Verizon Droid Incredible, indeed it is


While it’s been disappointing to learn that carrying around two smart phones does not make a guy extra smart, I am incredibly happy about owning that Verizon Droid Incredible at left.  It’s not a phone I’d recommend to everyone — and Android marine apps certainly aren’t much yet — but given what I want from it, and where I live, the Incredible makes that iPhone 3GS seem feeble and limited.  I feel like I just got out of Apple/AT&T jail, and I’m shaking my head because I liked it in there!  Let’s begin with the built-in GPS and motion sensors…

I took that photo in Gizmo’s forward cabin, right where I would want a good anchor alarm app to run well, and  I’m confident that if there was an Android anchor alarm, it would work great on the Incredible.  Not only does it run circles around the iPhone in terms of performance — fast position acquisition, accuracy, and the ability to hold a fix in adverse conditions — but the creator of the free app GPS Status obviously had a lot more access to sensor detail than Apple gives to its developers.  (MotionX-GPS, mentioned here recently regarding iPad charting, tells more about iPhone GPS than any other app I’ve seen, but that’s not much.)  And it would take a video to show how quick and accurate the Incredible’s compass and accelerometers are.  The results when paired with Google Map’s street view mode — turn/tilt the phone and the photos move accordingly — are simply phenomenal (actually there are videos).
   I’m not going to go on and on about how good the Incredible’s hardware and software is, though I could!  Reviewers at
and have already done a fine job of breaking down the details.  And I will admit that it’s quite unfair to compare a brand new phone to the one-year-old 3GS, given how red hot smart phone competition is.  I’m sure the much anticipated iPhone 4G/HD, along with the 4.0 OS, will take care of numerous shortcomings.  But Apple and Google are on different paths, and right now I’m liking Android chaos over iSimplicity.  Yes, Task Killer has become one of my essential apps (to conserve the battery), and, yes, I did crack my wife up when she called as I was trying a bluetooth headset with Google street navigation and an podcast player simultaneously. (It was working perfectly, the podcast fading out when robotic voice directions came up, and it might have cut both out to answer the call except that somehow another audio app had opened itself…she found me dazed and confused.)
   At any rate, a very big deal for me is that Verizon 3G beats the hell out of the AT&T Edge service available around here, and actually seems much faster on the Incredible than any iPhone 3G I’ve experienced while traveling.  I can’t tell the difference between it and the DSL WiFi I can also tap at Panbo HQ.  And tethering the Incredible with a laptop via USB took me all of ten minutes, without “jail breaking” (or “rooting” as it’s called in Android world).  I used EasyTether, but there are choices, and I was even able to download the needed PC software to the phone and then over to the laptop — so I could set this up a PC without another form of Internet access — because Android lets you do stuff like that.  And check out the laptop speed I got while tethered to Verizon 3G, which corresponds to what I’ve been seeing on the phone.  This means that a $30/month data plan is going to let us be online in style while cruising the Maine coast this season, and that’s gold.  I do hope that marine apps developers get cooking on Anroid, but I already love this phone.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

24 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Incidentally, Active Captain noted yesterday that it’s working with a developer on a full featured Android app, but that it may take a “season or two”…damn. Meanwhile Navimatic’s AC implementation for iPhone and iPad just released, and is looking good.

  2. Charles G. Lelievre says:

    Fantastic News! My Incredible arrives tomorrow- and it will also be replacing my iPhone 3G. I agree, a nice anchor alarm app would be great!

  3. Feistycapn says:

    Great review. Last year I used verizon’s VZAccess with a built in radio in my laptop. I found Verizon coverage spotty at best east of the fox islands. Any chance it’s improved this year? I plan on tethering via my Droid eris this year. One advantage will be to have the phone outside the cabin while the laptop is inside for better reception.

  4. Bruce Schwab says:

    Wow, that’s a darn fast connection. Who will need wifi at all if they have that?

