The New HTC Droid is Incredible

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Yes, the new HTC Droid Incredible is no exaggeration. It’s a keeper as it naturally cuddles in the cup of your hand, insinuating itself like a heat-seeking puppy looking for a new master. I have fallen hopelessly in love with it under its enchanting spell. I guess I have to say it was love at first sight. Frankly, I’m not surprised that Droid is now outselling the iPhone. Why would I be swayed so compellingly? What about after the honeymoon?

HTC

Preliminary Attractive Features

Its appearance is sleek, with a shiny black case thinner than the iPhone and a larger screen. It measures 4.63 x 2.3 x.47 inches and weighs 4.59 ounces. Under the hood, it has a powerful GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and a 3D chip for amazing gaming experiences on a 3.7-inch AMOLED 480 x 800 screen. The 8 MP autofocus camera with dual-LED flash is another huge plus. While I was surprised that it only has 8 MB of onboard memory, it also has a micro SD slot that can handle up to a 32 MB card for a total of 40 MB storage capacity. There is 748 MB of ROM. At the bottom of the screen, there is an optical joystick. This phone is the product of a three-way marriage with Google, HTC, and Verizon, each making a solid contribution to bring a superior product to market.

New HTC Droid

Google contributes its mobile apps in enhanced form and the Android 2.1 operating system. One of my favorite Google/Android innovations is Google Voice search, which works remarkably well, and is a major convenience that obviates typing. HTC contributes its manufacturing expertise and the Sense user interface that allows pinch/zoom with an amazing Web browsing experience.

When viewing Web pages at any zoom level, the text wraps and conforms to the screen size so that no sideways browsing is required–what a pleasure. If you’re a social network junkie, there’s Friend Stream that conflates Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr into a single screen as if they were one program with a range of views possible.

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There are seven home screens where you can store widgets and apps for easy access. HTCs Sense allows you to pinch the screen to display miniature cards of all seven screens. Then tap on the one you want. HTC has loaded several worthwhile widgets, and so has Google. Verizon offers arguably the best mobile network with the widest, most trouble-free coverage.

Kicking the Tires

Taking a walk around this beauty reveals an economy of external features. On the top is a power/phone options button. Next to that is a standard 3.5 mm earplug jack. The right side is unencumbered with pesky buttons to push inadvertently, which may make your machine go wild when you don’t want it to. The same is true for the bottom, except for a small microphone hole and a slot for removing the back cover. On the left side are a volume rocker switch and a micro USB port for charging and syncing. The back has a free form like the three-tier battery cover—the dual-LED flash to the right flanks the upper left corner’s camera lens. There is a small opening for the speaker.

Flipping off the battery cover reveals a shocking red interior with a red battery to match. You have to remove the battery cover to gain access to the micro SD storage slot, which is a bit of a bother. I have already mentioned that large screen with its magnificent, bright resolution. There is a charging light at the top of the screen. Below the screen is four useful hardware buttons. There is a Home button, a Menu button, a Back button, and a Search button from left to right. Double-tapping the home button invokes the Sense seven-card screen mode. A quick tap brings up a Google text search screen. Tapping and holding activate Google voice search, which is a Godsend as far as I’m concerned.

It was a big deal to say a phone had Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and, more recently, GPS. However, that’s pretty much taken for granted, and I’m happy to report that the Incredible has all of the above.

Regarding GPS, Incredible users will benefit from an enhanced version of Google Maps for navigation and positioning in many applications. The navigation system is a turn-by-turn voice-driven app with satellite and photo views. The rerouting is the fastest I’ve ever seen, and it is usually spot-on with up-to-date data and traffic notifications.droid

Some excellent geocaching apps are also available that remove all the old struggles from the process. It’s truly a pleasure to geocache with this device.

What’s in the Box?

