Verizon’s Droid Incredible Lives Up To It’s Name, And Then Some

The marketer in me slightly bristles when I see an aspirational product name like the Droid Incredible by HTC that Verizon released a couple weeks ago. So when the folks at Verizon offered to let me try the Android-powered phone for a week recently, I jumped at the chance. As a newly converted Android user I was interested to see how Android 2.1 worked in comparison to my 1.5 powered Motorola CLIQ XT. I also wanted to check out what twice the processor and memory would do to the Android experience.

In short, the Droid Incredible is a fantastic phone that more than lives up to it’s name. Let me compare and contrast what I found using it side by side with my current Android phone.

First, the Droid Incredible feels very solid in the hand with styling that makes the handset distinctive to it’s cousin, the Google Nexus One. The large AMOLED screen is bright and looks fantastic indoors and is acceptable on overcast days while on the go but is almost unreadable in direct sunlight without turning up the brightness significantly. In a side by side comparison with my CLIQ XT, the normal LCD display on the CLIQ was much more readable in direct sunlight. But for most people this will not be a big deal as we tend to mostly use our phones indoors.

There are two issues I’ve found with Android; battery life and OS stability. Neither of these issues presented themselves when using the Droid Incredible. In fact, I never had to kill a process to prevent sluggish performance or to keep the phone from crashing. More surprising was the battery life which was at least 50% better than what I’m used to but with no savings measures in place. I think I might have gotten 2 full days of pretty heavy use if I did any power management but since I’m used to plugging in my phone at night I never got around to stress testing the battery. On my CLIQ XT, I have to aggressively kill background processes and use 2G edge networking to get a full day on a charge. But the speed and fluidity of Android on the Droid Incredible is what will be the main thing most users will notice.

Both the Droid Incredible and the CLIQ XT have enhanced user interfaces. The Droid Incredible comes with HTC Sense while the CLIQ features MOTOBLUR. Hands down the Droid Incredible is better in design and utility over the social network heavy Moto interface. Together with Android 2.1, the Droid Incredible shows that Android can meet — and in some cases exceed — the iPhone 3GS. The Sense UI makes the Droid Incredible much more polished than stock Android with expanded home screens and a ton of widgets for displaying all communications and social network data. To be fair, MOTOBLUR does a pretty good job displaying the same items on your home screens but at a cost of battery life and sluggish performance. In my week with the Droid Incredible I filled all seven home screens up and never noticed any performance issues or problems with battery life. This alone makes the current iPhone OS seem somewhat dated and will attract many mainstream customers to the Droid Incredible.

But what makes the Droid Incredible live up to it’s name is the stunning 8 megapixel camera. Still shots look as good as many pocket digital cameras and the video quality will encourage you to leave your Flip camera at home most of the time. While not HD, the videos look great and are very usable for YouTube and similar applications. Although the Ustream Broadcaster app was not compatible during my testing, Qik worked fine and was used to cover parts of this years Comcast Cares Day. To support these activities, HTC has included 8 GB of on-board storage along with micro-SD capabilities of up to 32 GB. Having 40 GB of space on your phone opens up a lot of possibilities for the content creator.

Verizon’s 3G networking was faster and more reliable than T-Mobile’s network. Where I live about 25 miles south of Minneapolis the T-Mobile 3G coverage starts to get spotty. I never saw the Droid Incredible drop out of 3G and in speed tests it was always noticeably faster than T-Mobile whether it was in suburban locations and when in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul. Wifi is also available and worked as expected but I spent most of my time working with just 3G networking active.

So is the Droid Incredible the phone of my dreams? Yes. Will I have one in my pocket everyday? No. But it’s not due to the quality of this phone. If it was on T-Mobile and I could port into my existing family plan, I’d be all over it. If I wasn’t already on contract I’d very much consider the move to Verizon, family plan and all. Yes, the phone is that good. But I will be content to sit with my first generation Android phone and see what develops as the Droid Incredible demonstrates how great the Android experience can be.

If you are not encumbered by existing contracts and are looking for a new phone, Amazon has the Droid Incredible for an astonishing $149 for new or existing Verizon customers. Considering my recent upgrade cost $99 for what I consider a mature Android phone this is a steal for the state of the art that raises the bar for Apple to shoot for on the next iPhone refresh.