  5. Commanderusnret says:

    WOW…am I disappointed. This is more blah, blah, blah about handhelds when the Real Revolution is in the Speedy iPad and Active Captain’s incorporation into the FREE UPDATE of Navimatics. I was looking for a celebration on Panbo of the Yesterday’s Newsgram email announcement from Jeff Siegel : quote:
    ActiveCaptain loves Navimatics for iPhone/iPad
    This is an incredible announcement. You know how much we love mobile
    technology. Today Navimatics’ iPhone and iPad apps, Charts&Tides, was
    released by Apple. They include full, integrated, offline, and
    synchronized support for ActiveCaptain.
    We want to be clear, we receive no fees, payments, royalties, nothing.
    We’ve worked with Navimatics on the integration and have tested it for
    several months. Our endorsement is strong because we flat out love the
    product. It puts the entire ActiveCaptain database of marinas,
    anchorages, bridges, boat ramps, hazards, etc., plus all the reviews
    and comments in your pocket. No internet connection required once the
    data has been downloaded. Having hazard markers instantly available is
    enough to make this an important companion at your helm. You’ll see.
    There are 3 flavors of the app – East Coast, Gulf, and West Coast –
    only $19.99 each. The East Coast covers Maine to the Keys including
    the west coast of Florida. The Gulf app covers the whole state of
    Florida through Texas. The West Coast app covers the entire west
    coast, Alaska, and Hawaii. And for this low price, a single license
    can be loaded on both your iPhone and iPad.
    So here’s what you need to do. If you have an iPhone or iPad, buy this
    product. You’ll love it. If you’ve been on the fence about getting an
    iPhone, it’s time to jump off and get one. This app is reason enough
    to get an iPhone or iPad now. You won’t be sorry.
    =========================end QUOTE//
    The Navimatics / AC download is in two parts…first the Navimatics update from iTunes….took more than a half hour to download all the charts….then signing into your Active Captain account using the “Settings” button to get the “Initial Update” from Active Captain which took another 20 minutes to download (download speeds will vary). Then you have it the REVOLUTION APP for boating….with….with….a new Mariners View that swings 360 degrees around the compass with tricky two finger pinching and swinging….plus that whole downloaded library of AC info….THIS IS WHAT IS INCREDIBLE (to steal a little of Verizon’s thunder).
    The handhelds are swiftly becoming yesterdays technology for boating (a backup)…of course I am possibly wrong….so I’ll be hanging on to the iPhone for now…but may look at Droids for a cheaper phone plan since my data requirements are SWIFTLY being FILLED by shifting to iPad.

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Oh, Feisty, way to pop a guy’s balloon! I’ve long heard that Verizon has the best service Down East, but now that I check the detailed data coverage map, it’s true that “Broadband” becomes non-broadband “Enhanced Extended Service” just East of here. Drat!

  7. Jess Gregory says:

    With the proposed anchoring app, I’d include a calculator that guides you to the second drop spot when deploying two anchors. You’d drop the first anchor, then select the compass direction and the length of rode and the desired angle between the two anchors and the calculator would guide you precisely to the second drop point.

