I'm very proud of companies like ASUS and HTC. These aren't your tradtional consumer electronics companies. They have their roots in the OEM business, working hard but for very little recognition. These Taiwanese companies have been desperately trying to bridge the gap to the mainstream consumer market over the past few years and honestly, they've done a great job thus far. Just earlier this year we saw HTC build Google's first branded smartphone: the Nexus One. A clear shot at the iPhone, the Nexus One was well built and only fell behind in software issues. It lacked the polish that Apple was able to provide with the iPhone. Rather than depend on Google to fix that, here we are a few months later and HTC has a solution.

It's called the Droid Incredible and it's available through Verizon ($199 subsidized with a 2-year contract). Similar in size and features to the Nexus One (not surprising, the two share the same base platform), the Incredible was a strong enough competitor to make Google cancel plans for a Verizon Nexus One. This isn't just a cosmetic thing though. The Incredible has real hardware and software advantages over the Nexus One. HTC has even fixed some of my issues with the Android platform.

In the box you get the phone, a USB cable and a charger. There's no included micro SD card and no case, both of which Google gives you with the Nexus One.

It's clear at first sight the pecking order in HTC's eyes. While the Nexus One was very much a Google phone, down to requiring a Gmail account before you could even use your phone, the Incredible is much more agnostic. A large HTC logo followed by a smaller with Google brand on the bottom, a bit bigger than the Verizon on the front but still not terribly prevalent:

HTC doesn't want to be another Taiwanese OEM house, it wants to be an ASUS, a Palm or an Apple. It wants brand recognition and to get there, it needs good hardware, as well as software differentiation. While the Incredible runs Android 2.1 just like the Nexus One, it features HTC's custom software on top of Android called Sense. HTC Sense is a collection of OS customizations, tweaks and even apps/widgets that are shipped by default on the phone. Google fully embraces this sort of UI flexibility making it very much the Windows Mobile of today rather than something iPhone-eqsue.

The basics of Android are still the same (read my Nexus One review for that), you get multiple home screens and a separate listing of all apps on the phone, but Sense makes the default setup closer to perfection in my mind. It’s all much more polished. HTC/Verizon ship a number of preconfigured Scenes which define what widgets/icons are present on your home screens by default. The Nexus One by comparison comes with more of a blank slate. Both phones can get to the same end point, but the Incredible just ships a bit more complete from the start.

I found that the default Sense scene was pretty well done to begin with. You have a home screen for emails, one for Twitter and one to enable/disable things like WiFi or Bluetooth. The predefined scenes are self explanatory (e.g. the work scene puts more emphasis on the calendar, email and stocks), or you can always change things around and save your own custom scene.

HTC offers its own Exposé clone with Sense. If you want to quickly see what’s on all of your home screens just press the optical joystick and you’ll zoom out to see all seven screens at once. Tap on any one to select it.

The modifications aren’t exclusive to UI, individual applications are different from your standard Android install. The Mail app has a threaded message view where all of your exchanges with a single contact are grouped together. There’s still no way to delete multiple emails at once, no way to copy/paste from an email and no way to search through emails stored on an IMAP server other than Gmail. Imperfect much?

The email widget is a great way of quickly reading through emails. Swipe up to view your next message, swipe down to view the previous one. Again there's no quick way to delete from this view, you have to tap the delete button and hit OK. The Twitter widget gives you similarly quick access to what's going on. The idea is to make your home screens function as intended from the start rather than relying on the user to configure them. HTC did a great job here.

You can group contacts together and send SMSes or emails to an entire group rather than having to manually fill out a To: field with multiple names:

The Calendar and Camera apps are nicer and in general I don’t believe any of the HTC modifications do any harm to Android. In fact, I’d say that HTC’s added polish is a real benefit. It makes me wonder why Google doesn’t do some of this on its own.

HTC's Head in the Clouds
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  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - link

    "I’d say that HTC’s added polish is a real benefit. It makes me wonder why Google doesn’t do some of this on its own."

    Google fails in this way with almost everything they put their hands to. I like their stuff, really, I do. But Google sometimes seems to have a major case of ADD --every product would be awesome, if it had a bit more polish, or additional support, or some bugs fixed, or a feature people have been asking for for xx amount of time.

