Two years ago, HTC really created a winner with the original Droid Incredible. Its name was bold, the phone’s performance fast, and it packed tons of features comparable to other smartphones. The company’s follow-up product, the Droid Incredible 2, was a decent device, but lacked the zing of 4G data when it debuted in 2011. Now, still another year later, HTC and Verizon Wireless have teamed up again to create the third sequel, the $149.99 HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE. While this fresh Incredible finally boasts 4G LTE and an adorably small design, it confirms that the franchise has fallen flat in many other ways.
If you’re a fan of HTC’s Droid Incredible series, the latest incarnation shouldn’t throw you any curves. Just like the Incredibles before it, the Droid Incredible 4G LTE is smaller than your average Android phone and sports a muscular, almost sci-fi aesthetic complete with Verizon red highlights.
Measuring 4.8 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.46 inch thick, the Droid Incredible 4G LTE has the footprint of its immediate predecessor, the Droid Incredible 2. At 4.66 ounces, though, the Incredible 4G LTE is a tenth of an ounce lighter.
Further in line with its futuristic feel, the phone’s back is textured with a raised trapezoidal hump sculpted in unsymmetrical edges. It’s a classic HTC design element carried over from the previous Droid Incredible 2 and original Droid Incredible. Frankly, I really dig it since it makes the device look like some sort of classified high-tech weaponry from perhaps an alternate universe.
Under the thin and funky battery cover is a 1,700mAh battery and microSD and 4G LTE SIM card slots. Thankfully, you can access these without touching the battery. Also on back is the phone’s 8-megapixel camera with LED flash.
Above the screen is a VGA front-facing camera and below are the usual Android navigation controls. The right side holds a thin volume rocker, and on the left sits a Micro-USB port. On the top edge of the phone is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a tiny power button.
Helping the Droid Incredible 4G LTE keep its profile down is its 4-inch Super LCD screen. Despite being larger than the iPhone 4S’ display (3.5 inchrd), it’s small compared with the screens on other Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S III (S3) (4.8 inches) and the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx (4.3 inches). Also, the Incredible’s qHD (960×540 pixels) resolution isn’t terribly sharp when compared with those on the iPhone 4S (960×640 pixels) and Galaxy S III (1,280×720 pixels).
On that note, while the Droid Razr Maxx technically has the same qHD resolution and therefore less pixel density, to my eyes its AMOLED display offers superior image quality. For example, colors were much more saturated, viewing angles deeper, and shadow details greater on the Maxx than on either the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE or HTC One X (4.7-inch Super LCD2, 1,280×720 pixels). Even so, I still had plenty of fun watching high-quality movie trailers such as Ridley Scott’s space horror flick “Prometheus” and other videos on the Droid Incredible 4G LTE.
As for text entry, the Incredible doesn’t offer many options, but thankfully it’s a good one. The default, and only, keyboard layout is the standard HTC Sense arrangement. Its keys are easy to hit, provide just a touch of haptic feedback, plus many double as often-used punctuation marks and numbers.
If you’re hoping for Google’s recently released Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS on the Incredible 4G LTE, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Yes, it makes a good effort by including Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which up until last week was the top of the Android line.
On top of Android HTC layered its Sense 4 user interface, which I’ve always enjoyed. As on the new HTC One X, HTC One S, and HTC One V handsets, this updated version of Sense is lighter, more responsive, and plain less in-your-face as Sense 3 was. Gone is the crazed perpetually spinning carousel of home screens and aggressively 3D weather graphics. You can, however, enjoy full-screen weather animations or set this as the Incredible’s live wallpaper if you’d like.
Instead of the usual five home screens, Sense features seven, which you can fill with apps and widgets to suit your tastes. By default, the main screen showcases HTC’s iconic weather clock widget, which has graced all its phones for years. Pinching the primary home screen or tapping the Home key pulls up a helicopter view of all seven home screens at once. This lets you jump between them directly as opposed to swiping left or right to land on the screen you want.
Features and software
Inside the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE you’ll find all the basic Android smartphone capabilities including a few advanced extras. There’s GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 (the freshest version supporting low-power accessories), Wi-Fi, plus a mobile hot-spot app to share the handset’s 4G LTE connection with other mobile devices. This privilege will cost you extra, though — about $20 on top of your data and voice plans.