  8. I fully appreciate that there are sections of poor AT&T coverage. Camden, Maine is quite obviously one of them. When our boat was stored in Rockland, just a couple of miles away, we had excellent AT&T connectivity. In Maine, location matters.
    For what it’s worth, our ambulance squad in Castine installed a Verizon CDMA phone on the ambulance against my suggestion. It turned out to be so bad that calls couldn’t be made even with an external antenna. They switched to AT&T.
    But ambulances aside, what really matters is the service that’s available in the cruising areas where you have your boat. After spending 9 months on our boat along the east coast (from Maine to the Keys), at least for that coastal area, it doesn’t matter whether you have AT&T or Verizon. We have both and use both every day and consistently checked connectivity. There are pockets where one service excels over another – North Carolina is a terrible place for AT&T. Much of Long Island has significantly slower Verizon internet connectivity (same with Charleston). It’s interesting to note that as soon as you step offshore – just a couple of miles – Verizon connectivity falls away. AT&T seems to work consistently at 3 nm offshore and continues to work with an amp for as far as 15 nm offshore, usually in more populated places.
    You’ll also find that tethering a Verizon phone is going to potentially hit the 5 GB limit after which the monthly charge skyrockets. We hit that once on this cruise – trust me, it only has to happen once. The iPhone plan has no limit for data and no additional charges – we started using iPhone tethering exclusively when our Verizon plan gets above 3 GB used.
    I provided early and vocal criticism of the iPhone. Search for “Onboard a Boat With Apple’s iPhone” on MadMariner for a 2 page article. Over time, Apple fixed many problems that I had with it. But mostly the developer community stepped up and provided exceptional apps for boating use (and other uses). The developer community needs to do the same for Android/Droid. I hope they do and I’m doing my part to help it along. Something needs to check and challenge the dominance that Apple is gaining because competition is what we really need.
    So while I’m cheering for and working to enhance Android for boating, the reality is that if you want a phone for cruising today, especially along the east coast of the US, the iPhone is your best choice by a long shot.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Consider this, Commander Exclamation Point (and I thought I was loose with those things ;-): Android power and fast, (fairly) expansive Verizon data service in your pocket, but with WiFi tethering to an iPad when you need it. I’m not sure the combination is possible yet, but here’s betting that it will be.
    I agree, though, that Navimatics C&T with AC is neat. But I am having a little trouble getting the icons to come up when I tap the iPhone screen. Is anyone else? If it’s not just me (and my clumsy fingers), I think Navimatics needs to expand the area searched and listed per screen tap (which shouldn’t be too hard).

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Jeff, Verizon now seems to be matching AT&T with an “unlimited” $30 data plan for smart phones.
    They also still offer Mobile Broadband for PCs at $60 a month with a 5 GB limit, so I probably shouldn’t be writing about EasyTether, PdaNet, etc. Ssssshhhhhhhhh.
    PS I just checked my Verizon account online and it says “unlimited” all over the place. I’ve used 752,059.42KB in about 10 days of use, which seems fairly reasonable given how much I’ve used the data connection (lots of audio streaming). But I do intend to keep a lid on the tethering usage, so as not to draw special attention 😉

  11. I see the Unlimited word all over the place too but I also see this when you click on the Android plan:
    I’ll tell you what…draw a little more data (watch some YouTube videos instead of that audio streaming!) and pop it above the 5 GB limit. As soon as that bill comes, you’ll know right away.
    It’s quite confusing. But it’s also hard to believe that they’ll continue a $60 MiFi plan with a 5 GB cap and leave the Android at $30 with full tethering and no cap.

  12. Ben, thanks for the suggestion regarding the icons problem. The fix is exactly what you are suggesting and is a one liner fix. We will definitely include it in our upcoming update.
    BTW, yesterday’s update included all of the US coastline, but we still have not released Great Lakes yet. We will be releasing Great Lakes with ActiveCaptain support soon as well.

  13. Russ says:

    As you mention, comparing the current Android speed with the “old” 3GS iPhone is a bit of apples and oranges. Try it again in two months with the 4G iPhone. As with most technology products, they will leapfrog each other in terms of raw performance.
    Android phone developers will differentiate their hardware with various features across different price points which will make the Android software experience very different on different phones and create headaches for the app developers. If the Mac/Windows legacy is any example, Apple’s total control of the hardware, and tight control over software developers, ultimately produces a better user experience.
    The network speed you’re seeing with Verizon is the same speed I see in Sausalito with AT&T; neither has an inherent speed advantage. And just as AT&T’s network was slammed by iPhone growth, you should expect Verizon’s network to suffer as the Androids proliferate. Ironically, if Apple ever releases a CDMA iPhone, the defections from AT&T should quickly level the playing field as the AT&T network will have less load and the Verizon networks load will increase. Having been a customer of both I found them equally bad in terms of customer service.
    But it’s all about coverage, which unfortunately is a very elusive attribute when you’re on the move.
    The competition is good for AT&T, Verizon, Apple and Google; it will keep all their games sharper, and of course exposes Microsoft’s claim to be an innovator as total nonsense.