    We have Google Apps for Domains where I work. The problem is, half of Google's neat software toys for GMail and individual users won't work the moment you have your own custom domain --GMail Notifier is a good example, as are some other apps. Or, you have to figure out ways to make them work that aren't well-documented. By the time I'm done, I want to pull my hair out. Don't even get me started on how Chrome is --it's a great browser that was designed with absolutely no regard for use in the enterprise.

    Other than their search engine, Google Maps, and perhaps Google Earth, so many things seem like something an excited kid started working on, got halfway there, and then walked away from to start something else. I wish they could concentrate on getting what they have going --there are some 65-85% projects that would just be insanely cool if they were ever fully baked.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - link

    As you didn't mention it, not sure you are aware, but there is no 3G voice in Verizon. Voice and test messages are always carried over the 1x network, while other data uses 3G. Thought this might be relevant to your battery life tests. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - link

    test messages should be text messages, of course Reply
  • Jaybus - Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - link

    One thing to note on battery life is that these phones are multitasking. The iPhone 3GS may have a better task management interface, I don't know. But the Droids come without one, more or less, so that's not saying much. If you didn't kill all the unneeded tasks on the HTC, then who knows what it was running during your battery tests. Was the camera active? The lack of a decent task manager is a glaring omission on the Droids, but there are good task management apps available as free downloads. In any case, the battery tests should be performed with only the necessary apps running (on both iPhone and HTC). Reply
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - link

    While I would like to comment on the other features of this phone, the one thing that absolutely burns me up is this fake LED "flash," crap.

    True “flash:” Xe (true) flash provides ~400 times the light output, better light distribution, much longer range, color temperatures match closer to natural sunlight, and much sharper image capture… The only problem with Xe is simply that, it “flashes,” and thus it’s not continuous like an LED, which hinders low-light videos, esp with these tiny+crappy lens provided in most phones. There needs to be a combo of both; each of which serves a dedicated purpose much better than the other. Xe gobbles power if it’s continuous, LEDs; not so much. I’m not going to spend this much on a phone, while it still comes with antiquated technological features, in which people put to use just as much, if not more than they talk on the dang things.

    People use these phones as daily replacements for point-&-shoot, dedicated digi-cams... so this issue is NOT some tiny "inconvenience" as it seems. If the camera/video SUCKS, it's a big deal as many people have actually replaced their P&S cams with their phones for everyday use or don't really use their P&Ss very much at all vs their phone.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - link

    A real flash is also rather thick compared to the little LEDs used in these phones. I wouldn't be surprised if the flash assembly in the average P&S is as thick as the Incredible. So I imagine someday someone will make a phone that can really compete with decent P&S cameras, and for all I know Nokia does now (not available on Verizon so I really don't care) but the Incredible's image quality isn't nearly a match for even an average P&S so I don't think the lack of a real flash is exactly a deal-breaker for most. Reply
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - link

    PRIVACY: These new “smarter,” aka modernized PPCs are going to be the DOOM of us all. Everyone seems to think all these scannable pic/bar-code/GPS features are so “convenient,” UNTIL future legislation comes about allowing misc corp + govt agencies to directly link to your phone and read/view everything you’re doing. They’ll use it to track you (how did Apple find the guy, so fast, that had the alleged “stolen” aka lost, 4G Iphone? Apple actually sent “AGENTS” to his dorm, then the police magically raided Chen’s house soon afterwards) and soon tax you based on where you are. Etc…
    __I want to see more in-depth reporting about the major privacy issues that these (and esp future) phones present. What about LSO/DOM “super cookies,” and *.sol (FLASH based) files that hold tons of data (1-100K!) about where you’ve been browsing etc? What about sites tracking you with these phones etc. I mean, since they are basically pocket-PCs, who knows wtf “they” are doing with all this data you are voluntarily (in ignorance) revealing to them? These phones are inadvertently creating active profiles of any and all users that use them. Don’t you think that all of this immensely private data would be extremely valuable to private corps/govt? Data-miners, marketing, advertising, police and law enforcement agencies, the NSA, the government at a large would LOVE to know where you are, what you’re doing, with who you are with etc. All of this tracking data is extra-ordinarily valuable to said agencies and many more.
    __These days tracking and profiling large groups of consumers is worth millions of dollars to corps/private groups as it provides near exact future estimations about how populations move, when and where they go, why they go, what motivates them etc. If you can accurately and consistently (there are super computers that are designed to PREDICT all of this with enough input data) predict all of the above (and more) you can essentially design products, marketing and advertising schemes around this data, to then constantly feed and predict what the general (or smaller sub-groups) consumer populous will do in and if certain situations arise…. The MILITARY is very, very, very interested in this kind of data, as it directly applies to wartime strategy.

