incredible

HTC Droid Incredible thoughts, 3 weeks in

I’ve had my HTC Incredible for 3 weeks now. I don’t have the time to write a whole review, but here are the things that stand out to me after having gotten to know the device:

  • HTC Sense UI is nothing short of amazing. It’s elegant and easy to use, yet quite powerful and well integrated into the OS. I feel like I wanted an Android phone despite its more complex UI, but totally lucked out with Sense. It really is an experience of its own. It can work well uncustomized out of the box, be extended with tons of useful widgets, or even have entire “scenes” of saved layouts to switch functional contexts as the user does. (Weekend scene with no work stuff? Travel scene with useful widgets for being on the go? Yes, please!) Really, this phone is so much more than a generic OEM device running Android. A great overview of Sense UI on the older HTC Hero is here, if you can tolerate the marketing-speak.
    • (I do wish Sense were integrated a little better with Gmail and Google Voice; I only get Sense UI for non-Google SMS and email.)
  • The battery life, in a word, is atrocious. A second/extended battery is pretty much mandatory for long periods away from the charging cable.
  • There are still some rough edges: the soft menu buttons’ LEDs seem to flash randomly, and I’ve had some hard crash reboots as I did with the Motorola Droid.
  • The integrated camera is good, and has a *ton* of good settings onboard, and good autofocus, tap-to-focus, and the optical trackball makes a good shutter button. I find myself using this camera a lot more than my old phones because it’s enjoyable to use. (The color balance is too blue, though, and its 2 LED flashes aren’t adjustable and make me look like some kind of pale ghost.)
  • While the device feels solid in construction, it is still plastic. I feel like since 2008, consumers’ increased cost sensitivity kind of killed the kind of uncompromising design ethic that yielded the 2007 aluminum iPhone. I’m eagerly awaiting a good case for the Incredible from OtterBox as a compromise for the plastic housing.

So there’s the stuff that still matters to me after 3 weeks. Overall, I am extremely happy with the Incredible, even though it keeps me tethered to a charging cable for much of the day.

HTC Droid Incredible first impressions

My HTC Incredible came in the mail today from Verizon. After ripping the package open like a kid on Christmas, I ran into the good and bad of the device very quickly. I don’t have time to do a full writeup on the Incredible right now, but here are my impressions from the first few hours:

(for some perspective, I have been on an original iPhone for two and a half years, and I tested the Motorola Droid for a month after its release before deciding it wasn’t for me.)

Pro

  • HTC’s Sense UI is nothing short of amazing. I wasn’t surprised to see Android have a clunky default UI, seeing as Google is such an engineering-centric company, but HTC really put a lot of thought into streamlining the whole user experience. Sense has a much better keyboard and autocorrection system, which has me typing at almost the speed I type on my iPhone, on which I’ve had two and a half years’ practice. Also, the UI is fully multi-touch, and does so very well.
  • Performance wise, this phone screams. Nothing seems to choke it up.
  • I’m still getting used to the “optical trackball” at the bottom of the phone. I want to use it like an inertial scroll, similar to a finger swipe on the screen. It’s a pain to try and scroll with just the nub of my thumb, but once I swipe the whole length of my finger across the trackpad, it becomes a lot more useful.
  • Speaker quality is very good for both the earpiece and the speakerphone.
  • So far I am impressed with the quality of the camera and its dual-LED flash. The autofocus works very well. I’m disturbed that my phone captures images at 8 megapixels while my high-end point-and-shoot has six.
  • Complaints about the Incredible’s quality of materials are highly exaggerated. I prefer metal phones myself, but this hardware is very solid and have no doubts that it’ll last me through a 2-year contract. (I couldn’t say the same about the Motorola Droid, which had a loosely seated headphone jack and battery cover that was constantly falling off.) The soft touch plastic back feels great, and its unique angular design on the back is a lot more subdued than it looks in pictures- once you feel how thin the device is, it’s a lot less of a problem.
  • Likewise with the display- people say AMOLED displays like those on the Incredible and Nexus One are terrible in sunlight. Yes, it is not very good, but it only becomes a serious problem with the sun beating straight down on it from overhead. (Want a display that deserves a bad rap? Try a Palm IIIc.)
  • Verizon sent a free 2GB microSD card in the box that wasn’t advertised in the pre-order contents. My guess is that this is Verizon’s quick fix for existing compatibility issues for apps that don’t recognize the device’s 8GB of internal flash memory, which is a first for an Android device. Yes, it’s small, but it’s free and unexpected. My bet is that these phones will start coming with microSD cards preinstalled.

Con

  • The display is quite good, but doesn’t blow me away quite like the Motorola Droid did.
  • Cell reception is noticeably worse than that of the Motorola Droid. I haven’t tested this enough to know if it’s a serious issue or not.
  • The Incredible comes loaded with HTC’s version of Flash Light, which works with some stuff and doesn’t work with other stuff. It’s an imperfect solution, and becoming irrelevant as Apple forces the web towards HTML5, but Android 2.2 will have full-powered Flash anyways.
  • The USB port on the device plugs in on the bottom left side in portrait orientation- right where you want your left palm to rest while typing with both thumbs in portrait orientation. You can mangle your fingers around it in an effort to avoid it, but basically you’re going to want to use this puppy in landscape mode all the time while charging.
  • There are without a doubt some growing pains for a brand new device launching just today on Verizon. My data connection didn’t work at first, and Verizon’s technical rep told me it was likely a problem with HTC and Verizon’s initial network setup for this phone. They got it working for me eventually. (The problem was server-end.) Also, some things that could be fixed in a firmware update include an oversensitive ambient light sensor – it seems to make tiny adjustments when lighting conditions barely change – and navigation button LEDs that occasionally turn off when they shouldn’t.
  • Motorola preloaded a lot more interesting ringtones on the Droid than HTC did on this phone. That’s a matter of taste, but I found myself rushing to make my own ringtone ASAP on this thing.

So basically, this phone addresses almost all of the concerns that kept me from keeping the Motorola Droid. Sense UI is a joy to use, performance is increased, and the build quality seems much more solid to me (albeit not metal). I feel like I’m much more likely to choose to keep this and move my contract over to Verizon. The only holdout I have in my mind as of now is the quality of cell reception, which I’ll have to test some more outside of my signal-killing brick house.