10 Days With Android

A week ago last Saturday I walked into a T-Mobile store in Orange, CA and walked out with my first Android phone, a Samsung Behold II. I had been thinking about making the move from my aging, but still quite usable, T-Mobile Dash for a while and it was a blog post about a trade-in offer for the Behold II that got me in the door. But after just a few days with the Behold II, I was ready to go back the the Dash or exchange for another Android phone. Why? No upgrade path and something called TouchWiz.

I spent some time with both the Samsung Behold II, the Motorola CLIQ and CLIQ XT before I made my choice. All these phones run Android 1.5 and sport the same processor as the venerable G1 but can be had for $100 or less on contract. When I picked up the Behold II it was $150 but the $75 smartphone trade-in made this what I thought was a pretty good deal. The phone felt good in the hand and the OLED screen was bright and very readable. For some reason, however, Samsung has skinned this phone with the same user interface as their feature phones. This TouchWiz interface is supposed to make things easier but for me it only made things more frustrating (and reminded me of the layers you sometimes have to dig with Windows Mobile 6.x). But the thing that had me returning the phone on day five was a show-stopper: no OS update.

I’m not sure if Samsung has made a definitive statement but it looks like the Behold II will be stuck on Android 1.5 for the duration which was enough for me. There were other issues besides TouchWiz. Battery life was terrible. The GPS only locked onto satellites outside and never in a building. The amount of available space for apps didn’t seem enough for what I wanted to install. So last week I returned that phone and exchanged it for a Motorola CLIQ XT.

The main selling point of the CLIQ XT, other than price at just $99 on contract, is the optimization of hardware and software. And it doesn’t stop with stock Android or their MOTOBLUR home screens. Unlike the Behold II with a pretty lame keyboard addition and little else, the CLIQ XT has some pretty compelling software included. QuickOffice is a welcome addition and saved me $10 but they have also included everything a social media connected person needs. Their social media client, Happenings, connects you with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and more right from the home screen. And MOTOBLUR live updates all these services without going into any app. But the Swype keyboard is the most compelling addition here making this phone usable for more than just short text entry.

But all this has a downside as the battery life, without quite a bit of tweaking, is pretty bad. So I’ve turned nearly all of MOTOBLUR off to save battery, along with 3G, wifi and GPS when I’m in the house. Right now I get about 10 hours of runtime; I think I might be able to get something close to 20 hours with more optimization.

Android itself is very usable but still not nearly as polished as the iPhone OS. Yes, this is only Android 1.5 so I’m hoping many of these issues will be taken care of in the forthcoming 2.1 update. But the bottom line for me is that Android is a lot better than Windows Mobile 6.x so I’m glad I made the move. More to come after further use.

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Why Wineries Might Want To Look At Their SEO

Earlier this week Google released a new service on their Android mobile phone platform that immediately got my attention. Called, Google Goggles, the service works with the phone’s camera to search the product or location for more information. One of their use cases was wine (pictured here) where the user takes a picture of the bottle which starts a Google search for the item.

Most wineries have some level of search engine optimization (SEO) now but when this rolls out to more smartphones (like the iPhone) being the first or second link returned turns from nice to have to critical. I’m sure the folks at Google will have a way for you to pay for the first link but having this in the organic results will become more important, too.

A blog is a great way to build up your web SEO if you create compelling content on a regular basis. Having a Twitter presence also helps in the SEO department. More on this once I pick up my Google Phone in January.

Posted via email from The Social Winery

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G1: Openness Takes On Cool

Earlier this week Google and T-Moblie announced the first phone to run Google’s new Android OS, the G1 (a.k.a. HTC Dream). What I find most interesting about this device is the totally open source approach Google and, for their part, T-Mobile have taken with the G1. In stark contrast to the closed system of Apple’s iPhone, the G1 and Android platform will be an technology to watch in 2009.

But it’s not yet clear if Android will become the Chumby of smartphones or an open source alternative to iPhone. There are quite a few good signs that it might be the latter as the G1 seems to be a solid product. In addition to the on-screen keyboard they provide a slide out hardware keyboard. This was one of my own problems with the iPhone (along with price, which has recently been addressed). And since the G1 is on my current mobile carrier, upgrading is much less of a hassle than moving to the Apple/AT&T world.

So I’m going to keep watching this space and see what develops in coming months. My T-Moblie subsidy runs out next May, so we should have our answer by then. And I do believe openness can overtake cool if enough developers embrace Android. Let’s hope they do.