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29 mai 2010 6 29 /05 /mai /2010 08:35

On the paper, the Droid Incredible doesn't look that much different from its cousin, the Google Nexus One. In fact, they do have a lot in common, even if the Droid Incredible is obviously slightly more advanced (see table) and also runs on what many call "the best cellular network in the U.S": Verizon. The Droid Incredible also comes with HTC Sense, a series fine-tuned Android OS additions that make the phone more usable. Wireless carriers aside, most people ask me: "should I get the Incredible or the Nexus One?". My definitive answer is: The HTC Incredbile. In this review, I'll tell you how I have used it and why I think that it is better than the Nexus One. Ready  (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ battery)?

Context: We all use our phones differently, so it's important that I tell you where I come from: I have been using the Droid Incredible for a couple of weeks as my main phone. I typically check my email often with Exchange, and I reply moderately because the virtual keyboard is not as productive as a physical one. I browse the web several times a day to check on news sites, but I rarely watch movies or play music. I don't call much - maybe 10mn a day. This usage pattern will affect battery life and the perception of what features are useful (Sony VGP-BPS8 battery).

Technical Highlights

Droid Incredible

Google Nexus One

   

Android 2.1 + HTC Sense

Android 2.1

3.7" AMOLED 480x800

3.7" AMOLED 480x800

Qualcomm 8650 SnapDragon, 1Ghz

Qualcomm 8250 SnapDragon, 1Ghz

512MB RAM

512MB RAM

8GB of internal storage + microSD slot

4GB microSD card

8 Megapixel camera

5 Megapixel camera

Wifi b/g, BT 2.1+EDR, aGPS

Wifi b/g, BT 2.1+EDR, aGPS

FM Radio

No Radio

TV Out (microUSB)

No TV Out

Carrier: Verizon, 3G speeds

AT&T, T-Mobile

4.6 x 2.3 x 0.47", 4.6oz

4.7 x 2.4 x 0.5", 4.5oz

1300mAh battery

1400mAh battery

(Complete specs: follow the Verizon link after the conclusion)

There are a few notable differences with the Nexus One: The Droid Incredible has 8GB of internal memory (+ one MicroSD slot on the side), while the Nexus has only the MicroSD slot with a 4GB microSD card by default. Secondly, the Nexus One has a 5 Megapixel camera instead of the 8MP of the Incredible. The Incredible has a dual-LED flash, versus a the single-LED flash of the N1. The Nexus one has a slightly better battery (1400mAh), but you will see later that sheer battery capacity doesn't define battery (Sony VGP-BPL9 battery) life.

Physical Design (Very Good)

Body: the design of the Droid Incredible is slick by most people's standards, and I certainly like it myself. The backplate design might be more controversial, but while it is not my favorite backplate, I'm OK with it. I'll let you decide for yourself after looking at our photo gallery. The more important part is that the build quality is good, and the phone feels solid (Sony VGP-BPS9battery).

Display: The Droid Incredible's display is very similar to the Nexus One display (for good and bad). Both use AMOLED technology, and while the actual screen size may vary just a little, both provide the same feel and experience. It is narrower than the iPhone - not by a lot, but just enough to induce more typos when using the virtual keyboard, in my opinion. The colors seem more saturated than they should, but that's kind of how AMOLED is... I would certainly not use this an an example of color accuracy, but I like the high contrast, and how the colors "pop". The thing that I don't like with AMOLED display is how unreadable they get when it's bright outside. I guess that this is the downside of living in California, but this is probably the most annoying thing on this phone (Sony VGP-BPL11 battery).

Optical trackpad: I'm sure that I don't use the trackpad to its full potential, but it is honestly not very useful. I really need it only when I try to move the cursor within a word, and this does not happen very often. Just to give you a reference, I think that this trackpad is not as nice to use as the Blackberry Bold 9700trackpad (Sony VGP-BPS11 battery).

