I’m working on the Droid Incredible 4G LTE review (there’s a delay resulting from a signal issue where I do battery testing), but in the interim let’s talk about something that seems to have come up about this phone. We don’t often discuss what’s happening on other review sites, even as they get their reviews out much faster than we, but the Incredible 4G LTE has been hit in many reviews for its display, and this surprised me. Let’s take a look at some numbers. 

Anonymized Display Data
Contrast Ratio 951 1418 746 n/a
Brightness - White (nits) 571 427 484 318
Brightness - Black (nits) 0.6 0.3 0.6 0

Panel Technology



Pixel density (ppi) 330 265 275 305

These charts are our display test data, anonymized so we can do a little experiment. The phone data above includes the iPhone 4S, the Galaxy S 3, the original Motorola Droid and the Droid Incredible 4G LTE. Can you tell which is which? Just take a second. The original Droid was lauded for its IPS display and high pixel density, it was even described in some materials and reviews as ‘large’ at an iPhone besting 3.7 inches. It’s the second one from the left. The Galaxy S 3 is the current king of Android phone displays, and is massive at 4.8 inches, and with an excellent pixel density and picture quality, despite its PenTile roots; it’s the one far to the right. The iPhone 4 premiered with the highest pixel density in a mobile device we’d ever seen, and leveraged its IPS panel for excellent picture quality and viewing angles, and is rarely derided for being small; it’s the one to the far left. That leaves the Incredible 4G whose display isn't being dinged for the data above, but rather being hit for its size and resolution.

Brightness (White)

Brightness (Black)

Contrast Ratio

The Incredible 4G has better pixel density than the OG Droid (not so far off from the GS 3), is larger than the iPhone by a half an inch, and has excellent colors and viewing angles. So, why does it get so much grief? I’m not sure, but the disdain for it brings us to consider something else: Is there room for a 4” mid-range phone in today’s mobile market?

The sweet spot for cellphones in the US is $199, all thanks to the carrier subsidized model; MSRP’s of $649 are entirely concealed from the consumer, and every phone worth owning exists between $99 and $199. This price compression means that when you’re considering buying a new phone the difference between a mid-range phone and the top-of-the-line ‘halo’ device is usually just $50. Of course, this conceals the reality that the MSRP delta is often upwards of $149. So, how do you make a mid-range smartphone sell in this market? I’m not sure there’s a good answer, but here’s how Verizon is going about it. First they’re using branding that’s familiar to earlier buyers (whose contracts just came-up). Second, they’re including feature and spec deltas that provide a real world experience difference between the mid-range and ‘halo’ devices. Third, they’re not holding back on the advertising. The claims in their advertising are just as bold and brash as in any prior Droid campaign. 

S4 Performance at 1.2 GHz
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  • piroroadkill - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    I agree. I think 4" is about right, and 4.3" is getting on the large side, but is generally fine. I think 4.5"+ is just getting silly.
  • ivoryjohn - Friday, July 13, 2012 - link

    Since turning 50, I'll add that YES!!! Bigger is better!

    I got the Droid X when it came out, not for the touted video capability but for the big honking screen! Browsing the Internet, reading PDF encoded manuals all was easier with a larger screen.

    I downgraded slightly to the Droid 4 and wish I had an option for a 4.8 inch screen whether it fits in my pocket or not.

    Ten years ago, I would not have cared so much, but now, I am definitely in the near tablet size phone.
  • aliasfox - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    ... which isn't directly 'consumer demand'

    - Battery size. New SoCs and radios require relatively large amounts of power to get them through the day. A bigger screen (which might take an extra 10% power) affords space behind it for a battery that's maybe 20% larger - a net gain.

    And because the fastest phones now generally have the biggest screens to support the space for the larger battery (without sacrificing thickness), manufacturers and pundits are conflating 'bigger' with 'what consumers want in a top of the line phone.'

    Personally, I prefer iPhone sized. A 4" screen feels rather broad to type/tap on one handed (most of my usage) if you have to reach the opposite corner; I can't imagine living with a 4.5"+ screen day to day.
  • amdwilliam1985 - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    "if you have to reach the opposite corner; I can't imagine living with a 4.5"+ screen day to day."

    You'll get use to it, I got the SGS2 tmobile version(4.5" screen), and I can reach every corner of my screen comfortably.
    I got used to typing on my "giant" phone now whenever I pick up a 3.5" iPhone from a friend, I can't seem to hit the right key.
  • JasonInofuentes - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    This is correct. There is a net gain in component space in making a thin form factor large display handset. But this opportunity was acted on in part because of consumer demand for larger screens. Even as early as CES 2010 the scuttle was that the market was going to move to larger and large screens, even before thin was a major selling point.

    But, again, there's still opportunity to cram similar devices in a thicker handset, so it's a matter of design and willingness.
  • secretmanofagent - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    My girlfriend had the original Droid Incredible, and wanted the successor. She, however, is on a family plan, and didn't want to wait and end up affecting the rest of the family with the "upgrade" to the shared data plan. She didn't want the Galaxy S, because it was too big. She's now an iPhone user.

    I don't know whether she's an isolated incident, but to me they lost out on if people are paying attention to the data BS that Verizon is pulling.
  • eldwraith - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I got a new phone "only" because of Verizon's change. I didn't have any good reason to upgrade from my Incredible, but Verizon forced my hand, and now I have this book sized SGS3. I do hope she's happy with her purchase, and I think you're right about the Dinc 4g. Wow did this mess up HTC IMHO. For people racing to upgrade before the change they had very few options. Not nice how the Incredible line ended. Hopefully new customers will like the size, and still get it. I think it looks a little funny.
  • geniekid - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    In a similar situation. I have the OG Incredible, but I decided not to jump the gun on the S3 because it was too big. After using my OG Inc for 2 years and trying out other people's larger phones (Thunderbolt, Galaxy S2, EVO 3D, EVO 4G LTE), I've decided while my phone's 3.7" screen is too small, the S3's 4.8" screen is too large.

    So I might be paying full price for the Incredible 4G LTE depending on AT's review to 1) stay on Verizon's unlimited data plan and 2) give myself the opportunity to jump ship when my contract expires.
  • awaken688 - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    Same deal here. I thought this phone would be a better fit for my wife, but she didn't want to lose her unlimited data. So now she is rocking an S3 instead. I'm guessing there are many more stories out there where SGS3's were purchased because of the data plan switch. So far she's liking her phone, big screen and all. Of course coming from an OG Droid that was dying, it didn't take much =)
  • Thud2 - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    I am 53, eyesight waning, hate wearing glasses, like mobile web surfing, hence prefer larger screen.

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