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The HTC-made Droid Incredible 4G LTE landed on Verizon Wireless on July 5th . It is the third phone in the popular Incredible series of handsets and the first to run on Verizon’s 4G LTE network. The original Droid Incredible launched in April 2010, while the Incredible 2 debuted last year. This third and latest version is the best of the bunch — read on to find out why.
We were disappointed when the Incredible 2 launched with a single-core processor, a low-resolution screen and an otherwise disappointing set of specs. The Incredible 4G LTE takes the handset series up a notch by including a 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, a 4-inch SuperLCD display with 540 x 960 resolution, 8 GB internal storage, 1 GB RAM, GPS and a 1700 mAh Li-Ion battery.
Connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n with Wi-Fi Direct and a micro-USB connector that's used for charging and connecting accessories. The Incredible 4G LTE also includes an 8-megapixel camera with a backside-illuminated sensor, an f/2.2 lens, and an LED flash. Shooting options include HDR, panorama and 1080p HD video.
The Incredible 4G LTE is a hybrid that mixes some of the styling of the HTC Rezound with the Incredible 2. From the front, the Incredible 4G LTE looks a lot like the Incredible 2. It has the same design and even the same size display. The back of the phone, however, is inspired by the Rezound and has the same textured battery cover and Beats audio logo. Like earlier Incredible models, the charging port is still on the left side of the phone and both the power button and the headphone jack are on top. The volume rocker has changed sides and is now on the right hand side of the device. There is no dedicated camera button, but this is not surprising as none of the Droid Incredible handsets had one.
One design decision many may disagree with is the screen. Rather than following "the bigger, is better" footsteps of Samsung, HTC opted to keep things small with the Incredible 4G LTE. The handset has a 4-inch Super LCD display that's a fantastic improvement over the lower-resolution screen of the Incredible 2. The Incredible 4G LTE has a pixel density of 275 ppi and it shows in its crisp and colorful display. It's not as striking as the 4.8-inches of the Galaxy S III, but that's the trade-off you make for getting a phone that you can use with one hand and one that'll fit in your pocket.
The Incredible 4G LTE is powered by Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich with Sense 4. It's a new and improved version of Sense that is much more subtle than previous versions of the custom UI. It certainly isn't the stock Android that you see on the Galaxy Nexus, but it's not as bad as earlier versions of Sense which were heavily customized and overly-animated. The interface may be familiar to Android users as it is identical to HTC's current crop of devices like the One X and the One S.
Sense 4 has some new features that add value to the handset. It includes a new lock screen that you can use to display weather, incoming messages, email and more. You can also access the four apps on your main dock and open them quickly from the lock screen. Phone, messages, email and camera are placed there by default, but you can change them if you want. There are a few other tweaks for calling and typing that make using Sense 4 an enjoyable experience. You can easily start a call by using the phone's smart dial feature and, when you are talking, you can flip the phone over to activate the speakerphone. The keyboard also has a trace feature that mimics Swype.
On the downside, Verizon has loaded up the phone with a fair amount of bloatware including some game demos and Verizon-specific apps like My Verizon Mobile. There's also a dedicated "Verizon Apps" button at the bottom of the screen that's always present when you are browsing through the apps. It sits right next to the buttons for "All", "Frequent" and "Downloads". In my opinion, this Verizon Apps button takes up valuable space and I would love to see a customizable favorites app list there instead. While we are on the subject of wasteful UI features, there's also a persistent WiFi entry in the notifications list. You can't get rid of the notification, so you just have to learn to live with it.
The Incredible 4G LTE ships with its own browser that includes support for Adobe Flash. Similar to other flash-enabled browsers, Flash functionality requires you to download the Flash plug-in from the Google Play Store. Once it is installed, you can enjoy Flash animation and Flash video within the browser window.
Performance of the Incredible's browser was impressive. Web pages loaded quickly and scrolling was smooth and responsive. HTC also does a good job formatting the content to limit side to side scrolling. The one thing that detracted from the overall experience was the screen size. A 4-inch screen is just too small to do any serious browsing. It's fine for a quick search while on the go, but you won't be doing any long-form reading on the little screen.
