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[Review] Samsung Droid Charge vs HTC Droid Incredible 2
My first three smart phones were made by Samsung. I had the Omnia for 2 years, the Fascinate for 2 months, and the Charge for 4 months. The Omnia was a decent phone for its day, and it pretty well did everything I asked it to. When it came time to upgrade this last May, I read all of the reviews and decided on the HTC Droid Incredible 2. "But wait, you didn't say anything but non-Samsung phones." That's right, I bought the Incredible 2 for $199 on contract, and returned it the next day, paid the restocking fee, and got a Fascinate from Best Buy, because it was FREE. On paper it was basically the same phone, so that's a big savings, right? I still remember returning the Incredible 2 to the Verizon tech. "Anything wrong with the phone?" he asked. "Actually, there is nothing wrong with the phone, it works great," I replied. Famous last words; I just wanted to save a little green paper.
As many "Fascinate Refugees" here can attest to, the Samsung Fascinate was a nice-looking phone with one-too-many flaws. Just when you thought you had a work-around to make the phone livable, something else quit working. The issues were so rampant that Verizon and Samsung finally abandoned solving the problems and outright offered 3 different phone models to Fascinate owners: a Motorola Droid X2, an HTC Droid Incredible 2, or a Samsung Droid Charge.
I, among many, was intrigued by the prospect of receiving new, illustrious 4G phone capabilities as a free replacement for my lemon Fascinate. The Droid Charge was Verizon's flagship phone at the time, on sale for $299 with contract, and besides this, it was branded with the Droid name. "Fascinate 1.5??" everyone asked. "No! Not with the Droid name on this one," they all said. "Samsung and Verizon will be sure have the bugs worked out of this phone, and release updates in a timely manner."
I am not writing this review to bash on the Droid Charge. In all fairness, it has been a decent phone. It makes phone calls and receives text messages, which the Fascinate had trouble with, so for that I was happy. But as much as I tried to love the phone, I could not. The feel, the functionality, the reliability... there was always something lacking. "But it's a 4G phone, isn't that great!" I would encourage myself. But I ended up always leaving 4G off so that my battery would last through the day. For me, the Droid Charge was a 3G phone.
After spending considerable time with an HTC Droid Incredible 2, I decided I wanted to try it for myself. I tried to get Verizon to replace my Charge with an Incredible 2, but after much effort the Verizon tech finally concluded that the system would not allow him to send me a 3G phone CLNR replacement phone for my 4G phone. I acquiesced and went on my own to find a barely-used Incredible 2 for which I paid cash.
I waited to post this review so that some of the honeymoon-time would wear off and I could be a little more objective. I have had the Incredible 2 for over 2 weeks now, so here are my thoughts:
Form and Feel
The Inc 2 feels great in the hand. I have large hands (I can span 10 keys on the piano), and I feel that the size of the Inc 2 is excellent - a little larger than the iPhone, a little smaller than the Charge. It also has a nice rubberized coating that gives it a good tactile feel without a case, and the contoured battery door really makes it feel thinner in hand than it actually is.
I thought the SAMOLED+ screen was a must-have. I had read about the great color contrast, the dark, inky blacks they produce, and, after owning two phones with such a screen, I can say that those things are true. However, I will tell you what my experience has been with the Inc 2. I have never--no, not once--missed the SAMOLED+ screen. The Inc 2 S-LCD screen at a 4.0"-size (as compared to 4.3" on the Charge) has the exact same resolution of 480x800, text is more crisp and readable, and colors are actually rendered correctly!
I like to show photos of my family to friends on my phone, and the over-saturated colors of the Charge always rendered pinkness on people's faces as red blotches. In a recent experiment with the Inc 2, Charge, Motorola Bionic, and Motorola X2, the Inc 2 consistently reproduced photo colors most accurately, followed by the other phones in that order.
As an added benefit, the LCD screen on the Inc 2 uses the same amount of battery whether you are looking at a screen with a dark background or a light background, as opposed to the OLED screens which require more battery to display lighter colors.
One of the first things I noticed when I began using the Inc 2 is how fast it is! Okay, you Charge owners will appreciate this: When you press that power button to turn on the screen, it is ON instantly. And it doesn't flash you with what's behind the lockscreen for a half-second like the Charge does at times, like, "Oh, don't look, I haven't put my lockscreen on yet!" And when you hit the power button to turn off the screen, there is no lag, it is instantly OFF.
The hardware of the Inc 2 and the Charge are very comparable, and both have a 1 GHz processor, although the Inc 2 does have 768 MB of RAM as compared to 512 in the Charge. I have a feeling there is more to it than just RAM, but the stock HTC Sense user interface of the Inc 2 just flies. There is no hesitation opening and closing apps and going from screen to screen, and only after I began downloading four or five apps from the Market at once did it begin slow a bit. In contrast, the Charge exhibits lag around every corner, and even the homescreens cannot operate smoothly without installing a custom launcher or ROM.
For me, a frequent traveler, Google Maps is one of my most-used apps that I refer to multiple times a day. Consequently, GPS performance is very important. Out of the 3 Samsung phones I have owned, not one has ever done GPS well. The Omnia would almost never get a lock, the Fascinate would rarely get a lock, and the Charge would get a lock from time to time.
