Mobility

Is the HTC Incredible the droid you've been looking for?

The new HTC Incredible is coming to Verizon before the Nexus One and the (long-rumored) iPhone. Learn why it could be a hit with business users.

Podcast

The new HTC Incredible is coming to Verizon before the Nexus One and the (long-rumored) iPhone. Learn why it could be a hit with business users.

The Big Question is a joint production from ZDNet and TechRepublic that I co-host with ZDNet Editor in Chief Larry Dignan. This week's guest is Matthew Miller, author of the Mobile Gadgeteer blog on ZDNet.

You can play this 19-minute episode from the Flash-based player at the top of the page, read the full transcript below, or:

If you enjoy this podcast, please go to to our iTunes page to rate it and leave a short review.

Stories discussed in this episode:

Full transcript

Jason Hiner

Welcome to The Big Question Podcast, episode number 28 for April 21, 2010. I'm Jason Hiner.

Larry Dignan

And I'm Larry Dignan.

Jason Hiner

And this is a joint ZDNet and TechRepublic podcast, where we pick one of the hottest issues in the tech world and attack it head-on in 25 minutes or less. So if you give us the time it takes for the average U.S. commute than we're going to try to make you smarter about one important topic every week. So this week's big question is: "Is the HTC Incredible the droid you're looking for?"

This episode is sponsored by TechRepublic's Guide to IT Policies and Procedures, which has over 100 customizable templates that IT leaders can use to really save some serious time and money. You can purchase a copy today and download it right away at policies.techrepublic.com.

This week's guest is Matthew Miller, Author of The Mobile Gadgeteer blog on ZDNet. Matt, welcome to the show.

Matthew Miller

Thanks, Jason and Larry. Nice to be here.

Jason Hiner

Alright, so this week we're going to talk about a new smartphone, the HTC Incredible, which is significant for a number of reasons that we're going to get into, including the fact that it's an Android device, it's a second-generation Android device, or really almost third-generation, on Verizon.

It's also the tethering issue that is important with this phone and the fact that now there is more of these devices - more of these Android devices, really business-centric kind of devices on Verizon, which is typically a stronghold for BlackBerry.

And then there is also the issue of the Nexus One being hailed as something Verizon users are waiting for and you've got the next-generation of the iPhone [reportedly coming to Verizon]. So the smartphone wars are really heating up; and in general, we think it's a pretty good thing for consumers.

So, Matt, you've got the HTC Incredible, right? And you've written some of your first impressions of it. So why don't you tell us a little bit about the device and where you think it's at and how it measures up to some of these other top-line smartphones.

Matthew Miller

Sure. So the device is very similar to the HTC Desire, which is in Europe, except it has HTC Sense built on top of it. This is the highest spec'd device currently in the U.S. as far as an Android device goes, with a one gigahertz Snapdragon processor, it has integrated 8 gig flash memory, plus a Micro SD card for 32 gigs of more memory, 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash. It's got that high resolution 480x800 OLED display. And then of course the Sense 2.5 user interface built on top of that.

Jason Hiner

And that's HTC Sense, right, which they also put on some of their Windows Mobile phones. It's the eye candy UI.

Matthew Miller

Yeah, that's right. And with Android it's a little bit different than Windows Mobile because it also adds things such as Exchange functionality and some other things that aren't included on a Google experience device.

An interesting thing on this device, this is - Verizon is naming this the "Droid Incredible" — so it's one of their Droid series of devices. But on the box and on the device itself, it says "with Google." In the past, every device that has had [HTC] Sense on it, always said "Sense" and there was a distinct Sense experience and now we've got one that's kind of a combined device.

Jason Hiner

Interesting.

Larry Dignan

Do you think the Sense adds a lot?

Matthew Miller

Personally I do. You know I have the Nexus One.

Larry Dignan

Okay.

Matthew Miller

On T-Mobile, with the Google experience, Sense to me adds a nice interface. You get seven home screen panels, you get this new Leap interface which is kind of like a WebOS cards deal where you can view all seven panels, you get multiple scenes, you get the Exchange integration, so to me that adds quite a bit to it.

Jason Hiner

Tell us about the Exchange integration on Sense. What does it give you there? Is it just a quick view of your calendar and your contacts and stuff like that?

Matthew Miller

Well, you know, I think the Droid has Exchange [integration] and a lot of the Android devices have Exchange as far as e-mail, but this one with Sense includes e-mail, contacts, and your calendar, so it does have an integrated calendar view and contacts and by also bringing in your Facebook contacts and things like that, similar to the way WebOS kind of does it with Synergy.

Jason Hiner

Okay, so one of the seven panels gives you a dashboard of your Exchange stuff?

Matthew Miller

You can set it up that way, that's an option, yes. And the nice thing it doesn't have all of the complete functionality that a Windows Mobile Exchange does, but I personally like it because it gives me a bunch of different things that are now rolling out on Windows Mobile such as conversation view so you get kind of a Gmail conversation view of your emails, groups are well supported, flags, unread, it's a very nice user interface for accessing your Exchange information, and it supports everything else as far as meeting invitations and responding to them and attachments and everything else as well, so it's pretty functional.