    People please take this stuff very seriously, the “internet” is the “wild-west,” and as we know, there’s many a predator and parasite out there waiting for you to feed them with your info and “profile.” Do you really think these groups wouldn’t attempt to subvert or pay off politicians/controllers of industry for said data? It’s happened before in the past and it’s happening right now as we speak. Hell the FBI can turn your phone into a GPS/audio/video BUGGING device, even if your phone is turned “off,” but the battery is still in. Who says they aren’t doing it now with out legal consent; A La the NSA ILLEGAL, warrantless wire-tapping scandal (which is STILL active today).
    __Yeah-yeah I know, “well if you’re not doing anything ‘wrong,’ then what do you have to hide…” That’s presumed GUILT of action(s)… this is supposedly a “free” nation, but in reality who’s “free,” if unknown entities can track and trace your every move, on-demand, with-out notice/warrant? This is nothing more than a silent version of "Papiere, Bitte" (translation: "Papers, Please”), minus an authority asking you; these phones just GIVE them your “papers,” with out fuss…

    How about this scenario: Law enforcement mistakenly taps your phone, b/c you and some alleged “terrorist,” have the same name and thus you’re on some “list,” that you don’t even know about. Since you’re now on this “list,” “they” can DOWNLOAD ALL of your pictures, files and info from your phone, courtesy of the Patriot Act-I and II. HAHA yep, they can take everything that’s considered “private” to you, view/listen/read it, and then determine if you’re a “treat.” If you’re not, *shrug* so be it, they ignore you, BUT someone else now is in possession of YOUR pictures/identity/”profile.” Do you trust “them” to honestly delete said info after the secret investigation is complete? I don’t, and I don’t want people having the ability to do so with out presenting ME with a legal warrant etc.

    Anand please take this issue seriously, as it uncovers very serious privacy concerns, much more so than what’s on your home computer… Haven’t any of you ever found a lost cel-phone and taken a look inside; of course some of you have, and you know that someone’s phone can provide you so much more info about this person and their likes, dislikes; it’s like a txt/video, mini-dairy of their behavior/associations with their peers etc. Very unnerving to say the least… Be smart folks before you jump on the band-wagon.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - link

    Tin foil is on aisle 3.

    Seriously though, this type of thing is a concern in any internet activity if that's your thing. If the gov't is going to allow access to phones, the same could be said for landline ISPs. If you are really concerned, don't use these services.
    Reply
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - link

    Tin foil LMFAO dude you're in pure ignorance to say the least... GOOGLE it then if you don't seem to follow the NEWS reports of this happening to people daily. Damn I love how the ignorant among the populous loves to chime in, when in reality you don't know crap about history nor of the misdeeds of this and other governments/law enforcement around the globe.

    The only person that's crazy or UNINFORMED is you buddy... You've already made a fool out of yourself; GOOGLE THE info I've posted, then please report back so we can see just how much you are out of touch with.

    How about Operation Northwoods? The Gulf of Tonkin? The Tuskegee project? The sinking of the Lusitania?... Oh SHIT guess what; ALL of these are DECLASSIFIED government operations designed to DEFRAUD the public for financial and political gain... YOU are the ignorant FOOL as these are FACTS and indisputable lmao. Damn the mass public is so stupid and brainwashed lol... But we know what history has in store for deniers of reality like you; naked, starving and soon to be dumped in a mass grave lol... Enjoy the dirt, dunce...

    Here take a read and educate yourself boy-flounder:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10451518-38.html

    http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/declassified/archiv...

    Laugh now genius.
    Reply
  • rpmurray - Monday, May 17, 2010 - link

    "how did Apple find the guy, so fast"

    Because one of his roommates called the Police and told them where he was and what he had. But wait a minute, maybe the roommate is a mole planted by the CIA to keep tabs on the guy! Yeah, that's the ticket.
    Reply

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