In the age of 4.3-inch and bigger smartphones, having something hit the streets packing “just” a 4-inch display sounds like the beginning of a spec sheet for some bottom barrel device. In the case of the HTC Incredible 4G LTE, however, it’s a very different story. For the first time, Verizon is putting a fast dual-core processor and LTE into a 4-inch smartphone thereby creating the fastest device at that size.
While we now certainly understand and enjoy the “big screen” smartphones of the world, there’s something about the Incredible 4G LTE’s (from now on, “I4GLTE”) size that makes it so much more portable, easier to use and the first device we reach for in a decent chunk of scenarios.
We’ll be honest. The Incredible 4G LTE has been on our radar for a long time. We wrote about it back in April and how it would be the sleeper hit of the summer. Well, fast forward a couple months (and a delay or two later) and we’re entering the fall season. Still, even with the delay we’ve seen, the Incredible 4G LTE still holds a special place in our minds.
From a design perspective, if you’ve seen any of HTC or Motorola’s last half dozen or so Verizon bound Android devices that carry the “DROID” moniker, you’ll feel right at home (or not) with the I4GLTE, even more-so past Incredible devices. While angular is still the name of the game, the I4GLTE features a slightly rounded touch compared to the normal edgy, boxier design of prior DROID handsets.
The front of the I4GLTE is hard, shiny plastic. As long as black is your favorite color, you’ll find the I4GLTE the perfect hue. The backside features a slightly raised hump where the battery lies, with the actual hump being covered in a soft-touch, ribbed rubber of sorts. It gives the user a nice bit of added grip on the smaller device.
Around the I4GLTE you’ll find small red highlights tying in that DROID design strategy such as the ring around the camera as well as the power/sleep/wake button up top.
Performance & Battery Life
Despite having a smaller screen than most competitors, the I4GLTE is hardly a slouch. Inside you’ll find a Qualcomm S4 Snapdragon processor humming along at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB of RAM and 540 x 960 qHD LCD display that make this quite the little rocket. There are some noticeable stutters here and there around the I4GLTE’s Sense 4′s covered UI. But quite honestly we’d chalk that more up to lackluster coding on HTC’s part rather than the internal hardware being unable to cope with the software demands at hand.
Being smaller has it’s advantages, cons and trade-offs. On one hand, a smaller device means smaller screen and less battery drain. On the flip side, a smaller device is unable to hold as large of a battery as your typical 4.3″+ device, so there’s less oomph on board to begin with, meaning software optimizations and hardware choices are even more important. That said, we’re actually quite impressed with the I4GLTE’s battery life – something HTC isn’t known for.
We spent plenty of time flogging both Verizon’s LTE network and the I4GLTE’s humble 1,700 mAh battery (which is actually quite a lot for a device this size…the HTC One X in comparison features a 4.7″ display and only 100 mAh more in battery power). The most impressive part of the battery tests for us occurred when streaming Spotify over Verizon’s LTE network for several hours. The results: ~3 hours of streaming drained the I4GLTE’s battery roughly 27%. For an always-on activity such as streaming (and over LTE no less), we’re more than pleased with the grunt behind the I4GLTE’s battery.
Despite “only” having a 4″ 540 x 960 display, the I4GLTE manages to handedly trump every previous competitor with matching resolutions simply for the fact that unlike most competitors, HTC used an normal LCD instead of an AMOLED with a PenTile arrangement. We could argue for days as to whether or not this is a significant point. But one thing is certain: our eyes can see the difference. And when we have to look at slightly fuzzy/blocky text and blue-ish tinged whites, it bothers us. Thankfully, not an ounce of that here.
On top of the fantastic display quality, reading in brighter environments won’t be an issue (another perk of LCD over AMOLED.) If the display on your phone is one of the more important features especially in terms of picture quality, the I4GLTE is worth the consideration for it’s display alone in this form factor.
Camera & Video
Sadly, HTC didn’t incoporate the same Image Sense chip and software tricks that the bigger brother One X has. That said, images are alright. But considering the 8-megapixel camera we expected a bit more. Images either leaned towards too dull and lifeless or over-saturated depending on lighting conditions. Shutter speed was decent.
1080p video captured the the I4GLTE’s shooter was passable for most situations. Though, just like it’s camera, we wouldn’t recommend it as a go-to solution. It’s there for capturing those quick moments of life, not for presenting them in the best way possible.
Conclusion: Is It For you
There’s no doubt that the I4GLTE’s smaller 4″ display is going to turn a lot of people off who’ve become accustomed to gigantic smartphones. But, there’s still a very loyal customer base that have not (and perhaps never will) find the joy in using a device that at many times requires two hands to operate and do basic tasks. For those people, the I4GLTE is the perfect device – fast, powerful and efficient. If you’re the type who could swing either way, we still recommend you at least look at the I4GLTE. It’s not the most powerful. It’s certainly not the biggest. But what it lacks in raw speed and size it more than makes up for in comfort, ease of use and portability. In a world where large-screened phones constantly overshadow anything under 4.3″, the I4GLTE is a breath of fresh air in a crowded, oversized market. The only problem – late 2011 tech as we enter late 2012. Can it last?