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HTC Droid Incredible 2 – Verizon Wireless (Review)
May 13, 2011 08:45 PM

A year ago, we reviewed the Droid Incredible. It was a stellar phone that we believed could “easily take the reins as the most powerful smartphone in the U.S market”. However, a year is a substantial amount of time in the world of electronics. With the development of phones like the EVO 4G and the recently reviewed Thunderbolt, the original model could not hold its own turf. Calling for a refresh, Verizon Wireless and HTC just introduced the Droid Incredible 2 with the hopes that the sequel will live up to its predecessor. Although the first model was truly incredible, can this smart phone live up to the family name?

Build Quality

In terms of size, the Incredible 2 succeeds in every department. It measures in at 4.75 inches tall, 2.52 inches wide, 0.48 thick, and weighs 4.8 ounces. This makes the phone just a bit longer than the original, which is to be expected because of the 0.3 inch increase in screen size. However, thanks to a superior unibody design, it is also a slimmer than the older model.

Aesthetically, the phone is an example of simplicity at its finest. HTC chose to go with a rubberized matte finish rather than the high gloss plastic of the previous model. This new finish prevents smudges and finger prints, and it feels great in your hand. However, I need to point out that when I put the phone in the same pocket as my keys it got a few copper dings on the side. This is disappointing because phones will frequently share the same pockets as keys and headphones, and I expect a more durable design. Even though many will buy a case for their device, it should not be necessary.

Hardware

This phone’s biggest failures lie in its hardware. While most phones are moving to dual-core processors, the Incredible 2 is still using a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon. Although it is more efficient and less taxing on battery life, it is still a 1Ghz processor — the same processor speed as last year’s model. Even more disappointing, HTC reduced the internal storage space from 8 GB to 1 GB dropping the phone’s total potential capacity a mere 33 GB.

The only real changes are the removal of the optical track pad and an upgrade to RAM. Considering the phone is marketed as a touch sensitive phone, cutting out the track pad makes a lot of sense. Plus, this caters to the phone’s simple design by getting rid of everything that is unnecessary. The RAM size is bumped up from 512 MB to 768 MB giving it the same multitasking capabilities of the Thunderbolt. However, its lightning-named peer crushes this phone because it has access to the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network — something the Incredible 2 will never be able to access. Moreover, with only 33 GB of total hard drive space, this smart phone pales in comparison to the 40 GB capacity of its HTC sibling.

Display

Although the phone’s mediocre specs are disappointing, the new brighter display is something to be applauded. It may not sport the new qHD resolution like the upcoming EVO 3D, but the 480×800 pixel WVGA display never looked quiet as great as it does on this phone. Colors are sharp and blacks are incredibly black. In addition, the Incredible 2 is surprisingly responsive. There was no lag when it came to typing, and because of the improved RAM, the phone switches from screen to screen or program to program without the delay of its predecessor.

My one gripe is that the phone still uses a Super LCD instead of upgrading to a Super AMOLED. This would give the phone an uncanny ability to detect light and perfectly modify brightness. As it is now, the phones brightness settings are separated into three categories: light, medium, and max. If the phone had an AMOLED, then more minute changes in lighting could be detected which would improve battery life and readability of text. Nonetheless, the phone has a great display that is responsive and outputs images in great clarity.

Keyboard

If I had to summarize the Incredible 2′s keyboard in one word, it would be responsive. Typing has never been easier, and I did not experience the slightest bit of lag. I also noticed the haptic feedback is a bit stronger than the older model. This was a pleasant surprise because the vibration is a nice reassurance that my key presses are actually being dedicated especially when I am typing quickly. In addition to a great keyboard, HTC includes a complete version of Open Office for all of your writing and editing needs. It is a solid app that lets you get the most out of your keyboard. With a great keyboard and a free Office program, you can write wherever and whenever.

The speech-to-text function is also surprisingly accurate and it works in just about every application. Plus, the phone adapts to your voice without extra programming so Google’s voice input becomes more accurate over time. I was able to dictate a fairly long text message with only one or two minor hiccups. However, including a pre-installed version of Swype would have been a great addition that could set this phone apart from its competitors. Yes, geeks can figure out how to side-load the app, but including it out of the box would have made awesome.

Operating System

Even though Google released the 2.3 (Gingerbread) update a few months ago, the Incredible 2 is still using Android 2.2 (Froyo). Until HTC and Verizon Wireless make an update available or hold off until the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, customers will have to wait. However, HTC did upgrade its Sense UI giving a few, but much appreciated, updates. The newer custom interface features smoother animations, sharper fonts, and a more logical application selection screen. It breaks your apps into sets of sixteen letting users scroll through these groups one at a time.

Speaking of applications, HTC Sense added an application switcher to the pull down notification bar. In the older interface, users had to hold down the Home button. This would reveal a new screen displaying the most recently opened applications. It was a hassle, and honestly, I never used it. Now with the upgraded drop down menu, switching applications becomes much more intuitive.