The Triumvirate cannot be accused of not sparing any expense, for the box was pretty bare-bones with a quick start guide, an AC charger, and a USB cable that works on the wall outlet and in a USB computer port. You can transfer files and charge the unit when connected to a computer. There was no carrying case to protect this jewel, and there wasn’t even a micro SD card. It might have been a nice gesture to include at least a 2 MB card. Many applications will only install to a storage card, which could render the unit less functional until you can obtain a card. So, no extra points there. Software Included The Incredible comes with a variety of useful applications already installed. Here is a partial list:

Calculator, Calendar, Call History, Camcorder, Camera, Car Panel, City ID, Facebook, FM Radio, Force Close, Friend Stream (did not work-caused forced close), Internet, Mail, Maps, Market, Messages, Music, PDF Viewer, Peep, People, Phone, Photos, Quickoffice, Search People, Settings, Setup, Talk, Text to Speech, Voice, Voice Dialer, Voice Mail, Voice Recorder, Voice Search Weather, and YouTube. There are a variety of widgets offered by both HTC and Android. With lots more available.

The Android platform cannot compete yet with the depth and range of applications offered in the iTunes Store, which I think is approaching around 200,000 now. Android has been extant quickly; it has already accumulated about 40,000 apps available in its store and elsewhere. Many are free, and the fee-based apps are relatively inexpensive; many are in the one-dollar area, making them highly affordable.

Unlike Apple, Google, at this point, doesn’t seem to be interested in controlling everything. For instance, there is no music in the Google Market, and users are on their own to acquire and install pieces. The music player has a nice interface that flips album covers and delivers a satisfactory listening experience.

I appreciate the installed YouTube app, which saves going to the Web first. I also enjoy the installed FM radio app. Of course, there are many other radio apps available in the market. There are some TV apps as well with limited programming. I’m waiting for SlingMedia to make an app available for the Droid. Then I can tune into the programs recorded on my DVR at home, watch live satellite TV, and control my home TV remotely from my Droid. I tried the Orb app but could never get it to work.

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It seems strange that there is no built-in file explorer, so you cannot find files stored on the storage card or in the the main memory. You have to find a third-party app for this; some are less than satisfactory.

The QuickOffice app is only for viewing files. You cannot create or edit files with this program, and there is no app that I could find available in the market. This severely limits the device’s functionality as a powerful productivity tool for road warriors. I happen to know that a third-party app is available for Android that allows creating and editing Office files, but apparently, it’s not available yet for the Incredible. I hope it will be soon.

As a side note for those concerned with productivity, It is possible to connect a portable Bluetooth keyboard to the Incredible for efficiency in putting on the road, which is a huge plus. But that doesn’t do much good without the ability to create and edit documents. At this point, I suggest using Google Docs as a partial solution.

Peripherals

As this device is so new, there is not much available for it yet in accessories. However, it is easy to make do with cases, headphones, earplugs, and other stuff repurposed for the Incredible. I found it surprising that there were no earbuds in the box. I wish there were a set with a mic for use when driving or just for pleasurable listening. You’ll have to find your collection.

A brief comparison to the iPhone

I suppose somehow the iPhone has become the measuring stick by which phones can be compared these days, which I find amusing because the iPhone lacks so many desirable features. Anyway, here are a few quick comparables for those into comparison shopping.

• Battery Life
– Capacity: iPhone 1219 mAh; Incredible 1300 mAh
– Talk time: iPhone 300 hours of standby; Incredible 149 hours

• Camera
– iPhone 3 mpx with autofocus but no flash or manual controls, 640 x 480 video.
– Incredible eight amps with dual-LED flash, manual adjustment controls, 800 x 400 video (same resolution as a screen)

• Carrier
– iPhone AT&T-many complaints about speed and coverage; this may change with 4G
– Verizon is arguably a more dependable system with greater coverage and economical subscription plans.

• Display
– iPhone 3.5 inch screen with 480 x 320 LCD- Incredible 3.7-inch screen with 480 x 800 resolution on an OLED display is much brighter than the iPhone display.

