HTC Droid Incredible 2 Review

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$199

Pros: Larger 4-inch screen; Intuitive and useful Sense interface; Good camera with 720p HD video capture; Faster 3G speeds than iPhone 4; Relatively long battery life; Excellent noise canceling

Cons: No 4G; No pre-installed video chat software

Verdict: The Droid Incredible 2's larger screen, faster performance, and HD video camera make it the best 3G Android phone for Verizon Wireless.

Last summer HTC introduced a real winner in the Droid Incredible for Verizon Wireless. That Android device had it all: the latest Android OS, blazing performance, and a slick interface, all in a svelte package. Just in time for the summer blockbuster season, here comes the sequel. With the Droid Incredible 2 ($199 on contract) you get a larger 4-inch display, a faster processor, and sharper HD video recording. Also updated is the legendary Sense software experience. Are these improvements enough to hold off the competition?

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Design

Those familiar with the original HTC Droid Incredible for Verizon will find plenty of similarities here. The Incredible 2 features a similar flat, rectangular shape and plastic ebony styling, minus the red highlights. Like its predecessor, the Droid Incredible 2 sports a black facade that is dominated by the touchscreen. Below the display are the typical Android capacitive buttons for Back, Home, Menu, and Search indicated by backlit symbols. A slim earpiece grate sits above the screen. Gone is the old Incredible's optical joystick.

On the Incredible 2's top edge sit a standard headphone jack (left) and tiny power button (right). Veteran Droid Incredible owners will notice that these two buttons have swapped places, making the power button easier to activate right-handed. A thin volume rocker runs along the left edge of the phone next to the microUSB port.

The Droid Incredible 2 also bears the signature raised hump on its back battery cover, a unique design element that sets this handset apart. This time around it's toned down, with fewer ridges and funky layers. The back also houses a single speaker and an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash.

This phone doesn't have a flashy red paint job under the battery cover like the first Droid Incredible; instead, a smoky translucent skin with circuitry peeks through. A microSD card slot, with a 16GB card included, can be accessed without touching the battery. Since this is a world phone, the Incredible 2 features a SIM card slot beneath the battery.

Measuring 4.8 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches, the Droid Incredible 2 is slightly wider than its forebear but has about the same thickness. Tipping the scales at 4.8 ounces, the phone is a tad more hefty that the original Incredible (4.6 ounces) but relatively light compared to bruisers such as the HTC Thunderbolt (6.2 ounces). This adds up to a pocket-friendly handset that's easy to grip, thanks to the rubberized back side.

Display, Keyboard, Audio

One big difference with the new HTC Droid Incredible 2 is its 4-inch super LCD display (800 x 480). While it's larger than the Droid Incredible's 3.7-inch screen, it has the same resolution. What's more, first runs of the original Droid Incredible shipped with an AMOLED display, which offers higher contrast, better viewing angles, and deeper color saturation. That said, the Incredible 2's screen looks brighter, with whiter whites in web page borders. We also had no trouble viewing it outdoors. Neither Incredible screen, however, offer the sharpness provided by the Apple iPhone 4's retina display (3.5-inches, 960 x 640 pixels).

The Incredible 2 comes with the standard virtual keyboard provided by HTC's Sense UI. It offers an easy-to-use layout, even if the keys are not spaced as far apart as the stock Android keyboard. We like that arrow keys line the keyboard's right side, and that you can long-press certain keys to quickly access commonly used symbols.

Audio

HTC included SRS Sound Enhancer software on the Incredible 2 to improve audio quality. You can access this feature through the Music app by hitting its associated icon in the upper right side of the screen. It definitely added bass to our test track, "Same Dream China" by Gold Panda, but it tended to muddle the high end as well.

Interface

Many Android users swear by HTC's Sense interface, a software skin that sits on top of the Droid Incredible 2's Android 2.2 (Froyo) operating system. It allows for seven customizable home screens, which you can swipe through one at a time or see all at once with a pinch gesture.

