Incredible!

Matt Aho

I had the chance to spend this past week using an HTC Droid Incredible, and I have to say, I am impressed. I don’t have a smartphone of my own, but I have had some past experience with the iPhone and Droid Eris. This is one of the first phones that I think is truly comparable to the iPhone.

Weighing 4.59 oz and with dimensions of 4.63 x 2.3 x 0.47 inches, it is a relatively small and light device. It feels much smaller than the Droid, largely because of its reduced weight and thinness. From the front it looks very sleek, with no raised buttons of any sort. The entire face is made of glass with the exception of an optical joystick (more on this later) and a small red mesh grille for the speaker. The back of the phone, however, is a bit wonky. The plastic cover is oddly shaped, apparently to fit snugly over the components inside leaving no empty interior space. It looks a little weird but isn’t really much of a problem. The camera lens, however, sticks out about 1mm further, making the Incredible somewhat unstable on a flat surface and making the lens more susceptible to scratches.

The Incredible uses HTC’s Sense UI, meaning it includes some graphical enhancements, largely to make its Android operating system a bit prettier, but also adding some functionality. The most noticeable feature is that Sense gives the home screen seven pages. This is nice for filling up with widgets (such as weather, email, and toggle switches for various settings), something currently not possible on the iPhone. The Incredible uses Android 2.1 and has a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. I found it to be noticeably faster than the Eris, which sometimes lags and can seem unresponsive at times. According to the memory settings in the phone, it apparently comes equipped with 748 MB of RAM. Other sources claim it only has 512 MB. It still seems like a hefty amount of memory for a phone (We live in the future!).

The multi-touch screen is very responsive and nice to use. Equally impressive is the visual quality of the screen. The Incredible uses an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen which is very bright with vibrant colors, much nicer than the Eris’ LCD. Its resolution is 480 x 800, a bit less than the Droid. The camera can take photos up to 8 megapixels and even has the ability to use a flash, with the embedded LEDs next to the camera lens. The overall quality of the photos is pretty nice, especially for a phone. The phone also features an "optical joystick," which is basically just a flat circle of plastic that optically senses movement. It is used in place of the trackball on other Android phones. I find it pretty useless, and it also doesn’t work quite as well as a ball, but if someone really wants to use it, it doesn’t much hurt having it there. It is nice in that it keeps the flat form factor on the front and makes it less likely to accidentally click the joystick.

I noticed that most applications I downloaded from the Android Marketplace did not take advantage of the phone’s multi-touch capabilities, which was disappointing. (Such as a piano app which couldn’t play chords) Android does seem to have a very robust collection of available apps, however, many of which are duplicates of popular iPhone apps. And Android continues to grow in popularity, so expect the available apps to become even more diverse.

One thing that many find notable is that this phone comes with a version of Flash. I found that for all the controversy around Apple’s continued resistance toward accepting Flash, they might be right (at least for now). It doesn’t work very nicely and noticeably slows the phone down. As far as I can tell, it can’t actually play videos. You can view videos on the Youtube website, but this seems to use some sort of actual video codec to play it, not Flash. (And I’m not referring to the pre-installed Youtube app.) So there goes basically one half of the usage of Flash. The other half is games and interactive websites. The version of Flash on the Incredible could usually render flash objects, but as I mentioned earlier, it tends to greatly slow down the phone. If any part of the interface requires rollover states, you have to use the optical joystick to select it, but for some reason the only way to "click" on something in Flash is by tapping the screen. This, combined with the Incredible’s (obvious) lack of a keyboard makes most Flash games impossible to play. On the other hand, it can be nice to be able to render some websites that otherwise would be unavailable, even though it entails greatly reduced capabilities.

Voice quality seemed average; I didn’t get many chances to scientifically test it out. Overall, I am very satisfied with this phone. I have been considering getting a smartphone for a while now, and when I heard about the Incredible, I expected it to be just what I wanted. I wasn’t let down. There are a few idiosyncrasies with the hardware, but this phone is definitely in my shortlist.