Other than these few changes, however, the operating system is just more of the same. Unless you consider the updated application switcher a great leap forward, you will not find anything truly revolutionary. It is probably because the phone is still running on Froyo. Even still, I would have liked something that makes the device, well, incredible. As it stands, you can get the same exact OS and upgraded HTC Sense on the Thunderbolt, which stores more data and has 4G LTE support.

Multimedia

Because of the improved graphics processor, the Incredible 2 can play videos in breath-taking clarity. In a head-to-head streaming race against the original Incredible, the new model not only won but it also displayed the video in YouTube’s high-definition quality. The predecessor was about 10 seconds slower with the low quality selected. If you’re going to be streaming a lot of videos onto a smart phone, the improved GPU makes this phone a solid option.

Unfortunately, the smaller storage space makes putting videos and music on your device too much of a hassle. If you are a cinephile like me, choosing which movies to put on your device is a choice you never want to make. If you pick up the Incredible 2, you will be at these crossroads far too often. This smart phone also comes with an FM radio usable right away but with one minor hiccup. The app requires the use of headphones, but HTC does not include headphones out of the box.

Cameras

The 8-megapixel camera, dual-LED flash, and 720p video recording capabilities equipped with the Incredible 2 is a great way to capture life’s best moments. The camera’s built-in face recognition technology allows the phone to focus in on individuals. This creates a sharper, crisper picture. The camera application is also updated giving users easier access to editing tools. In the older Sense UI, you had to click the menu button, search through another tab to find a list of effect tools. Now, a magic wand icon appears as one of the four options on the side of the application. Once selected, the wand displays all the effects–grayscale, sepia, etc.– at the top of the photo app. The lists of effects also have complementary icons to illustrate what each option does to your photo.

Video Calls

This is easily one of the most confusing aspects of the newest batch of HTC smart phones. Like the Thunderbolt, the Incredible 2 includes a front facing 1.3 megapixel camera, but there is no application for video calls out of the box. Although the phone comes pre-installed with Skype, it only offers voice calls and text-based chat. Eventually, the leaked version we demoed will become available.Users can fortunately grab third-party apps like Tango or Fring if they want to make video calls.

The actual video quality is pretty standard. My camera was surprisingly clear, but it is definitely dependent on your location and internet speed. Although I only tested the device at home, I imagine video calling being too impractical in congested areas with a lot of noise. As aforementioned, this phone lacks the potential for 4G LTE support, which means the limited bandwidth will constantly plague your video calls leaving much to be desired.

Network Speeds and Mobile Hotspot

Unlike the Thunderbolt, the Incredible 2 does little to change the formula in terms of network speeds. It is same 3G that is standard with most smart phones. This means you will still be averaging transfer speeds of 0.7 Mbps for downloads and 0.2 Mbps for uploads. Although this was adequate a year or two ago, this is now child’s play compared to the 15 Mbps capabilities of 4G LTE.

A smart phone is a year or two-year commitment, and you will be paying around $100 per month to use the phone. If your total amount paid will be anywhere from $1,200 to $2,400, it just makes sense to pay a hundred or so dollars more now for a phone that maintains its value over time. As 4G LTE arrives in more cities, the Incredible 2 will start to look even more and more ancient.

As it stands, the Mobile Hotspot lets up to 5 users simultaneously use its 3G network. The configuration screen allows configuring WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security and monitoring the devices accessing your network. This gives you the freedom to kick unauthorized users off your hotspot whenever you wish. The service costs $20 for 2 GB of data every month.

Battery Life

Verizon claims the 1450 mAh battery will give you 6.5 hours of talk time and 361 hours of standby. Although the 6.5 hours is pretty spot on, no one can possibly believe that the Incredible 2 can last 19 days on standby. From my own experience, a light user will need to recharge the battery every two days. If you are someone who is always on your phone, you will need to charge the device at the end of each day.

This is actually a bit of an improvement over my Incredible, which needed recharging every 5 hours without fail. The larger 1450 mAh battery plays a major role for longevity, but the more efficient processor also helps conserve battery life.. Even after using the 3G Mobile Hotspot for almost 3 hours, the battery indicator only dropped to the half way point.

Bottom Line

The most disappointing thing about the Incredible 2 is that it barely brings anything new to the table. It feels like its predecessor all over again with a 1 GHz processor, Android 2.2, and 3G connectivity. A loss of some storage space makes it feel dwarfed by its peers. Even though the phone will see an eventual upgrade to the latest Android operating system, Verizon Wireless has not announced an official date. This usually means users could have to wait months before their phone gets the upgraded needed to just make the phone relevant again. As it is, the Incredible 2 stands as a mid range phone. However, in today’s circle of smart or super phones, we demand more from our products. This phone just cannot stand up against existing competitors like the Thunderbolt and the soon to be released EVO 3D. In the end, its more mediocre than incredible.

Buy: $80 for Incredible 2
Links: HTC | Verizon Wireless

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