By default, the iconic HTC clock widget occupies the main home screen and displays the time and current weather conditions based on the phone's current location, along with slick full-screen animations when the handset is revived from sleep. At any time, pulling a finger down from the top of the screen opens the Android notification shade. A nice HTC addition here provides info about recently opened programs and applications as well as the typical system alerts. Another twist is that on the bottom of the vertically scrolling app tray is a slider bar, which lets you view apps by category: Downloaded, Frequently Used, and those pre-loaded by Verizon Wireless.

On the bottom of the Incredible 2's home screen are tabs for opening the application tray, phone dialer, and a Personalize menu. Within Personalize, you'll find a deep set of options to customize the look of the phone. These include HTC skins, Verizon themes, audio and widget selections, and wallpapers.

Another HTC Sense hallmark is tight integration with social media accounts within its address book. Once you're signed into services such as Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter, the Incredible 2 automatically pulls data in and aggregates it intelligently.

Specs and Performance

Like the original Incredible, the HTC Droid Incredible 2 uses a 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. This time around you don't get dual-core power, but the updated MSM8655 chipset and the bump up from 512MB or 768MB of RAM add more oomph.

These improvements resulted in zippy performance. We cruised though menus and home screens, and opened apps with little to no lag. The HTC Droid Incredible 2 notched a very fast Linpack score of 37.6, nearly three times the current smartphone average. It was also enough to beat the dual-core Tegra 2 powered T-Mobile G2x (34.9) and is almost 6 times higher that of the original Droid Incredible's showing of 6.6. The Droid Incredible 2 even outpaced the HTC Thunderbolt (27.5) on this test.

On the Benchmark CPU, however, the Droid Incredible 2's single-core processor managed 1,153, less than half of the T-Mobile G2x's result of 2,422, proving two cores are indeed better than one. Despite having the same CPU and RAM as the Incredible 2, the HTC Thunderbolt garnered a higher score of 2,103. The old Droid Incredible mustered just 674.4.

The Droid Incredible 2's An3DBench score of 5,995 is slightly above average for Android phones, but was trounced by the Tegra-equipped T-Mobile G2x (11,074). Even so, the HTC Thunderbolt managed a comparable result of 6,290, while last year's Droid Incredible model came in at a lower 4,526.

3G Data Speeds and Web

Connected to Verizon's EV-DO Rev A cellular network, the HTC Droid Incredible 2 is strictly a 3G handset. Using test locations both in the heart of Manhattan and in the outer borough of Queens, we confirmed the phone's modest data speeds. The device pulled down data at an average rate of 1.8 Mbps, while uploads managed an average of 960 Kbps. When we tested the Droid Incredible 2 side by side with the iPhone 4 in New Jersey, the former phone delivered faster downloads (805 vs 635 Kbps) and uploads (953 vs 535 Kbps).

The Droid Incredible 2 also delivered faster web page downloads than the iPhone 4. Mobile versions of CNN, ESPN, and NYTimes.com loaded in an average of 9 seconds, versus 11 for Apple's device.

To share its 3G web access, the Droid Incredible 2 can serve as a hotspot for up to five separate Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Thankfully, Verizon included a dedicated 3G Mobile Hotspot app, so you don't have to dig around in the settings. The service costs $20 per month for 2GB of data.

Battery Life

Power users will certainly appreciate the HTC Droid Incredible 2's staying power. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via 3G), the handset ran for a long 6 hours and 49 minutes. That's well above the current average of 5:24 and beats the HTC Thunderbolt's short showing of 4:57 in 3G mode (3:56 on 4G). Still, the Verizon iPhone 4 outlasted both phones with a runtime of 7:27.

Apps and Media

Besides access to the more than 100,000 applications in the Android Market, the Droid Incredible 2 provides a good selection of pre-loaded apps. Android staples are here with HTC's particular spin: Mail handles a plethora of e-mail accounts including Gmail, Messages takes care of SMS texting, web mail, and corporate Microsoft Exchange. There's also Music, Videos, and YouTube to enjoy multimedia.