Besides support for the staple Google services such as Gmail, Google Plus, Maps, and Navigation, HTC adds some software spice of its own. The company’s Watch video store hawks movies and TV shows to rent and purchase, while the Music app wraps up Google’s Play music storefront, Slacker Internet radio app, locally stored tracks, and Amazon Music in one location.
Additional apps on the device include a hefty selection of free and paid software and services such Amazon Kindle, Let’s Golf 3, Real Racing 2, Slacker Radio, and Slingbox. Verizon infused the Incredible with some of its bloatware, too, like My Verizon Mobile, NFL Mobile, V Cast Tones, Verizon Video, and VZ Navigator. The handset’s microSD card slot can accommodate cards up to 32GB.
From the moment I fired up the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE’s 8-megapixel camera, it was clear this is not a member of the company’s lauded One series smartphones. HTC’s One class handsets such as the One X, One S, and One V, all have special electronics designed to handle the demands of image processing.
The Incredible lacks such hardware, which HTC calls the HTC ImageChip. As a result, the Incredible can’t pull off the One line’s fancy Continuous Capture (burst mode) feature. Thanks to Ice Cream Sandwich, however, the phone lets you snap pictures while rolling the video camera.
The Incredible’s camera is nimble, capturing shots in under a second and its autofocus locking on just as fast. Still, compared with the One X, the Incredible’s imaging system felt more sluggish, a slight but definitely perceptible difference.
Still-life shots were clear and with rich if oversaturated colors. Under low light, some color noise became apparent and nabbing fast-moving subjects was difficult in these conditions. Things improved outside especially in bright sunlight and I was treated to eye-popping colors in flowers and trees. The Incredible’s backlit sensor was also able to pick out details that would have otherwise been lost in shadow.
Videos that I recorded were acceptable, but not of outstanding quality. Though the phone can capture 1080p HD resolution movies, details were soft and sometimes jerky even with the stabilization function engaged.
HTC bundles lots of features and settings with the Droid Incredible’s camera. Special scene modes include HDR, Panorama, and Lowlight just to list a few. There are also a host of slick filters to give your photos a classic feel such as vintage (warm and cold), country, negative, and posterize.
Another difference between the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE and HTC’s current superphones is its slower 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. The company’s One X and One S both feature faster 1.5GHz dual-core S4 chips. The Linpack benchmark highlighted the difference, with the Incredible notching 149.4 MFLOPs (multithread) on the test. The HTC One X by contrast achieved 179.6MFLOPs (multithread) running the same test.
Synthetic benchmarks aside, I felt no lag or dips in performance when navigating through the Droid Incredible 4G LTE’s menus, home screens, or when launching applications.
I tested the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE on Verizon’s CDMA/LTE network in New York. Similar to other handsets I’ve reviewed on the carrier, voice quality was very good with no discernible buzzing or audio artifacts. Callers said my voice sounded lifelike and free of static. To my ears, voices were rich and easy to understand, even if the phone’s earpiece doesn’t get very loud even at its highest setting.
One of the issues that plagued the first Droid Incredible was notoriously short battery life. This 4G LTE version is no endurance runner, either. In my anecdotal battery drain tests, the phone played an HD movie continuously for 6 hours and 56 minutes. That can’t hold a candle to the Samsung Galaxy S3’s long playback time of 9 hours and 24 minutes or the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx’s marathon 15 hours and 16 minutes. Still, the Incredible beat the HTC One X’s time of 6 hours and 35 minutes.
Connecting to Verizon’s 4G LTE network, I enjoyed fast data throughput on the Droid Incredible. Downloads averaged a blistering 14.6Mbps, while I measured average uploads speeds at 9.1Mbps.
The $149.99 HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE, despite suffering from an unfortunately long name, is a victim of circumstance. Priced lower than Verizon’s other more-compelling smartphones, namely the $299.99 Motorola Droid Razr Maxx and $199.99 Samsung Galaxy S3, it straddles the fence between low-end and cutting-edge Android devices. The problem is, though, that it doesn’t play the balancing game well, offering a decent amount of features for a price that should be lower. For just $50 more you could have the Galaxy S3 that offers a superb camera, better screen, and many more features. If you must have a phone to survive all day and then some, the Droid Razr Maxx is your pricey but unbeatable option.