The HTC Droid Incredible was a huge success in the United States when Verizon launched the smartphone last spring, so it makes sense that Verizon and HTC would team up again to deliver the next generation, the Incredible 2. The Incredible 2 doesn’t represent a drastic overhaul of the original Incredible’s design or specs, but I noticed some nice minor upgrades and refinements in design throughout the phone. One potential dealbreaker for users, however, is the phone’s lack of 4G connectivity.
I actually saw the international version of the Droid Incredible 2, the Incredible S, back in February at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. The Incredible 2 is essentially the same as its international sibling, except that it is built to run on Verizon’s global CDMA network, whereas the HTC Incredible S is a GSM phone.
Unibody aluminum design
The biggest differences between the Droid Incredible and the Incredible 2 are in the design. The Incredible 2 has a solid unibody aluminum design. This is becoming HTC’s trademark for its high-end phones, and I’m all for it. The phone feels tougher, yet more elegant than the somewhat plasticky original Incredible.
The Incredible 2 is an impressively minimalist phone with an all-black color scheme. It has a soft-touch matte rubberized back that not covers both the back of the phone and its spines. The backing is nicely sculpted around the battery and camera lens, much as on the original Incredible. I like the backing of the phone, but I’m not so sure about covering the spines too. It makes the phone look as though it were wearing a permanent bumper. The Incredible 2 isn’t the most eye-catching HTC phone, but some people will appreciate its simplicity and solidness.
The Incredible 2 is obviously quite a bit larger than its predecessor, but neither Verizon nor HTC could give me its exact measurements before we published this review. I’ll update the review once I get confirmation. The original Incredible measured 4.63 by 2.3 by 0.47 inches thick and weighed 4.6 ounces. You’ll find the standard Android touch-sensitive buttons below the display (Home, Menu, Back, and Search). A volume rocker and a micro-USB port occupy the left spine, while the right spine is bare. At the top, you’ll find the power button and the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The crisp, bright 4-inch display (bumped up from the original Incredible’s 3.7-incher) attractively showcases HTC’s Sense custom UI overlay, and the UI moved fluidly throughout the phone. The 800-by-480-pixel-resolution display is marketed as a “super LCD display,” which means that it provides an 800:1 contrast ratio and a viewing angle of up to 160 degrees. We’ve seen this technology in other HTC phones such as the Thunderbolt. The display performs very well indoors; but once you get it outside in bright sunlight, it completely disappears. To be fair, most smartphone displays we’ve tested have this problem.
Android 2.2 with HTC Sense
Like many other new Android phones we’ve seen this year, such as the T-Mobile G2X, the Incredible 2 will ship with Froyo (2.2)—not with Gingerbread (2.3). HTC promised an upgrade to 2.3, but hasn’t given a solid date as to when that will happen. We’ve covered Android 2.2 and 2.3 extensively in the past, so check out our hands-on reviews of both versions.
HTC’s Sense overlay adds some pretty aesthetics to Android, including a dynamic, playful Weather app; a social network aggregator called Friend Stream; and a revamped Contacts system. My favorite feature, called Leap, serves as an elegant way of navigating through your homescreens. Pinch anywhere on any home screen, and you’ll jump to thumbnail versions of your screens. From there, you can go to any one you want by simply tapping on it.
Some people love HTC Sense, while others prefer the plain Android experience. My advice to anyone shopping for an Android phone is to try three different phones: two with overlays (like Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz) and one with vanilla Android. You should quickly get a pretty good idea of how they differ and which you like best.
The Incredible 2 provides quite a few preloaded apps, courtesy of HTC and Verizon, including Adobe Reader, HTC Footprints, City ID, NFL Mobile, and all of Verizon’s VCast apps.
The Incredible 2 boasts SRS WOWHD surround sound for videos and music, which I’ve seen on other HTC Phones like the HTC Surround. I couldn’t discern how the sound differed when it was piped through the external speakers. When I put on high-quality headphones, however, my music sounded rich and full, and the surround effect was definitely apparent.
Unfortunately, the plain Android music player is marred by the annoying presence of Verizon’s VCast music manager. Every time you try to sync your phone to your PC, the needy Verizon VCast music manager will pop up and tell you that you need an update. At least, that’s been my experience with it.
I was quite impressed with the Incredible 2’s video playback. Verizon VCast apps played smoothly over 3G with no distortion or stuttering. YouTube videos looked about as good as YouTube videos can—and of course, way better when YouTube HQ was an option.
The Incredible 2 sports an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash and received a welcome upgrade to 720p video capture. The camera interface has built-in face-detection software, which registers when you’re taking a portrait of somebody and adjusts the camera settings accordingly. This feature worked adequately for me in a normally lit room; but in a darker office with lots of backlighting, the person I was shooting still came out somewhat dark. Photos taken outdoors looked great, with rich color and sharp details. My indoor shots looked good too, though without the flash they had a bit of a dark cast. The flash is powerful, but not too powerful. Unlike a few other phones I’ve seen, it didn’t completely blow out the details in my shots.
The video clips I shot outside with the Incredible 2 looked pretty good. The camcorder handled fast-moving action well, though the sound was a little muddled.
The Incredible also sports a front-facing, 1.3-megapixel camera for making video calls. With no 4G connectivity, however, you may not use this feature much.
The Incredible 2 is powered by a 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8655 Snapdragon processor, the same one that the HTC Thunderbolt uses. We’ve been hearing so much about dual-core phones that 1GHz seems weak in comparison. But a lot more goes into how a phone performs than just its processor speed. The Incredible 2 did just fine as I opened multiple apps and navigated throughout its interface without any glitches.
To test the Incredible 2’s data speeds over Verizon’s 3G CDMA network in San Francisco, I ran the FCC-approved Ookla Speedtest app. The Incredible 2 had average transfer speeds of 0.67 megabit per second for downloads and 0.17 mbps for uploads. These speeds are pretty sad when compared to the averages we achieved with the HTC Thunderbolt over the 4G LTE network: In our five-city 4G tests, the Thunderbolt averaged 18.30 mbps for downloads and 7.39 mbps for uploads.
The HTC Incredible 2 has built-in noise cancellation technology, which I put to the test on a busy street corner in San Francisco. My callers on the other end of the line reported that my voice sounded nice and clear, but I had some difficulty hearing them, especially when the wind picked up. I heard a lot of blowback in my earpiece, which made hearing what my friends are saying somewhat difficult. I didn’t experience any dropped calls or distortion, however, and I had a strong signal just about everywhere I went in San Francisco.
The HTC Incredible 2 is an excellent upgrade from the original Incredible in terms of display, design, and specs, but I couldn’t help but feel slightly cheated by the absence of 4G support, especially since the phone is so great for watching video. For what it offers, I think it should be priced $50 lower. At $200, it’s only $50 less than the HTC Thunderbolt. I would willingly shell out the extra $50 for the Thunderbolt, which lets me switch between 3G and 4G when I need to.
[Ginny Mies is an associate editor for PCWorld.]
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