Jason Hiner

Okay, what's not included from Exchange that you get with BlackBerry or Windows Mobile? Tasks, right? I know that's one thing that's usually not in there.

Matthew Miller

Yes, Tasks aren't included which can be a big thing for some people. Since so many devices no longer include it, I've kind of gone away from actually even using Tasks anymore.

Larry Dignan

Yes, if I get a calendar and email, I'm cool.

Jason Hiner

Okay, Larry, you wrote a piece about the fact that this is attractive to you from the standpoint of you looked up and found that the thing looks like it will support — and I actually did confirm this with Verizon — and they say that this device will support tethering, and that's pretty huge, right? So tell us what you are thinking there?

Larry Dignan

Well, it's huge for me, I don't know if anybody else cares, but for the most part Android devices haven't allowed for tethering, and if you use your phone a good bit as a wireless card, which is what I do, that was kind of a deal breaker for me, and basically kept me with my BlackBerry. Now this kind of gives me a solid runway to look at the Incredible as a replacement because my contract is up shortly. So for the Android to be tethering that's a big plus, at least for me. I did a post a while ago about the tethering conundrum and got a lot of emails from folks who were walking me through routing a device and walking me through other software such as PDANet which I have used before on other devices and it works just fine, but my big issue was, I wanted the support. Right? If PDANet suddenly doesn't work on Verizon who am I calling?

Jason Hiner

Yes.

Matthew Miller

Right.

Larry Dignan

So, I wanted the support because if I'm live blogging and it doesn't work, I want one throat to choke or at least yell at. So for me it's worth paying the extra for the way I use the phone almost as a wireless card, I wanted that official support. I don't know if I'm unique but maybe business users would probably feel the same.

Jason Hiner

Yeah, I think a lot of road warriors are probably feeling the same. Matthew, what do you think about the tethering functionality?

Matthew Miller

Yes, like Larry said I do think it's a pretty big deal because there has been hacks and other ways to do it but without that kind of official support nobody in the enterprise is going to want to take that risk. Now you tap on the USB options, it's right there. It says Mobile Broadband Connect. I mean it's officially supported by Verizon. We don't yet know what that pricing is. I have asked my Verizon people about it and I guess we will find out when it officially becomes available next week on the 29th but it's great to see it and the quality of the connection at this time. I don't know if they are going to support their MiFi-type service like they do on WebOS [Palm Pre Plus] but it's nice to actually see it officially in the realm of the device.

Jason Hiner

Yeah, I'm holding out hope — although I am thinking it's probably not going to happen — but you can always hope that they'll do something like they did with the Palm Pre which is it gives you that MiFi-like deal where it uses the wireless to basically turn the device into a mobile hotspot like a MiFi. Boy, that's a really nice feature on the Pre. I tested that on the Pre and although it does suck up battery life pretty quickly — I only got about two and a half to three hours of battery [life] when I did it — it makes the process a lot simpler. You can have the Pre still in your bag or your pocket and have your laptop out and, boom, fire it up and get on the Internet with your laptop or even with another smartphone as well, and so that's big.

Matthew Miller

It looks like it's going to be technically possible to do that on an Android, too, because the HTC EVO 4G is coming out has that type of wireless capability.

Jason Hiner

Oh yeah. That's a good point, so it could be there. Okay, so what about the fact, we have talked a lot on this show about, Larry, about the consumerization of IT, about more and more IT is letting people select their own devices and bring them in, and this is obviously a really good candidate for that. This is a high-end smartphone. Do we anticipate that this could be a device that IT departments could get behind to with Android? I haven't heard of too many companies handing out Android devices yet; have either of you guys?

Larry Dignan

Well, I do have an internal story here. A colleague happened to ask our telecom guy, "so when we are getting Android devices" and he just kind of chuckled. So I take that as a "no."

Jason Hiner

A telling sign, yeah.

Larry Dignan

This device isn't the type you get in the corporate world because it's not going to be heavily discounted out of the gate, but it is a type of device like the iPhone that a consumer/worker is going to bring in and since you have Exchange support and there are some other things, I mean it's definitely going to be an interesting poster child for the consumerization of IT approach.

Jason Hiner

Yeah.

Larry Dignan

And let's face it, I will probably be bringing it to work in the not too distant future.

Jason Hiner

And to be fair there, here there are a bunch of people around here with Android devices that have bought them in themselves, and even some of them who also have BlackBerry. The company provides BlackBerries.

Larry Dignan

Yeah. There's a lot of us walking around with two devices.

Jason Hiner

Matthew, I know you've got like a dozen devices. Where do you think this fits from the IT perspective?

