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HTC Incredible 4G LTE – Watering down the phrase ‘new and improved’ [Hardware Review]

July 16, 2012 | by Ben Crawford

Android OS, Android Phones, Android Phones and Devices, Carriers, Featured post, Google, HTC, Reviews, Verizon

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Evaluated version: HTC Incredible 4G LTE (ICS)

Pros: Beautiful screen, sturdy design

Cons: Plain, Sense UI looks like Gingerbread

I raved about the HTC Incredible 2 (Incredible S internationally) so much that I bought one. It was a great purchase a year ago, and now the upgraded HTC Incredible 4G LTE has been released by Verizon. With a very similar build, the Incredible 4G only physically distinguishes itself from the Incredible 2 by losing a search button and adding the Beats by Dre logo.

Underneath, the Incredible 4G has been overhauled with this year’s camera, processor, and OS upgrades, but lacks a unique feature to set itself apart from the field. While I got accustomed to the Gingerbread-looking Sense UI, I realized HTC isn’t competing with Samsung for best Android phone manufacturer, a title that was firmly in HTC’s possession in the first two years of Android’s existence. The Incredible 4G LTE is proof that HTC has fallen out of favor with many bleeding-edge Android enthusiasts.

Hardware

The Incredible line hasn’t always been cutting edge like the HTC One X or Galaxy S III, but it has been a fan favorite because of its solid build, easy customization, and reliability. Fortunately, HTC hasn’t forgotten any of these concepts with the Incredible 4G. The phone still, much like the iPhone fanboys’ motto, “Just works.” The high-quality build is metal with a rubberized back panel with grooves in the right places. There is a bulkiness that has been lacking in recent devices which may throw some users off but it adds a nice weight to the device.

The sides of the Incredible 4G are fairly bare with only the necessities. The headphone jack and power button are up top, the volume rocker is on the right, and the micro-USB port is on the left. Unfortunately, I found the power and volume buttons to be difficult to find and press. If HTC could raise these buttons a little, it would help tremendously for when you’re fumbling around for them. It also has a mini-SD card inside the back panel which is nice.

The Incredible’s internals are fairly common now. A dual-core, 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor powers the 4 inch display with 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage. There’s nothing that’s going to impress the geeks, but the performance is deserving of the Incredible moniker, and I can’t complain too much about these specs.

Screen/Camera

It is was the best of screens, it was the worst of screens. While not exactly top of the line resolution, the Incredible 4G shows off a Super LCD, qHD screen with a resolution of 960 x 540. This screen is beautiful with high contrast and ultra-vibrant colors, which looks better than my Galaxy Nexus. Movies and games are gorgeous, but as I’ve found to be the case in most HTC phones, the screen always looks a little softer, a little more washed out than most phones which makes direct sunlight a killer to HTC phones. The 4 inch-ness of the Incredible is disappointing to me as well. I understand that many people love 4″ screens to combat the wave of supersized displays favored today, but I need a big screen. I love games looking huge instead of scrunched and having the real estate for my thumbs to play dual-stick shooters. The 4″ screen also makes the phone a little imbalanced. The height to width ratio is off a bit. The Incredible looks like it should spread another quarter to half inch wide; instead, it looks a little candy bar-ish.

The camera is a beauty. The HTC camera app itself allows you to do away with Instagram or any other camera app in the Play Store. Pictures are extremely crisp with good lighting. The front camera is only VGA quality, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Software Performance

Because Android 4.1 Jelly Bean was just released. HTC’s Sense UI, the factor that slows down your updates, has received a semi-overhaul for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and it works very well. The Sense overlay still reminds me of Gingerbread which is off-putting, but it has upped the overall speed and cut down on the plethora of hidden menus and options Sense was known for. The small ‘additions by subtraction’ let the Incredible 4G not feel like an old  man after adding a few apps and widgets to the screen. The whole process of changing your wallpaper, finding your apps in the app drawer, and navigating the phone is streamlined. As usual, the Sense interface makes learning Android easy for new users, but existing users may get frustrated by the dumbing-down of ICS. (That’s not to say that stock ICS isn’t fluid; it most certainly is.) While ICS and Sense 4.0 are both huge upgrades from their predecessors, I’m not quite sure I like Sense being a middle-man for users between Gingerbread and ICS.

App Performance

With the Incredible 4G’s screen, you’re going to want to play a lot of apps. Luckily, the Incredible has great speed while processing tasks despite being laden with Verizon apps. Against my preview-built Jelly Bean Galaxy Nexus, the Incredible 4G outpaced it in starting Angry Birds Space and Temple Run. Switching between apps wasn’t as smooth as Jelly Bean for obvious reasons, but it handled on par with my ICS Galaxy Nexus. The app drawer is a bit cluttered with a few menus and sorting options, but personally I’m glad they changed to the horizontal scrolling instead of vertical.

The battery is so-so. For its girth, I wanted it to have a nice bump in battery size but it’s only a 1700 mAh battery. Heavy usage could drain this in under 8 hours with light usage clocking around the day mark. Undoubtedly the screen and Sense are pleasing themselves on juice, but that’s the up and downside. HTC does a good job of adding useful social apps and widgets as usual, and call quality was great. Unlike a few HTC phones I’ve had in the past, there was no tinny effect from the ear piece or speakerphone.

Final Thoughts

When I reviewed the Incredible 2, I marveled at how well it “simply worked.” The Incredible 4G LTE also hits this mark at a basic level. Customizations are easy to find and change, the capacitive buttons work great (if looking a little weird – I’m looking at you Back button!), and the easing into ICS will be magnificent for the average Android user who has been stuck on Android 2.x for years now.

For the power user, I don’t think the Incredible 4G is much of an upgrade from the Rezound, and no one was rushing out to get the Rezound. The Incredible 4G is an incredibly well-rounded device, but to take users away from Samsung, HTC is going to have to re-focus and deliver an experience users can’t get elsewhere. AT&T users got that with the One X and Sprint users with the EVO 4G LTE, but the Incredible will not be that device for Verizon customers. Even though I love the build quality and a few features from Sense, they aren’t enough to sway me from the upgrade promises of a Nexus device or even a flashier Galaxy S III phone.

HTC should stop focusing on incremental, yearly upgrades to their old phones (partly the carriers fault), and instead think outside the box like devices like the RAZR or Galaxy Note did. Beats by Dre was a great step to building their brand recognition, but devices like the Incredible 4G LTE are going to get lost in the multitudinous shuffle of the Incredible brand name. The Incredible 4G LTE is a good phone with not a lot of effort put into being a better device than last year or the year before that.