The HTC Droid Incredible runs Google’s Android OS 2.1, with the HTC Sense user interface layered on top. This extends the standard UI rather than replacing it, so those who are already familiar with Android should adjust almost instantly. A user picking up his or her first smartphone might be pleased to know that Google has created an OS that’s both easy to use and functional.
The 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor really shines; the smartphone is super fast and extremely responsive. It was refreshing to see things happen nearly instantaneously, whether I was opening an application or checking my email.
One of my favorites is how the home screen briefly shows the current weather conditions at your location each time you unlock the phone. For example, if it’s cloudy, clouds appear on the screen and then drift away; if it’s raining, raindrops appear. I also received a vibrating alert when we had severe weather last week, which can be extremely important. Other notifications like new mail messages and available app updates also use vibrating alerts, as well as icons in the notification bar at the top of the screen.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are on board, and they work just as expected. I also got very good cellular coverage while using the Incredible, at times with a better signal than I was able to pick up with my personal phone, the LG Dare.
Call quality was generally quite good, with a few small issues. During test calls, I could hear each of my callers perfectly, with very good fidelity. In other words, Brad sounded exactly like Brad in real life, instead of a flat disembodied voice. A couple of callers mentioned that while they could hear me just fine, there was also a lot of background noise (especially on a windy morning when I was walking outside), but those reports were sporadic.
The Incredible can certainly keep you connected and organized, especially if your personal information is already in Google Calendar and Google Contacts. When you first activate the phone and turn it on, you are asked to sign into your Google account. Wait a few minutes for everything to come across the network, and your personal information is right at your fingertips.
Gmail integration is just as tight as you would expect from an Android device, and the user experience is wonderful. I had forgotten just how much I missed threaded conversations, since that feature isn’t available in the Mail application on my iPod touch. I can also report messages as spam, as necessary, which is much better than leaving something in my inbox until I get to my computer. You can mark individual labels for automatic synchronization, which is very handy if you use filters and labels to organize your mail and there are only a few of them that are more important than others.
The web browser is lightning fast and fully featured; it even includes a special version of Adobe Flash Lite that can help you access sites you wouldn’t be able to view on an iPhone. The next version of the Android OS will also have the full version of Flash built into the browser, which should further enhance the mobile web experience.
The Incredible’s Maps application works perfectly, locating my position almost instantly when I launch the app. I can get driving, mass transit or walking directions very quickly. I was especially pleased with how accurate the transit directions were, right down to the train and bus transfers, and you’re able to get available options for a trip with a later starting time.
The Stocks app powered by Yahoo Finance will help you keep track of your financial portfolio; simply enter the stocks or market indexes you wish to follow. A PDF Viewer and Quickoffice are also included, in case you need to work with Microsoft Office files.
When you connect the Incredible to your computer with the included USB cable, you will be asked if you want to charge the device or mount it as a portable storage drive, which makes transferring files a snap.
There are many various entertainment options available, including games and apps from the Android Market, social networking, digital music and mobile photography. I downloaded several free games, and had a blast playing Flowers Puzzle, Jewels, Labyrinth Lite and Sudoku Daily. Everything is crisp, sharp and fast, and there’s so much variety that there’s likely something for everyone. And if you live an ultra-connected life and have set the phone to vibrate when you get new emails and other alerts, you will still get those same notifications when you’re playing a game.
The music player has all of the basic options, allowing you to access your music by artist, album, playlist, song, genre, or composer. With support for unprotected AAC, MP3, and WMA, you probably already have enough music to fill the device. During testing I dropped music files in random places in both main memory and a microSD card, and the music app had no problem finding them all and playing them, whether they were single files or in a directories by album.
Whether you’re playing games or listening to music, the audio is exceptional. With headphones, you’ll get a great experience, and volume can be extremely loud. The external speaker is impressive, with good sounding output at even very loud volume settings. It won’t work as the jukebox for your next party, but it is certainly good enough to share songs with friends.
If social networking is your game, you’ll be very interested in Friend Stream, an enhancement to the HTC Sense user interface that aggregates Twitter, Facebook and Flickr updates in one handy application. If you prefer to keep things separate, there is a standalone Facebook app.
Peep, the built-in Twitter client, is another option to Friend Stream that is extremely capable and easy to use. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but that’s part of its charm; I like mobile apps to be fast and lean. There are four tabs at the bottom of the screen for all tweets, @mentions, direct messages and favorites. Notifications show in the top bar of the home screen, so you’ll know when it’s time to check in.
Google Sky Map is simply delightful, and something I wish had been available a long time ago. Considering the great performance of the Maps application, Sky Map quickly pinpoints the planets, stars and constellations that should be in view at any given moment. You can search for specific objects in the sky as well, which is great for budding astronomers.
One of my favorite features of the Incredible is the 8 megapixel camera, which is absolutely phenomenal. This is the first smartphone camera I’ve come across that could honestly replace my standalone digital camera for everyday use. Of course this isn’t a digital SLR, but unless you are a professional photographer, you’re unlikely to need anything more than the Incredible’s camera/camcorder for all but the most extraordinary events.
In daylight, I was able to get great shots, of course, and I didn’t see too many exposure problems, even when taking shots of things that were in partial shade and partial sunlight. The camera is fast too, with a minimal delay between pressing the optical joystick and capturing the photo. As you can see from the photo of the speeding car, there is some blurring, but I got the shot. The zoom feature is surprisingly capable as well, and much better than what I typically experience with cell phone cameras.
The dual flash works extremely well; the photo of Sackboy hanging out on my bookshelf was taken in a pitch black room. Unlike my Sony Cybershot, the Incredible’s camera doesn’t have a low light composition aid (a red light that dimly illuminates the scene). Much like the viewfinder problem mentioned above when using the Incredible in direct sunlight. you may have to take a few shots and use the preview function to make sure that everything is properly composed.
It seems that the battery life on the Incredible is very good. I succeeded in running it down the first day I had the device, but then again I used it extensively all day long, synchronizing my calendar and contacts, checking email, browsing the Web, and downloading almost 20 applications from the Android Market.
After my initial setup, I was able to get four days of use (mainly taking photos, penning email, doing some Web browsing, playing a few rounds of Sudoku and making voice calls) from the Incredible before the battery meter turned yellow, warning me that it was time to recharge.