UI buttons: the four buttons at the bottom of the phones are much more sensitive than on the Nexus One, and I'm glad that HTC improved this aspect because the N1 was a little annoying for that. The quick search button will open a universal search that will scan you contacts, shortcuts, bookmarks and so on... it also gives you an option to extend the search to the web. For web searches, I have installed a Google Search widget (ACER Travelmate 2300 Battery).

Basics

Dial a number: Just like other Android phones, dialing a number on the Incredible is very easy. HTC Sense makes it even a little more convenient: for example, HTC made the dialer a little smaller so that you can see (and click!) the few last numbers called. Accessing the full list of contacts or favorites is also simple (ACER Aspire 3020 Battery).

Wireless reception: Overall, the Verizon network is the one that has the best reputation in the U.S, however you should remember that reception quality is mostly a matter of where YOU are. Do your homework, and ask your friend what their reception is. It might very well be that another carrier will have a cell tower nearby your home or office. I remember that a recent study has shown thatVerizon dropped less calls than AT&T  (ACER Aspire 3000 Battery). 

Audio quality: during calls, the sound is clear and loud (louder than my BB 9700), so I'm satisfied with this. It should be loud enough to hear distinctly in a busy restaurant (ASUS A3000 Battery).

 

Virtual Keyboard (Busy): HTC Sense provides a keyboard that is different from the original Android one. First of all, it as a comma key at the bottom and you can see what the alternate characters are (1,2,3... and special characters). If you press and hold a key, the alternate key will be used. By doing this, you don't have to switch to the alternate view of the keyboard. This could be a time saver, but the "hold" time is a little too long at about 2 seconds - it needs to be set to 1 second to really save time. I would like to have more control over the keyboard. I find this one to be too (visualy) busy for my taste (ASUS Eee PC 900 Battery).

Copy/Paste (works!): Most reviews don't mention this, but the Copy/Paste actually works very well on the Droid Incredible (yay!), including in non-editable zones, which is like... 97.66% of the time when you need a copy/paste. Copy/Paste works like it does with the iPhone: click and hold something and a set of delimiters will appear. Drag the delimiters to change the selection, then copy, and voila. Thank you HTC (ASUS Eee PC 1000HE Battery).

Web Browsing (Excellent): As it is the case with recent Android phones, the web browsing experience is excellent. Web browsing is fast, and the superb screen resolution makes the iPhone 3GS seem blurry. If you have a good sight, the extra resolution will let you see more text at once, therefore reducing the need to scroll and zoom - I love it (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ4000 Battery).

If you do need to zoom and scroll, HTC has added the most coveted pinch & zoom support, which was missing from most Android devices in the U.S, including the N1. Just like on the iPhone and the Pre, you can now zoom easily and intuitively. There's one difference though: this browser will reformat the text each time you zoom. While this makes text reading better, it also displaces web page elements in unexpected ways (Dell Inspiron 6000 battery).

 

Flash: Flash Lite is supported, but in practice, it didn't help me that much. The stuff that I really care about (Hulu, for example) did not work, but a few banner ads and games (too slow to play) did work... I think that we will need full Flash 10.1 support with great performance (I insist on this point) before the whole Flash thing starts to make a difference (Dell Inspiron 6400 battery).

Google docs: Google docs is still in read-only mode, which means that we're only half of the way there. Not that I would *like* to edit a spreadsheet from the small display with the small keyboard, but I would like to have the option of doing it (this is true for most Smartphones btw. The Nokia N900 does work with Google Docs). There's a big demand for the editing functions, so I thought that you should know (HP PAVILION DV2000 Battery).

Email / Accounts Sync

The email experience is pretty good, but I'll repeat myself (from a prior review) that this is nowhere near the level of productivity that a blackberry would reach. From getting to the top of the email list (press "t" in the BB), to initiating a reply (press "r") with a keyboard shortcut to finally typing the actual text, I would say that the Blackberry (9700) makes me twice as fast to answer emails. Also, the Blackberry has a custom dictionary that you can use to expand acronyms into full blocks of text. For example, if I type "addr" [then space], it expands to my full address - you can't beat that (HP PAVILION DV3000 Battery).