• Memory
– Up to 32 GB built-in; no expansion slot
– 8 GB built-in with up to 32 GB expansion slot for a total of 40 GB

• Processor
– iPhone 600 MHz
– Incredible 1 GHz

• Software
– 185 applications in the iTunes store
– 40 applications in Google Market

And the winner is the Incredible, which beats iPhone in every category but software and battery life. So, unless battery life and software are key issues for you, the Incredible is the better choice.

Spec List

• 1 GHz Snapdragon processor
Google Android 2.1 with HTC Sense 2.5
• 3.7-inch WVGA OLED touchscreen display
• QWERTY Virtual keyboard
• 8GB internal memory and microSD card slot (up to 32 GB)
• 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and adjustable controls
• Video up to 480×800
• 312 minutes of talk time / 149 hours of standby
• Dimensions: 4.63 x 2.3 x 0.47 inches and 4.59 ounces
• Push Gmail and Exchange
• Speakerphone
• Advanced Speech recognition
• GPS/e911
• TTY compatible
• Hearing aid compatibility=M4/T3
• Bluetooth with stereo capability
• Wi-FI 802.11b/g/n$199.99 with 2 year contract3.5mm headphone jack
• Accelerometer512MB ROM / 512MB RAM
• Dual-band EV-DO Rev. A
• HTML browser with Flash Lite 4.0

Pricing

The full retail price of the Incredible is $529.99. I would expect an unlocked unit for that price, but that’s a moot point. You must acquire it from Verizon with a contract and connectivity plan. A two-year warranty is $299.99 with a $100 discount online for $199.99. If you buy the Incredible, you can select another free phone requiring a two-year contract. There are several plans available that seem to start at $39.99 per month. Unlimited text/data/talk is $89.99 per month. But I guess that’s still cheaper than the iPhone.

After the Honeymoon

After the rush of love at first sight with time to get comfortable and settle in, there are some quirks I’ve discovered and a wish list I’ve developed for the Incredible. I noticed that the battery life is not very satisfactory. In my experience, the battery wears down very rapidly. After two hours of the phone conversation, it needs recharging. The storm drains quickly if you leave Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or GPS running. You’d better have a charger or extra battery handy if you want to do geocaching, Bluetooth communication, or connections by Wi-Fi. When using the unit for navigation in the car, I have to keep it connected to the charger or go dead quickly. At least it’s possible to change batteries, unlike the iPhone.

I found it frustrating that the beautiful screen so brilliantly rendered inside all but disappeared and turned into a black hole outside in the sunlight–so much for working at the beach and in my garden. I wish that the Incredible would have cards for each open application, like the Palm Pre Plus, so you can easily flick back and forth to re-invoke the app of your choice. A workable alternative might be a screen devoted to open apps for easy access.

I was surprised that no built-in file explorer program exists to view and manipulate files and move them around between the main memory and storage card. There is third-party software, but it only seems to address the storage card. Developers?  Of course, I’m upset about not creating and editing my Office documents on this device. I hope that will be remedied in short order, for it is a serious shortcoming that could cause me not to purchase this phone.

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Another problem is that no unrooted application will take screenshots, so you are not treated to them in this article. Come on, developers. Here’s a need.

It would have been nice for the sponsors to include at least a small micro SD card to get you started for the price. Including a set of earbuds with a mic would also have been nice. Would a case to protect your investment also be too much to ask?

Conclusion

While there are some growing pains as the platform and devices mature, to be sure, there are lots to like with the HTC Droid Incredible. It is the Droid of Droids, simply the best available now. In many respects, it is also superior to the iPhone with an 8 MPX ca,mera with dual-LED flash and manual controls, more storage, a larger screen with twice the resolution, a replaceable battery, and a larger, more powerful processor. You cannot go wrong with this incredible device that lives up to its name.