Usage and Software

Along the bottom of the screen are the four main navigational buttons, and an optical trackpad. The Home, Menu, Back, and Search buttons are used fairly regularly in navigating the Android OS, but the optical trackpad seems fairly useless. Instead of swiping left and right on the track pad, the majority of the time, it is just easier to swipe left or right on the large touchscreen instead of the tiny trackpad. This trackpad also functions as a button, allowing you to hit enter on certain fields, which is definitely more useful.

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One major caveat I have run into with the Incredible however, is the battery life. Like most current smart phones, charging this phone at the end of the day is absolutely necessary. From a full charge, I have had the battery wear down to about half capacity by the end of the day without even using the phone. While some background actions like fetching email were going on in the background, this is still unacceptable. As most people would have these features enabled by default, and on top of using the phone all day, the Incredible may require you to top off the battery in the late afternoon to power through the rest of the day. This is disappointing personally since I am coming from the iPhone 3G, where I can survive at least an entire day with one battery charge.

Coming from using the iPhone as my main phone for the past serveral years, typing on the HTC Incredible has been a challenge for me. While I would consider myself to be used to most touch screen phones, something about the default Android keyboard in portrait mode tends to throw off my accuracy. It may be a subtle difference in the size of the virtual keys, or maybe a less responsive touch screen, but it is something for potential buyers to be aware about. Landscape mode however, I have found to be a much more pleasant experience, and orders of magnitude more accurate. One nice thing about Android is that replacement keyboards can be downloaded, such as the Swype Keyboard, so you should be able to find something that fits your style.

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The Incredible also features Haptic Feedback for certain key presses. When using the keyboard, and when you use the the navigational buttons, every keystroke makes the device send out a small vibration. This is supposed to create more of a tactile feedback, but whether or not people find it annoying seems to be a very polarizing issue. This feature can be disabled in the settings though, so it is not a deal breaker if you do not like it.

Of course, the function that still matters the most is actually making phone calls. HTC manages to accomplish this well with the Incredible. Audio quality on both ends of the call seem to be above par, and an all around pleasant experience. The speakerphone is also extremely loud compared to other phones I have used over the years. When playing back audio from the music app, both the 3.5mm headphone output, and the speaker both seemed to be clear, although the speaker seems to lack bass a bit. This isn’t a surprise for a mobile phone, but I found it to be worse than my iPhone 3G, and other phones I have used.

HTC Sense

From the start, one of the most differentiating features of the Incredible from phones like the Motorola Droid and Google Nexus One is the addition of the HTC Sense UI. Sense is a custom interface that HTC has chosen to implement on all of it’s Android and Windows Mobile phones, over the standard Google interface. It is obvious that HTC tried to pack as much information as possible into this new UI. Gone is the home page full application icons, and in it’s place we get room for 6 apps and large stylized clock which also displays the Weather. When you swipe the home page left or right, you have options for pages such as Mail, Contact Speed dial, SMS, Social network updates, and more. All of these can be customized and even deleted to create whatever configuration you desire.

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Among these customized home screen options, HTC also ships some customized apps with Sense:

Peep: A simple Twitter client which features notifications for @ replies and Direct Messages, along with a home screen widget that allows you to update your status without actually launching the app.

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An improved Music app: One of my major qualms with the Motorola Droid was the fact that the default android music player was very barebones and basic. The HTC Music app turns out to be a much nicer experience, with an easy to use and quick interface for navigating your music library. HTC’s offering also adds options like sharing music over Bluetooth, and the ability to view the properties and ID3 tags of a mp3 file, which is a nice touch if you are trying to tell two similar tracks apart.

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Clock and Weather apps: Beyond possessing some nice interface eye candy, these apps provide pretty much the same functionality as you would expect. Some nice features would be the “desk” mode for the clock app which is perfect for a night stand or other times when you just want to be able to glance at it and see the time without hitting any buttons. The Weather app provides some nice graphical touches, such as an animated depiction of the current weather when you unlock the phone. Althought it doesnt really add any functionality, seeing clouds drift across the screen, or raindrops falling is a nice touch and allows you to see a visual representation of the weather without you even realizing it. These animations are interrupted as soon as you start to use the phone so it does not impede the user experience at all.

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As an interesting note, instead of going with the full Flash 10.1 mobile plugin, like on the HTC Desire, HTC has decided to go with a the Flash Lite 4.0 Plugin. While this plugin seemed to support flash ads and such well, we could not get it to play any embedded flash videos. At the time of this article, HTC has not announced any plans to bring Flash 10.1 to the Incredible.

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Here you can see the Flash banner ads on the PC Perspective web site loading just fine, something other mobile phone platforms won’t do

Overall, the small interface adjustments that Sense makes over the default Android OS help make the user experience on the HTC Incredible better than other phones on the market, and on par with universally acclaimed phones such as the iPhone and Palm Pre.

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