Now some of you will say, "My Charge always gets a lock," and others will say, "My Charge's GPS is broken". My Charge was somewhere in between, but let me tell you folks... on the Inc2, the GPS just works. Whether it is sunny or cloudy, you are standing still or moving in a car, the GPS gets a lock in 5 to 20 seconds. And, depending on the building, this oftentimes is the case indoors as well. I have tested the GPS on 4 other Inc 2 phones and the results have been the same, this is not just a matter of one good unit and one bad unit. So for those of you who are putting up with a mediocre GPS, waiting minutes on end for a lock, installing special GPS apps and workarounds, or--only forbid--you must use VZ Navigator to use your GPS, let me tell you, there are phone manufacturers out there that do it better than Samsung.
The camera on the Inc 2 packs 8 megapixels just like the Charge. The speed of the camera on the Inc 2, however, is significantly faster than the Charge. There is virtually no lag when taking photos (think iPhone), and after a 2-second preview of the photo you just took (why did they get rid of this option on the Charge?), it's ready to snap another shot. In addition, pressing the power button while in camera mode turns off the screen (as you would expect), instead of locking the screen into camera mode like Samsung does. When my goal is to save battery life by turning off the screen, I don't want to lock the screen on. I could never figure out their logic on that one...
The front-facing camera on the Inc 2 is only 640x480 as compared to 1280x1024 on the Charge. So the video of you will look a little more grainy on a Skype call with the Inc 2 than it would on the Charge.
As we all know, Samsung and Verizon--whoever's fault it is--are infamously slow at releasing updates for their phones. One might hope that this would be because their official software releases are so flawless that frequent updates are not necessary, but it is certain that this is not the case.
The Inc 2 was released in April and it received an update to Android 2.3 Gingerbread in July. The Charge was released in May and it received an update to Android 2.3 Gingerbread in November. Yes, even though the Samsung Droid Charge was labeled a 'Droid' phone, it still took them twice as long as HTC to come out with an update. Did I mention, HTC just released another update for the Incredible 2? It tweaked the signal bars and made some security enhancements to the phone. Apparently HTC actually cares about the consumer's experience.
Some people will say Samsung TouchWiz is wonderful, some will say TouchWiz is terrible. Some will say HTC Sense is wonderful, some will say Sense is terrible. Personally, I don't really find one much more compelling than the other. Both can mostly be covered up with a custom launcher if the user so desires.
What I do like about Sense on the Inc 2 is that it is smooth, and it is pretty. The phone comes with several built-in skins to choose from, and, the color schemes actually seem to make sense. If the somewhat peculiar orange-and-brown color theme of the Charge wasn't odd enough, they decided to add in a splash of aqua-green on the notification menu in the Gingerbread update so-called 'color-enhancements.' In contrast, there is nothing revolting about the color scheme of the Inc 2, it is simple and not attracting unnecessary attention, like it should be.
When it comes to scrolling, the Inc 2 is very smooth. There is very little stuttering and jumpyness that was ever-present on the Fascinate and Charge.
Sense also has a lot of great built-in widgets to choose from, and again, they actually look good, compared to Samsung's cheesy-looking widgets that nobody would ever want to use. And--imagine this!--you can even use the volume rocker on your phone to put the phone in vibrate only OR silent mode... just like in the good old days.
Two things Sense does not have which TouchWiz does are:
1) Button in the drop-down notification to toggle screen Auto-Rotate on/off. This was easily remedied by downloading an app called Auto-Rotate Switch, which sits in the notification are and performs the same function.
2) Screen Capture capability. As I understand, the Inc 2 has to either be rooted or connected to a computer to take a screen capture.
The Inc 2 has a slightly smaller battery than the Charge (1450 mAh vs. 1600 mAh), but it is one of the best performers in smartphone battery life. Battery life is more or less comparable to the now-updated Charge running Gingerbread in CDMA-mode only (3G). On a recent day of very light phone use, I still had 70% battery remaining after 15 hours! But it is not uncommon for me to have half-a-battery remaining after a full day of moderate use.
From my own and others' experience, the Incredible 2 is a good phone with just two notable drawbacks:
1) Reception. Side-by-side with the Charge, the Inc 2 consistently has about 5-10 dB lower signal strength--about on par with the Samsung Fascinate. Now that may sound like a big difference, but in the real world results are not as distinguishable. I have not encountered any complaints of dropped calls, missed calls or missed text messages. Those who should take the reception issue into account are people who live in a fringe-coverage area or work deep inside an office building. For my practical use I have not had any problems with the reception on the Inc 2.
2) Speakerphone. The speakerphone on the Inc 2 is tinny-sounding and not very loud. If the speakerphone feature of your phone is important to you you may consider looking elsewhere. I use the speakerphone very infrequently, so this issue is not important to me.
You are entitled to like whatever phone you are currently holding, be it a Charge, a Nexus, or the next great invention. After putting up with two phones this year that gave me headaches in one way or another, I finally have a phone with which I can say, "I like this phone". My phone is not my life, and I have more to do than sit on my phone reading forum posts about problems with my phone. I needed a phone that 'just works', and for me, the Incredible 2 is the one. It doesn't require rooting or ROMing to do what I need it to do, it doesn't drop data connections, it makes and receives phone calls, and the GPS works every time. And it connects to WiFi everywhere I go, with blazing-fast speeds that never make me wish I had 4G. If you are like me and want a phone that 'just works', I highly recommend the HTC Droid Incredible 2, you will not be disappointed.
For a full side-by-side comparison of specifications, see the following link.
Samsung Droid Charge vs HTC Droid Incredible 2 - Phone Comparison - The Phone Database