« on: May 18, 2010, 07:22:40 pm »
By Marisa Taylor
Monday, May 17, 2010
There's a two-foot-by-two-foot area near the foot of my bed that I call "the Bermuda triangle." It's the only spot in my entire Manhattan apartment where I get service on my iPhone 3G. And even there, the line is crackly and the call usually drops within five minutes.
It's frustrating that I pay $100 a month for my requisite AT&T (NYSE: T - News) wireless plan when my iPhone has essentially become a pricey iPod that I use to send text messages. And I'm not alone: Cities like New York and San Francisco are swarming with iPhone users who can't get a signal.
So I was intrigued by HTC's Droid Incredible, the newest smart phone on the block to utilize Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG - News) increasingly popular Android operating system and Verizon's (NYSE: VZ - News) more reliable wireless network.
The Incredible costs $200 with a two-year Verizon contract and mail-in rebate, and the service plans runs between $90 and $120 a month. It is light and rectangular-shaped, with a 3.7-inch touchscreen and vivid, colorful graphics. The device has four simple buttons: the menu key, search key, return key and "Leap" key, which displays thumbnails of seven different customizable screens. The spacious touchscreen keyboard was easy to use to type email, but BlackBerry owners who love their keyboards may disapprove (but don't they always?).
I found plenty of Android apps to play with, including Flixter and Shazam, two of my iPhone favorites. However, I was disappointed that the Android store didn't have as many of my favorite news apps as there are in the Apple store, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and CNN apps. Still, reading the news and browsing the Internet with Google's operating system was amazingly fast. Google's own programs, such as Voice Search and Maps, were seamless.
Indeed, it was the Incredible's zippy efficiency that won my heart. The Incredible served up new emails instantly, whether I was in my apartment or walking among the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan, places where my iPhone typically would stall for several minutes. Websites loaded at lightning speed, and browsing online felt more like using a computer than a mobile phone.
Verizon's wireless coverage was excellent. I enjoyed a 30-minute conversation with an old friend while relaxing on my couch, which is impossible to do on my iPhone without the interruption of a dropped call.
I also loved the 8-megapixel camera, complete with zoom, flash, and video. It made my iPhone's 2-megapixel, zoomless, flashless camera look weak. In fact, the Incredible's photos were comparable to a digital camera, but my iPhone's pictures only turn out well if they're close-ups and in the daylight.
However, the Incredible's Sense interface, which gives users the seven different customizable screens based on themes like work and travel, felt too busy and not nearly as intuitive as my iPhone. The graphics were bright and beautiful, but I often found myself overwhelmed by the options for widgets and folders, and didn't necessarily think that so much customization was helpful.
I did like the "FriendStream," which merged my Gmail, and Facebook and Twitter friends into a single list, allowing me to see everyone's status updates in one place. The phone also created a special list of my "friends" that was pretty much right on target about who are my nearest and dearest (turned out it was culled from my most frequently Gmail contacts). It saved me the time and effort of creating a list of my "favorites" among my contacts.
Music-wise, I wasn't impressed with the Incredible. I liked the built-in radio, but the Incredible's software isn't Mac-compatible, and I couldn't load songs purchased from Apple's iTunes. Instead, I had to transfer tracks from Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN - News) using a miniSD card. The company said that an advantage to supporting mp3s purchased from Amazon.com is that because they aren't copyright protected, they can be loaded onto multiple devices. Even so, for me, it won't replace my iPod.
The biggest downside to the Incredible was its short battery life. The company says that battery life will vary on individual usage and that typically a user can make it through a full day on a single charge. But when I was running multiple apps at once, I burned through the battery in about four hours. Granted, that's pretty much the same as my iPhone, but I expected better performance.
So, is HTC's Droid Incredible worth it? For me, and doubtless others who have a love-hate relationship with the iPhone and AT&T, the Droid Incredible offers a competitive alternative. Though lacking in the music and battery department, it offers loads of apps, Google's strong computing power, and Verizon's superior wireless coverage. At about the same price, the Droid Incredible gives the iPhone a run for its money.