In my Nexus One review, I complained about the lack of email search. If you use the universal search (tap the search button at the bottom-right of the phone), you can search everything in the phone, including apps, shortcuts, contacts, and... emails. This is clearly much better than nothing, but I would have loved a Mail Search. Note that the GMail client has a search feature that works well. I'm talking about the Mail client for Exchange and POP/IMAP accounts here (POP and IMAP are supported by virtually all email providers) (HP PAVILION DV8000 Battery).

USB Sync: I happen to sync my email via the 3G connection, but many people would still like to sync with their computer Email with a USB cable. HTC has made it possible to sync contacts and the calendar sync over USB (kudos to them), but there's no Emai sync from Outlook or Outlook Express. I did not see any Mac support for contact sync (HP PAVILION DV6000 Battery).

Push-email: You can setup Android to deliver emails "as they arrive" to get true "push email". I tried with Exchange and GMail, but not with POP. This is great because you can engage in IM-like email thread (for better or worse), without "refreshing" the mailbox all the time (IBM ThinkPad T40 Battery).

Accounts Sync: You can add all kinds of accounts like Exchange, Facebook, Flickr, Google and Twitter and synchronize content on a regular basis. With Facebook for HTC Sense, you can't sync Facebook faster than once every hour unless you do it manually. I suspect that this is true for other services as well. Frequent manual refreshes could deplete de battery faster than you would want (IBM THINKPAD R50 Battery).

Computer Sync

Upon connecting with USB, the Droid Incredible will appear as a USB drive in your OS. Simultaneously, the phone will ask if you just want to charge (no data connection), Sync Contacts+Calendar (Windows only), Mount as a USB drive or share the phone's internet connection with the computer. This is pretty basic, but sufficient for most users. Under Windows, you can optionally import photos and videos the same way you would from a camera or a memory card - this is familiar territory. There's no iTunes equivalent to manage the phone - for better or worse. Personally, I really like the simplicity of the USB connectivity but sometimes it's easier to manage things from a computer because it's more comfy (SONY VGP-BPS2 Battery).

Tethering

Out of the box, the Droid Incredible has a tethering option that I was eager to try. Well, it didn't quite work "out of the box"... I installed HTC Sync and connected via a USB cable, chose the tethering option, after after which the computer tried to install the Modem drivers... and failed. A quick search revealed that others are experiencing the same issues. So I decided to try PDANet, a 3rd party solution that uses the USB Debug Mode to communicate data back and forth between the Droid and the computer. This seems like a workaround that would work with every carrier. Anyway, after installing following the PDANet and installing a client on my Win7 laptop, I was connected via the 3G connection. With 2/4 bars, the phone managed to get a 1.8Mbps/0.73Mbps connection, according to Speakeasy.net, that's not bad at all (TOSHIBA Pa3465u-1brs Battery).

Photo and Video

 Photos: images captured with the 8 Megapixel camera look good and rank surely among the best that we've seen in recent months, but the internal image processing software has been tuned to "sharpen" the images a little too much in my opinion. There's also visible noise and small details like leaves are sometimes blurred out by the image compression. In relatively good lighting conditions, the colors are quite natural, which is a plus - the Nexus One was not as skillful. Despite being a very good mobile phone camera, it won't surpass a pocket digicam - that was to be expected. In darker conditions, it's a bit more difficult, but there's a 2-LED flash (that works best from 1.5 yards away). Just take a look at our Droid Incredible photo & video samples on Flickr, they will speak for themselves (

 

 Video: I'm pretty happy with the video quality of this phone. The camcorder app can record videos at 800x480 (24fps, 2000kbps) and 640x480 (30fps). Lower resolutions like 320x240 are also supported, but unless you're running out storage, there's no point in using the small resolutions. 640x480 is my personal favorite as I prefer faster framerate over sheer resolution, but both work very well. I recommend avoiding fast panning motions because that might make the video a little choppy (Toshiba PA3399U-1BRS battery).

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