  14. Commanderusnret says:

    Ok forgive me Ben…(more for Jeff or Bill):
    A FIRST DAY USER DELEMA: This thread is not about ACTIVE CAPTAIN nor the newest update of the Navimatics APP for iPhone / iPad…and the answer to this question may be obvious…but where’s the button (assuming I have internet access, like inport) to input REVIEWS to AC on the new Navimatics release…using the C&T one would log into Active Captain after touching UPDATE NOW, meaning to receive AC info, but how does a captain transmit info back to AC for Reviews…still need a laptop with the “latest Adobe Flash Player” (not iPhone / iPad compatible yet)? No AC Reviews from an iPhone or iPad?
    Thanks for your patience.

  15. Hal:
    I do not mean to hijack the thread, however since you asked. The capability to make edits to ActiveCaptain features and add reviews will be coming in a release in the near future. Jeff has a contract with me on this, so I cannot escape doing it 🙂
    Please feel free to send me additional comments/questions through the support link at my website so that we do not further hijack the thread.

  16. Dave Skolnick on Auspicious says:

    Clearly I am a niche user, but despite the shortfalls of AT&T coverage (like ALL of the NC ICW) I really like the quad-band GSM iPhone. When I pull into Marsh Harbor or Bermuda or Horta or Plymouth England the iPhone (or any quad-band GSM phone) just works. It isn’t always cheap but it works. CDMA phones (like Verizon) don’t unless you have a handset that has a parallel GSM capability in their (expensive) world phones.

  17. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    I for one am looking forward to an anchor alarm for my android based motorola droid, especially if it has the features Jeff Siegle wrote about in another post such as the ability to obtain from the user where the GPS is relative to bow and use that in the calculations.
    I suppose if you use such a feature it is still better to have a bluetooth capable GPS than a super sensitive GPS in your phone, although I suppose the application could let you constantly change your location (phone relative to boat) as part of a touch and drag capability on the phone.
    Has anyone here yet tested using an external gps with bluetooth, as a substitute for the power sucking internal gps in a droid phone ? Any feedback?

  18. bstrong says:

    Free wifi in Camden Harbor / Sherman Cove? A little off topic maybe but I am considering another device to better pick up wifi and am wondering if there is still any free wifi there that I could reliably receive from a mooring with the right receiver – and what is the latest technology wifi receiver? Thanks, Brian

  19. Matthew Harris says:

    “Compass” from Snaptics in the Android marketplace is a great free app for anyone wanting an aftermarket compass/gps.

  20. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Uh-oh…AT&T is ending “unlimited” cell data. Actually, the new plans may work well for some people, and legal tethering is finally coming to iPhones:

  21. Albert says:

    I stumbled across this site, looks like there is an anchor alarm app in development that looks promising, here’s the link for anyone that’s interested:

  22. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I think the current best&most wifi solution will be an Ubiquiti Bullet at the base of a six to eight db antenna, powered by 12 volts dc carried over the ethernet cable. this solves the issue of signal loss over a long cable run, and the loss of power over long USB runs. These setups are sold by and others. Although you can order individual pieces for 50% less, the difference in cost covers product support and piece-by-piece integration. At least in the case with islandtimepc, this is a bargain.
    I have no financial relationship with them, YET. See the string on this subject by searching for wifi.

  23. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Happy to report that Gizmo is anchored in a remote cove at Dyer Island, way down east, but my laptop is tethered to Verizon 1X service and online at reasonable speed. You can see a vague outline of our travels on the About page, which is fed by either Droid phone or Spot2 messenger:
    It is true that super fast Verizon 3G service goes away just east of Camden, and it’s worse just to the south east, but tethering is great when there’s no WiFi (often). The iPhone has similar coverge but no 3G anywhere and no tethering for someone like me unwilling to jail break.
    I’m using EasyTether for the Droid, by the way, and it is very easy. It cost $10, and I may not need it when the Incredible gets an upgrade to Android 2.2 in a week or two, as that means it can create its own WiFi hotspot.

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