What does it take to slay the iPhone? Sam Diaz says the Droid Incredible is more than up to the task.
Regular readers will know that I've been looking for a new smartphone for quite a while, honestly holding out for the iPhone to land in a Verizon Wireless store. But the wait is over. I have made my smartphone purchase and, quite frankly, I don't care if Apple and Verizon ever cut a deal.
The Droid Incredible by HTC is my iPhone killer.
In all fairness, I had pretty much talked myself out of the iPhone a few months ago. I had been using a loaner Motorola Droid, a device I liked from the software side but didn't really care for on the hardware side, largely because of the bulkiness from the slide-out keyboard. I wanted the iPhone-type experience, and Google and HTC -- first with the Nexus One and later with the Incredible -- seemed to be reading my wish list.
So what makes it so great? Here's my short list of reasons why the Incredible is My iPhone.
1: Verizon Wireless
The voice service is excellent. The 3G service is great. Plus, I bought it through Verizon, not Google.
Yes, I know the iPhone has unlocked that feature, but last I heard AT&T still hadn't. With the ability to use my phone's 3G connection to surf the Web on my laptop, I instantly save $35 a month by dumping the aircard.
Yup, Android already does that, too.
4: The Sense UI
The experience of the HTC's Sense UI on top of Google's Android software is nice. It seems to understand what users want and need, down to a ".com" button in the keyboard when I'm typing an e-mail address.
5: The Google integration
Want to know where search really rocks on Android? Within Google Maps. The search feature gives you results within the map itself of which pizza joints or ATMs or hardware stores are near you. And the GPS navigation means never needing to buy a TomTom. Likewise, Google's other products just seem to "fit" in the Android environment.
6: Google Voice
Apple may have rejected the app but Google has integrated the one-number-for-life service into the device beautifully. Now, for me, this phone has two numbers tied to it -- the main number that Verizon Wireless provided and the GV number I can manage as my work cell phone number, which means I can schedule it to not ring in the evenings or on weekends.
7: Voice input
In Android, if you can type it, you can speak it. A small microphone button appears in the on-screen keyboard that allows users to speak what they would normally type. This is not just for search but anywhere you can type -- email, SMS, maps, etc. No, it's not perfect -- but it's pretty good most of the time and getting better.
8: Facebook contacts
The address book allows you to link your contacts to their Facebook profiles or Flickr accounts so that the information they share with friends on those profiles -- maybe their birthday, home number, or private email address -- gets wrapped into the contacts card.
9: Good apps
No, Android doesn't have the gigantic app store that Apple has. But I don't really need all of those apps, either. It's got Pandora. It's got Yelp. My bank has an Android app. I can do the Fandango movie ticket thing. Sure, maybe there's no iFart app like there is for the iPhone -- but I don't really need that on my mobile device anyway.
10: Scenes vs. folders
The new iPhone will include folders on the home screens to better organize apps. Android already does that -- but the Sense UI also has "scenes," which allow you to customize your phone's home page to reflect your lifestyle of the moment. For example, when it's a work phone, the home screen has a generic wallpaper with icons for corporate mail, corporate calendar, and other work-related apps. When I'm traveling, I can place the Tripit app next to my maps app and my "Find a Starbucks" app on the home screen along with that camera icon -- because I'll be shooting a lot of pics while traveling. Finally, my "Weekends are fun" scene includes a fun picture of the Vegas weekend as a background, along with some gaming apps, my Yelp app, and my Pandora app.
Yes, I've seen what iPhone OS 4.0 will offer -- and now, thanks to Gizmodo and a careless Apple software engineer in a bar, I have also seen what the device itself will look like. It's nice -- but it hasn't "evolved" in a way that Android has. I know the Incredible will likely be topped by something better next week or next month, something flashier or more user-friendly.
The good news is that the next big thing will probably be yet another Android device that has taken something good and made it even better. Seeing what I've seen from Apple (and AT&T), I know in my heart that the next big thing won't be an iPhone. And I won't have buyer's remorse.
Sam Diaz is a senior editor at ZDNet. He has been a technology and business blogger, reporter and editor at the Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News, and Fresno Bee for more than 18 years. He's a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a graduate of California State University, Fresno.