is red. I actually found this to be cool and different and like the color scheme of the DROID Incredible.

In closing up the hardware section I can't again mention how great the DROID Incredible feels in my hand. It is solid, soft, and well sized to fit just perfectly.

Walk through the software

The HTC DROID Incredible runs the Google Android 2.1 operating system with HTC Sense 2.5 built on top of it. Right out of the box, the user will have a great experience as you are walked through a setup wizard that helps you easily setup your device and understand how the keyboard works with preferred internet connection (network and/or WiFi) selector, Gmail, POP/IMP, or Exchange email account setup, and social network (Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter) setup. It is quick and easy to follow these and gets your device setup and ready to go.

After the setup wizard is done you will find yourself at the main page of the seven (7) available screens in one of the Scenes of HTC Sense. You can flip through the screens with your finger on the display or by sliding your finger across the touch sensitive optical joystick. You can setup multiple Scenes with these seven different screens with widgets, program shortcuts, contact names, and much more. One of the coolest features in this new HTC Sense interface is the "Leap" view where you can view thumbnails of all seven home screen panels on one screen by pinching your finger closed on any panel or pressing the Home button twice. This reminds me of Expose on the Mac and is a very cool way to switch quickly between home screen panels. I know it would probably tax the resources, but it sure would be cool to get into this Leap view and then flip right and left to view these home screen panels for each of the Scenes you have setup since I do find I forget what I have setup in each Scene and don't change Scenes as much as I probably should.

HTC has done a fantastic job of embracing the latest social networks and includes a new functionality called "Friend Stream" on the HTC DROID Incredible. With the Friend Stream widget or by launching the Friend Stream widget you will find a unified interface for Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter updates. Friend Stream has four bottom icons for all updates, status updates (those without photos), photo stream (from all networks), and links.

All the typical HTC Android applications and utilities are present, including Navigation Panel (Footprint, Google Maps Navigation, Voice Search, View Map, Search, and Make a Call all in one quick interface), FM Radio, Google Maps Navigation, Android Market, Music, Peep (HTC's Twitter app), PDF viewer, Quickoffice viewer, Teeter, Photo Gallery, YouTube, Weather, and more. The great thing about the device is that I did not see any Verizon Wireless apps or utilities loaded on the DROID Incredible so the device is crapware free. However, Verizon Wireless does have some good services and utilities that you may want to take advantage of and this opportunity is provided for you with a tab in the Android Market labeled Verizon. Tapping on the Verizon tab opens up a page labeled VCast Apps and on this tab you will find apps like NFL Mobile, My Verizon, Visual Voice Mail, VZW Tones 4.0, V CAST Media Manager, and several other Google Android apps. I loaded up the NFL Mobile application and Qik to try out.

The cool Live Wallpapers from the Nexus One and latest Android update are supported on the device and look good.

Another utility we haven't seen officially provided by a carrier on an Android device is the ability to tether the DROID Incredible via cable to a Mac or PC computer through the VZ Access Manager. On the DROID Incredible, visit Settings>Wireless & networks and then scroll to the bottom to see the option to turn on Mobile Broadband Connect. I do not yet know if Verizon Wireless will be charging extra for this service or if they will provide it free like they do with the Palm Pre Plus. The easiest way to use this is to plug in your USB cable and then tap the correct option on the pop-up screen.

HTC also provides you with their HTC Sync utility to synchronize Outlook contacts and calendar or Outlook Express contacts data with your DROID Incredible via a wired cable connection. The utility is on the microSD card as an .EXE file for Windows PCs. In the past Google Android devices only synced via wireless networks and since not everyone has an Exchange server it is nice to see this capability.

I don't have a good Windows PC to take screenshots from an Android device so I recommend you check out Phil's excellent screenshot gallery showing off the software on the DROID Incredible.

Pricing and availability

The HTC DROID Incredible will be available for pre-order on 19 April and will be available starting on 29 April for $199.99 with a $100 mail-in rebate and minimum voice and data plan with 2-year contract. There should be other pricing options and I will try to find out more about these. I have a Palm Pre Plus on Verizon Wireless and seriously thought about switching to the HTC DROID Incredible, but I still find webOS to be a superior operating system and it is tough to give up the free Mobile Hotspot feature (a $40/month value). I also now have a Nexus One with HTC Sense loaded on it for T-Mobile so I am all set with a great Android device. If I was only a Verizon Wireless customer, then I would seriously consider the DROID Incredible and think people will find it to be a very compelling offering.

Final first thoughts

The HTC DROID Incredible performed flawlessly for me over the three days I tested it and it was extremely fast and responsive. I loaded up almost 30 3rd party applications thanks to the ability to sign into the Android Market with my account and found them all to perform well. I took a few photos with the 8 megapixel camera at the Seattle Sounders FC game and recorded a few seconds of video to see how it performed (embedded in my video above). The camera does well and offers up quite a few features and functions so the device can serve as your on-the-go camera. I haven't had the device long enough to determine how good the battery life is and since I was using it a LOT to test it out I was burning through the battery quicker than a typical day.

I expect to see some heavy Verizon Wireless advertising for the HTC DROID Incredible and if I was going to pick up an Android device on Verizon then the DROID Incredible would be my personal choice over the Motorola DROID.

Recommended HTC DROID Incredible reviews

It looks like many of my friends also received the DROID Incredible to check out so I recommend you read these other reviews too so that you can make an informed decision about the device:

Topics: Mobile OS, Google, Hardware, HTC, Mobility, Smartphones, Verizon

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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