Matthew Miller

I think it is a good candidate for it. I mean like with a broadband connector, obviously, you're trying to start expanding beyond just the consumer. And with the whole Exchange inclusion and stuff like that. I think on the back end, I'd have to check with our IT department here as far as what kind of back end Exchange support as far as wiping it and things like that there are in this type of device. And I think that's probably what people are concerned about as they hear Android and open and things like that, and they get a little scared about security. And I haven't seen a ton mentioned about that online either as far as from Google or HTC.

Jason Hiner

Yeah, it's real similar to the iPhone, which uses Exchange Active Sync. And so with Exchange Active Sync, you can do some stuff where you can remotely wipe some of the data and that kind of thing. So that's helpful. But is this a device that you think kills the Nexus One coming to Verizon? Really we've been waiting for it [on Verizon]. They said "spring." I know a couple of people that were really waiting for the Nexus One to come to Verizon. They saw the Incredible, and they're like, "Oh, forget that. I'm not messing around waiting for the Nexus One, I'm just going to get the Incredible."

This is interesting because, you know, Google wants to get the Nexus One out there as a device that is untethered from a carrier. And so there's a little bit of a strategy game going on here even between Google and some of its partners. What do you think about that, Larry?

Larry Dignan

I think this effectively killed the Nexus One on Verizon.

Jason Hiner

I do, too.

Larry Dignan

I mean the problem with the Nexus One is you really have to want to be untethered to the carrier, right? You've got high termination fees, you got - you're paying a lot for the device up front north of 500 bucks.

Jason Hiner

Yeah.

Larry Dignan

And I just think U.S. consumers are so used to just paying that for a two-year contract. And now carriers let you get out of the device - you can do an annual upgrade for a device.

Jason Hiner

Yeah.

Larry Dignan

You still have a two-year contract, but you can get a new device. So I just think there might come a day where people will buy unlocked devices. But it's going to take many years to condition people. And there has to be some unique value proposition. But now you have the Incredible which kind of looks just like the Nexus One, to me damn close enough. I'll be on Verizon anyway, because it works well in the Northeast. So I'm not going anywhere on the carrier front.

Jason Hiner

So it just makes sense?

Larry Dignan

Yeah, and really I think it just kind of kills the Nexus One [on Verizon].

Jason Hiner

Matthew, you've used both of them, you have both of them in your hand right now. How does the device itself, in terms of the feel, compare to the Nexus One? Is there anything from the Nexus One that you think is better than the HTC Incredible?

Matthew Miller

Well, the Nexus One does have a heftier feel to it and kind of a better build quality, because it does have some metal in it and [less] plastic and things like that. But I got to tell you, the Incredible is slightly narrower and it actually feels more comfortable and more like a phone in your hand than even the Nexus One. And specs-wise, I mean, the Incredible beats Nexus One with a better camera, integrated flash drive, optical joystick.

The only real difference between the two is the Google experience or the HTC Sense experience. Now the one thing about the Google experience is that's probably faster for getting upgrades because it comes directly from Google and that can be upgraded to the device, it doesn't have to go through HTC [or Verizon]. But, you are going to be paying $200 for the Incredible or $529 for the Nexus One, and do people really want to pay that much extra money to get a device that's a Google experience versus a [HTC] Sense experience?

Jason Hiner

Yeah, true.

Matthew Miller

Personally, I've upgraded my Nexus One to a Sense experience because I find it to be that much better than a Google experience.

Jason Hiner

Oh really, you've hacked it to put the Sense on it?

Matthew Miller

After using the Incredible I'm like, "I want that."

Jason Hiner

That's funny. You know, we should note, too, that once they did release the Nexus One for T-Mobile, T-Mobile offered a subsidized version essentially with a contract. Well, not a subsidized version, but they offer a version with a contract, I think it's $179 for that. So it's possible Verizon could do a 199 version of the Nexus One, potentially.

Matthew Miller

But on T-Mobile it's a very limited plan that you have to chose from.

Jason Hiner

Oh is it? Okay.

Matthew Miller

Yeah, it's single plan, no family plan, nothing else like that.

Jason Hiner

Gotcha.

Matthew Miller

I don't think that will work with enterprise.

Jason Hiner

Okay. That's a great point. Alright, well that's all we are going to have time for today. But for more on this topic and lots of other tech news and views you can go to zdnet.com and techrepublic.com. ZDNet is your source for the latest news and perspectives in business tech and TechRepublic is the source for IT leaders to get lots of tips, best practices and peer-to-peer conversations on the latest in managing IT.

You can also find all of today's hosts online. Matt, where do people find you, in terms of your blog, Twitter, that kind of thing?

Matthew Miller

Yeah, either the ZDNet Mobile Gadgeteer or the Smartphones and Cell Phones blog and I'm palmsolo on Twitter.

Jason Hiner

Larry, how about you?

Larry Dignan

[Between the Lines blog] btl.zdnet.com and on Twitter I'm ldignan.

Jason Hiner

All right. You can find my blog, Tech Sanity Check, at sanity.techrepublic.com, and on Twitter I'm just jasonhiner.

Thanks for listening. We'll see you next week.

About Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox