A step up from the Verizon Droid, the Android 2.1-based smartphone boasts important security and other features for enterprise users, but lacks in other areas such as quality wireless communications.
The Android 2.1-based Verizon Droid Incredible, set to be
released on April 29, at first glance looks to be the closest thing yet to
Apple's iPhone. It's about the same size, uses a similar capacitance-based
touch screen and has a menu screen that's a lot like the iPhone's. And yet, the
Droid Incredible is quite a different device indeed.
For enterprise users, the device's most important feature is
its integration with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. This feature enables Exchange
Server administrators to set policies requiring the device to have added
security, such as passwords. The improved integration also lets users perform a
remote wipe on their Droid Incredible if the device is lost or stolen.
Unfortunately, some policy settings-such as turning off the camera and
Bluetooth-did not work, but I could turn off access to removable storage.
The link to ActiveSync supports e-mail, calendar and
contacts. However, Android 2.1 does not support synchronization of tasks. Does
this partial support for Exchange policies mean the Incredible is enterprise-ready?
That depends on your security requirements. Despite some holes in setting security
requirements, the most critical items are covered.
A weak area of the Droid Incredible is poor performance by
some of the radios contained in its slim case. WiFi reception is poor-the range
when using a Cisco/Linksys 802.11n MIMO router was about a third of that with a
BlackBerry or an iPhone. At times, the WiFi signal would vanish for the Incredible,
while remaining strong in other devices, including a BlackBerry Bold 9700 and
an iPhone 2G. Signal reception for CDMA was also poor: In an area where another
Verizon phone had between one and three signal bars showing, the Incredible had
no bars. 3G reception, however, seems on par with other devices.
Despite the superficial similarity to the iPhone, the Droid
Incredible, made by HTC, shares some
characteristics with the Verizon Droid made by Motorola.
But the two Android 2.1-based devices also have their differences. The Incredible
is thinner, featuring what Verizon calls a "topographic" design-it has a
rubberized rear case similar to that of the BlackBerry Bold, but without the
Check out eWEEK Labs' review of the Motorola Droid here.
The Droid Incredible also supports Skype Mobile; has
built-in support for Flickr, Facebook and Twitter; and boasts something called HTC
Sense. HTC Sense is an attempt to do Apple
one better by making five home screens available for scrolling using a flick of
your finger. In addition, you can show all five of these screens at once by
performing a pinching motion on the multitouch screen. When all five of the
home screens are being displayed, you can select one by touching it.
Because the Droid Incredible is a touch-screen-only device,
it does need a pointing device, and it delivers one in the form of an "optical
joystick." This is a spot below the screen that senses directional motion by
your finger and can perform some activities much in the way you'd move a mouse
pointer. In the case of the Droid Incredible, you can control the cursor
position in a document, such as an e-mail, to make changes or insert text.
The Droid Incredible's touch screen is improved over the
original Motorola Droid. But it does share a problem common to these devices-including
the iPhone-in that's a lack of tactile feedback and precision. The result is
that it's easy to press the wrong thing, and in some cases it's nearly
impossible to select what you want, such as a highlighted Web link in an HTML
document. The best solution to this problem turned out to be an iPhone Stylus
that I picked up from ThinkGeek.com.
There most notable difference between the smartphone and
other Android devices is the opening screen. When you first power up the device,
you see only the time, date and some status icons. You have to flick down on
the date area-or press the "Home" button-to reveal the menu. If you
have passwords turned on, as I did to confirm Exchange ActiveSync
functionality, you'll then need to type that in before you see the home screen.
Unfortunately, with the Incredible comes another less
welcome feature of Android 2.1, which is the inability to rotate its home
screen to the landscape position when rotating the device.
Verizon makes a big deal out of some of the hardware changes
in the Droid Incredible. For example, there's an 8-megapixel digital camera
built in. However, without the sophisticated lens system needed to support this
resolution, the images aren't any better than you'll find in other smartphones
with cameras. You will find, though, that the images take up more space in
memory. The dual LED flash is also one of those nice features, but its
usefulness is open to question.
The built-in FM radio is a good idea, but it's not well-executed,
as sensitivity is very poor. Your headphones are your antenna, and I tried a
variety of them, all with similar disappointing results.
Overall, the Droid Incredible is a nice effort by HTC
and Verizon. In terms of operation and user interface, it's a step up from the
Droid. In addition, there are some much needed enterprise features, it supports
a higher level of security and it's easier to use than many previous Android
devices. The other new features are nice, but it would be nicer if HTC
had focused on the basics, such as the quality of wireless communications.
HTC Droid Incredible is
priced at $199.99 with a two-year contract (along with a $100 gift card rebate).