What's probably most incredible about the Droid Incredible 4G LTE is that someone is still making Android phones for people without giant hands. Yes, you can actually use this new Verizon Wireless device without performing finger gymnastics. More good news: The Incredible 4G LTE ($149) packs a zippy 8-megapixel camera and Beats audio--all inside a design that's not only compact, but also has a bit of attitude. Still, given that you can snag the big bad Galaxy S III for just $50 more, how well can this Droid punch above its weight class?
The Droid Incredible 4G LTE's design isn't just refreshingly pocket-friendly. It's fun. The black back of the phone has a soft-touch cover with a funky raised asymmetrical pattern. Inside this shape, you'll find lots of little ridges that make the handset easy to grip. This is not a phone that's going to slip out of your hands (see picture below). The back cover is also removable. You can add a microSD card without replacing the battery and the battery itself is replaceable.
Weighing 4.7 ounces and measuring 4.8 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches, the new Incredible is significantly shorter and narrower than the Galaxy S III (5.4 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches), but it actually weighs the same as Samsung's super phone and is significantly thicker. That's noteworthy because the S III has a much larger screen (4.8 vs. 4 inches). The HTC certainly feels chunkier in the hand, too, but this is mostly offset by the smaller footprint.
The right side of the Incredible 4G LTE houses a narrow volume control (too narrow for our tastes) but a nice and big power button up top along with the headphone jack. A microUSB port lines the left side. Beneath the display up front, you'll find three capacitive buttons that are easily legible in all lighting conditions: Back, Home and Recent apps.
Next to today's mammoth 4.7-inch and 4.8-inch screens, the 4-inch Incredible 4G LTE seems almost puny. This is not a high-def display either. All you get is 960 x 540 pixels, compared with 1280 x 720 (HD) for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S III. Touch accuracy was mostly good, but a few times we had trouble selecting smaller items.
Overall, the Incredible 4G LTE LCD offered crisp and colorful images. The high-quality trailer of "Skyfall" on YouTube delivered lots of detail; we could easily make out Daniel Craig's stubble as he was being interrogated. This screen is also bright enough to handle direct sunlight. It registered 414 lux on our light meter, compared to just 210 lux for the Galaxy S III and 340 lux for the Galaxy Nexus.
However, the Super LCD 2 screens on HTC's One X and EVO 4G LTE and the AMOLED panel on the One S offer wider viewing angles. The Incredible's display looked a bit cloudy when viewing it off axis. This effect was more pronounced when using the Incredible as a GPS navigator in a car.
The small speaker on the back of the Incredible 4G LTE pumps out plenty of volume, nearly enough to fill a small room. We had no trouble hearing the pleasant female voice for Google Maps Navigation as we rode down a bumpy stretch of the Garden State Parkway.
When you plug in a set of headphones, Beats Audio technology kicks in, which is designed to deliver richer audio for music, movies and games. With the setting engaged Coldplay's "Paradise" got a volume and bass boost. Depending on the track, Beats can overpower the instrumentals, but you can easily toggle the setting off in the notification shade area.
At first, typing on the Droid Incredible felt somewhat cramped because of the relatively narrow screen, but our thumbs quickly adjusted. You can always peck out those messages in landscape mode, but we found that just slowed us down. The letters are nice and large in both modes and the haptic feedback felt reassuring. HTC includes its usual array of long-press shortcuts for numbers and symbols and its handy Swype-like Trace option for entering words by drawing lines between letters.
Software and Interface
HTC's Sense 4.0 software rides on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich for the Droid Incredible 4G LTE, which emphasizes ease of use. For instance, HTC displays the words Forward, Delete, Reply all and Reply when you open an email message instead of potentially confusing icons.
HTC also takes a different approach to multitasking than Google and Samsung. When you press the Recent Apps button, you'll see a big 3D carousel of open applications instead of a stacked vertical list of smaller thumbnails. Just swipe up to close an app.
As with other HTC phones, the Droid Incredible 4G LTE offers lock screen shortcuts to Phone, Mail, Messages and Camera. Just drag the icon into the circle to launch the app. To change these shortcuts, you need to drag them off the lower bar once you unlock the phone and replace them with other icons.
HTC also includes themed Scenes to quickly change out the background and widgets. The Social Scene, for example, displays your friends' Facebook and Twitter updates beneath the time on the main home screen. The default Scene is Verizon, with its Droid-esque black-and-red background and robotic eye.
We wish the Incredible 4G LTE let you toggle the wireless radios from the notification area like the Galaxy S III, but HTC does provide shortcuts for GPS, Bluetooth, changing the Profile (silent, vibrate, etc.) and adjusting the brightness on one of the home screens.
Powered by a 1.2-GHz Qualcomm MSM8960 processor and 1GB of RAM, the Droid Incredible 4G LTE proved swift in everyday use. We quickly switched between applications, and the camera routinely started in just a little over a second. We didn't notice much in the way of lag, except when trying to enter the Settings menu from the notification share and loading HTC's own mail program.
This Incredible had no trouble rendering the lush visuals in the included demo of "Let's Golf! 3" game. The fly-overs were nice and smooth.
In terms of benchmark performance, the Incredible 4G LTE phone notched above-average scores in most tests but falls well short of category leaders. The Incredible registered 2,998 on the CPU portion of the Benchmark app, compared with 2,616 for the Android average. However, the faster 1.5-GHz chip inside the Galaxy S III (4,786) and HTC One X (4,885) scored much higher. The Droid RAZR Maxx (3,398) and Galaxy Nexus (3,219) also beat the Incredible.
The Incredible 4G LTE narrowed the gap in graphics performance, scoring 7,111 on An3DBench. That's slightly above the category average (7,060) and not too far behind the Galaxy S III (7,272) and on a par with the One X (7,111).
In Quadrant, which measures CPU, graphics and I/O performance, the Incredible soundly beat the category average (4,105 vs. 2,584). Once again, though, this HTC handset couldn't keep up with the Galaxy S III (5,159) and One X (4,901). The Incredible did outpace the Galaxy Nexus (1,963), though.
The Incredible 4G LTE comes with 8GB of internal memory, which you can expand via the microSD Card slot.
4G and Data Performance
The Droid Incredible 4G LTE taps into Verizon's growing network, which now covers more than 304 markets in the U.S. How widespread is the coverage now? We registered a blazing download speed in Central New Jersey of 33 Mbps and uploads as high as 16.26 Mbps. In New York City and New Jersey, we averaged 16 Mbps down and 5.5 Mbps up, both impressive.
Sites also loaded quickly. The mobile versions of NYTimes.com, ESPN and CNN all popped up in less than 6 seconds, and the full NYTimes.com site (ads and all) loaded in a brisk 11.9 seconds.
While the default browser performed well, we'd suggest downloading an alternative. The tabs are two taps away, and you can't access the notification shade from the browser. Chrome is much better.
Camera and Camcorder
The 8-MP camera inside the Incredible 4G LTE lacks the dedicated ImageChip that enables burst shooting for the One X, One S and EVO 4G LTE. But that doesn't mean this shooter is a slowpoke. The shutter fired almost instantaneously during our tests. You can also capture stills while shooting video.
A shot of flowers burst with color and remained sharp even when we zoomed in. We could also make out intricate carvings on a stone pot without any fuzziness. Indoors, a shot of several figurines looked a bit drab. While the Incredible 4G LTE struggled with shadows outdoors, engaging HDR mode helped.
HTC includes multiple other scene modes: Panorama, Portrait, Landscape, Whiteboard, Close up and Low light.
The 1080p footage we shot of New York City traffic looked crisp, and yellow cabs really popped in the sun. We could even make out the license plates on cars when we paused the action.
The Incredible's front-facing camera produced a clear image over Google Talk when we conducted a video call. The other caller said he saw only minor pixilation. Audio was clear but somewhat low on our end of the line.
HTC bundles a few helpful apps that Google's OS lacks, including a Tasks app and Notes, which includes audio recording and syncs with both your calendar and Evernote. You'll also find a Movie Editor (which comes in handy for quick trims) and a Music app that aggregates HTC's music player as well as third-party apps like TuneIn Radio, Amazon MP3 and Slacker. It's a nice little hub, but we're not sure why Google's Music app isn't integrated.
For entertainment, HTC bundles its Watch app for downloading premium movies and TV shows. Most newer flicks cost $14.99 to buy and $3.99 to rent. HTC's weather app is as gorgeous as ever, but the Weather Channel app provides more detail.
Verizon takes up a tab on the bottom of the app screen, which makes it easy to access all of the options it bundles. Fun games such as "Let's Golf! 3 HD" and "Real Racing 2" come along for the ride, but they're huge 400MB-plus downloads for just demo versions. You'll have to pay to unlock the full versions.
Other Verizon apps include the awesome NFL Mobile, which lets you keep tabs on your favorite teams and players and streams live games. There's also a Mobile Hotspot app, Verizon Video, VZ Navigator (don't bother, Google nav is free) and Slingbox (who still uses that?).
Call Quality and Battery Life
As a voice phone, the Incredible 4G LTE delivered solid results on Verizon's network. During a test call to a landline, the other caller came through clearly, with only minimal clipping. We just wish the volume through the earpiece were louder.
For a 4G LTE phone, the Incredible's 1700mAH battery offers decent endurance. The phone lasted 5 hours and 32 minutes in the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing at 40 percent brightness. This runtime beats the lowly Galaxy Nexus (3:40) but is behind the Galaxy S III for AT&T (6:28) and way behind the Droid RAZR Maxx's epic 8:25.
There's nothing about the Droid Incredible 4G LTE that really wows, but it's a good choice for Android fans looking for a phone that's around the same size as the iPhone 4S. This compact design has some flair and HTC backs up these good looks with a bright screen, fast data speeds and a camera that's quick on the draw. However, the screen's viewing angles are somewhat narrow and the design is thicker than HTC's more premium One Series phones.
The Incredible's $149 price tag puts this phone on the same level of the Galaxy Nexus, which will be upgraded to Android Jelly Bean soon and sports a larger and sharper (but dimmer) 4.7-inch HD display. HTC's phone lasts longer on a charge, though, and is more one-hand friendly. Verizon's Galaxy S III costs only $50 more, which includes a huge 4.8-inch screen and is full of delightful and surprising innovations. The Incredible 4G LTE is certainly worth buying, but you might want to wait for the price to drop.