Nexus One vs HTC Desire vs HTC Incredible: What's the Difference?

By Ryan Whitwam

HTC is releasing more Android phones all the time, but is there a difference?


Nexus One, Incredible, and Desire are all very similar phones, but there are some differences of note that will matter if you're tied to a certain carrier. We'll go over what's exactly the same and what's different between these models so you can make an informed decision when purchasing your next smartphone.

3.7-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen display with a native 480x800 resolution. We'd wager these are the exact same panels, in fact. But the buttons around the this screen is where you'll notice the first differences. The Incredible and the Desire both have optical trackpads for navigation, while the Nexus One is rocks the trackball (like a last-gen Blackberry). In that same region, the Nexus One and Incredible have capacitive buttons for Home, Menu, Search, and Back. The Desire has real physical buttons that click, which is useful if the vibration feedback isn't enough.  The Desire and Nexus One also have identical 5MP cameras, whereas the Incredible has upped the ante with a 8MP sensor with auto-focus and dual-LED flash.

All three handsets run on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU. In terms of memory, the Nexus One has 512MB of RAM while the other two phones get a little boost with 576MB of system memory. One very interesting hardware feature on the Nexus One that is not replicated in the other two is the dual mic system. The Nexus One has a second mic on the back of the phone that samples ambient noise and filters it out. This feature is missing on other HTC phones, though we don't know how effective it is at actually blocking out background noise when making calls or using voice commands.

When you turn the phones on, another big difference surfaces: the software. The Nexus One runs the stock Android 2.1 OS (Eclair), while the Incredible and Desire run the proprietary HTC Sense UI on top of Android 2.1. Sense UI is a replacement interface for much of the operating system's user facing functionality. It offers more usable space on the home screen, better media apps, and a streamlined number dialer. As we've said before, it's a stunning visual experience, and has attracted a huge following among Android users. All the shiny pretty things in Sense might be enough to convince some the Desire and the Incredible are better phones. However, The Nexus One is likely to see faster OS software updates, as HTC must develop and test new versions of the Sense UI before rolling new versions of Android out to the public.
 
the key difference is a common one with all phones: carrier support. With the Nexus One has the largest domestic network support, and is currently available for the T-Mobile and AT&T networks, with CDMA versions for Verizon and Sprint promised in the near future. A Vodafone version is on the way as well to serve European customers. The Incredible is on its way to Verizon, and the rumors have it pegged for later this month. The Desire is a different beast entirely. It is currently available on several carriers in Europe like T-Mobile UK and Orange, with a Vodafone edition maybe on the way. There's no official word on a stateside release, but HTC did say in their MWC talk that, " HTC Desire has been accepted by almost every key carrier in every key country we work with". There are rumors that the Desire could come to T-Mobile in the US as the HTC Bravo. As if there weren't enough intrepid, dynamic smartphone names to remember.

We really dig HTC's commitment to cutting-edge hardware and unique software implementations, but we think that they could do a little more to differentiate their products. Otherwise, consumer satisfaction may be hurt in the future. It's clear that high-end hardware is currently hitting the sweet spot with 1GHz ARM processors, so we'll likely continue to see more variations on this theme. In many ways, HTC is a traditional hardware maker, accustomed to quickly iterating new hardware according to the will of their carrier partners, demands of their customers, and availability of new technologies. Of course, this is in contrast to Apple's fixed schedule of only releasing one phone a year that rolls up all available technological features. As consumers, which strategy for handset roll out do you prefer?