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.

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