Just because it's small, it doesn't mean that the Incredible 4G LTE is not powerful. The handset has a snappy dual-core processor that handled every video that I threw at it. Even streaming video worked flawlessly, primarily because of the handset's 4G LTE connection. Though the display is small, the video quality was crisp thanks to the high-resolution display.
Like the Rezound, the Incredible 4G LTE also has Beats audio which is a proprietary audio enhancer found on some HTC phones. I wasn't too impressed by its performance. It added a bit of bass to the music, which was great for dance and rap music; not so good for pop, country or classical. Most of the time, I preferred to leave Beats audio off.
The camera on the Incredible 4G LTE is good, but not great. It's an 8-megapixel shooter with a backside-illuminated sensor, an f/2.2 lens, and an LED flash. Like most Android phones, shooting options are plentiful and include face detection, auto smile capture, custom ISO, custom white balance and more. You can also choose from several scenes like HDR, panorama, portrait, landscape, close up, whiteboard and indoors. On the video side, the camera is capable of recording 1080p HD video.
As shown below, the interface is streamlined and easy to use. On the left hand side is a toggle that lets you switch the LED flash between auto, on and off. Directly underneath the flash setting is a button that'll display the camera's full settings menu. At the bottom left is a button that'll let you select one of the many scene modes. One the right hand side of the screen are two buttons that'll let you take a photo or start recording a video. I really like this design choice as it's very convenient to have both recording modes available immediately at the tip of your finger. At the top right is another button that lets you add effects like depth of field, monochrome and others to your photos. The bottom right is the preview area that lets you see a thumbnail of your last shot. A zoom slider in the middle rounds out the camera UI.
Picture quality was good, but it wasn't as good as the Galaxy S III or the iPhone 4S. Wider scenes where you are trying to capture everything in your field of view were easy to shoot and came out looking beautiful. Group photos and landscapes were my favorite photos to take using the Incredible's camera. As expected, images were crisp in bright sunlight and grainy in low light. There was also blur when capturing a subject that was moving. Both of these are common limitations seen in most camera-enabled smartphones.
Focusing was sometimes off, especially on macro shots, which produced images that had a crisp background and a blurred foreground. I noticed this when I was trying to photograph a flower. Even though I kept tap-focusing on the flower's petals, the focus repeatedly moved to the background leaves. It eventually did focus on the flower, but it was frustrating to have to tap ten or more times to get the focus correct.
In the end, most casual users will be happy with the camera phone on the Incredible 4G LTE. It has a variety of options and takes decent photos. Camera phone enthusiasts, however, may want to take a look at the Galaxy S III as an alternative.
The Incredible 4G LTE is the first handset in the Incredible series to feature 4G LTE data connectivity, As a result, the handset pulled down data consistently at 10-15Mbps and uploaded around 7-10Mbps. This is a huge jump from the 3G-enabled Incredible 2, which barely made it to 2Mbps up and 750kps down. Call quality was equally as good with no dropped calls in my testing. Both the earpiece and the speakerphone were loud and clear as well.
Like its predecessors, the Incredible 4G LTE has a removable battery that can be replaced as needed. Specs claim the 1700mAh cell delivers about 9.5 hours of talk time and over two weeks of standby, but in my usage of the phone, I didn't even come close to these estimates. I could go a day or two with minimal usage and about 14 hours with moderate to heavy usage. It was better than most 4G phones I've used and about on par with the iPhone 4 and other 3G phones.
The Incredible 4G LTE from Verizon is a solid offering, with a few caveats. The handset's performance was top-notch, and the build quality was very good, but it's a small phone with a comparatively small display, which will limit its appeal. With the Incredible 4G LTE, HTC is targeting those customers looking for a pocketable phone that you can use with one hand. It would also be a good phone for customers who have smaller hands and find the larger phones unwieldy.
If you are one of those aforementioned people, then I think you will be very happy with this latest offering from Verizon and HTC. With its high-resolution screen, LTE connectivity and dual-core processor, the Incredible 4G LTE is a solid performer and a nice jump from previous Incredible handsets. Customers looking for a bleeding-edge handset with lots of screen real estate, though, should pass on the Incredible 4G LTE and look at the Samsung Galaxy S III or the Galaxy Nexus, instead.