Third-party offerings include the Amazon Kindle app for reading eBooks, Skype mobile for voice chats, the Slacker music app, and Quickoffice for managing office documents. A few game demos are here as well, such as Let's Golf 2 and Need for Speed Shift. Verizon Wireless throws in some of its own applications, most notably its V Cast video, music, and ringtone stores. What seems like a Blockbuster app for digital rentals and purchases is actually just a placeholder for an upcoming application.

Camera and Camcorder

Like the Incredible before it, the Incredible 2 boasts a high-resolution 8-MP camera. Accompanying the camera are two flashes, a nice feature when shooting in dark environs. In our test shots at a nearby park, colors were vibrant and details sharp despite overcast skies. Violets flowers and red tulips popped, while grass was convincingly green. Indoors and under low light, images without the flash exhibited some noise. The dual-flash array certainly improved things, firing in staggered succession to mitigate blown-out areas when close to subjects.

The Incredible 2 also comes with a host of special features, such as face detection, autofocus, custom ISO, and self-timer. There are nifty effects here too such as Black and White, Depth of Field, Distortion, Negative, Vintage, just Sepia, just to list a few.

The Incredible 2 shoots video at a max resolution of 720p (1280 x 720), which is higher than the Incredible (720 x 480) but not as high as the T-Mobile G2x (both 1080p). Even so, we found movie quality to be very pleasing, with crisp colors and fine details. Still, an image stabilization function would have been useful to reduce camera shake.

The phone also features a front-facing 1.3-MP camera for video chats. However, you'll only want to conduct them over Wi-Fi, as the Incredible 2 lacks 4G.

Call Quality

We're glad that HTC included noise-canceling on the Droid Incredible 2, a feature the original lacked. On our test calls, people on the other end said our voice sounded rich, loud, and clear despite calling from a busy New York City street corner filled with the din of midtown traffic. People we spoke to were also easy to hear, though volume through the phone's earpiece wasn't terribly loud even at the maximum.

Verdict

Between its improved speed and call quality, sharper video camera, and larger display, the Droid Incredible 2 is a top-notch sequel. While the Thunderbolt for Verizon Wireless offers much faster 4G speeds, this HTC phone lasts longer on a charge and is more pocket-friendly. Plus, the Incredible 2 offers faster 3G speeds than the iPhone 4. While many will still prefer the iPhone 4 because of its sharper display and higher-quality app selection, those looking for a svelte but well-rounded Android device will really like the Incredible 2.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Carrier Verizon
Form Factor Candybar Touchscreen
Operating System Android 2.2
Networks Globally enabled CDMA 800/1900MHz + UMTS/HSPA 900/2100MHz + GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz
Data EV-DO Rev. A
Data EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA
CPU 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon
RAM 768MB
Internal Memory
Memory Expansion Type microSD Card
Display (main) 4-inch super LCD WVGA capacitive touch screen
Display (secondary)
GPS Yes
Bluetooth Type Bluetooth 2.1 EDR with A2DP
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
FM Radio Yes
Camera Resolution 8 MP
Audio formats supported AMR-NB
Audio formats supported WMA
Audio formats supported AAC+
Audio formats supported WAV
Audio formats supported AAC
Audio formats supported OGG
Audio formats supported MP3
Audio formats supported MIDI
Audio formats supported eAAC+
Video formats supported WMV
Video formats supported MPEG-4
Video formats supported H.264
Video formats supported H.263
Photo formats supported GIF87a
Photo formats supported GIF
Photo formats supported WBMP
Photo formats supported PNG
Photo formats supported JPEG
Photo formats supported GIF89a
Talk / Standby Time Up to 390 minutes talk/up to 361 hours standby
Size 4.8 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches
Weight 4.8 ounces
SAR Rating (Head)
SAR Rating (Body)
Company Website http://www.htc.com