First hands-on impressions of the Verizon HTC Droid DNA

First hands-on impressions of the Verizon HTC Droid DNA

Summary: HTC just announced the 5 inch Droid DNA and so far it is fabulous. HTC knows how to design a device and it may soon earn a place in my collection.


I thought all major devices were announced by the beginning on November when I posted my top 5 smartphones for the holiday season, but Verizon and HTC just announced the Droid DNA. I've been using one for just over a day, but even in that short time period I can tell it would earn a spot in my top 5 and likely slide in at number 3. I have many things to still test, but wanted to offer up some initial impressions and encourage you to visit a Verizon store this weekend to check one out.

I have to say I was pleased to see the HTC Droid DNA announcement last week, but didn't think it would be a device I really cared much about or would consider getting for myself. After receiving one to test out yesterday though, I have to say I am seriously considering one. In my opinion, it is the BEST HTC device ever made and even tops the HTC One X that I previously gave that honor too. In additon to well designed hardware, there are improvements in HTC Sense that make the Droid DNA a very compelling device.

Out of the box impressions

The Droid DNA comes in one of those gray, metal looking Droid boxes with the freaky red eye peering through. However, that branding melts away as soon as you take off the top cover to reveal the Droid DNA. The DNA has a 5 inch display so I was expecting a beast of a device and something along the lines of my large Samsung Galaxy Note II. Wow, that is NOT what you will find when you take out the HTC Droid DNA. It feels absolutely amazing in your hand and rivals 4.3 inch devices in size. HTC maximized the display so there is very little black around the screen. The glass on the front curves into all the edges and makes you want to keep flipping it over in your hand. I like the black color with red highlights around the edges, around the camera, in the headset speaker, and on the power button. It's actually stunning in appearance.


First experiences

Setup was typical for an Android device with a few steps to enter account information. You then get your first glimpse of the display and get blown away by the 1920 x 1080 pixels 5 inch Super LCD 3 goodness. At 441 ppi, it is way beyond what your eye can distinguish but that doesn't mean you cannot tell it is amazing. One great part of the new Sense that I like is that the home screen panels roll continuously as you swipe across the screen. I hated when they stopped at one end of the panels in previous versions and this makes it more efficient for me. There is a cool Amazon widget where I can easily access my Kindle library, Amazon MP3 music, Amazon apps, and browse the Amazon store. Press and hold pops up Google Now thanks to Android Jelly Bean loaded on the device. There are some Verizon apps loaded on the device, but I appreciate the usefulness of NFL Mobile, Slacker Radio, Mobile Hotspot, and Visual Voicemail. Others can be disabled and hidden too.

I started taking some comparison photos to see if the Droid DNA can hang with the iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920. It looks like HTC may have gotten things right with the camera on the Droid DNA, but I have plenty more photos to take to make that decision. RF reception seems excellent, calls sound great (loud and clear). The device is very responsive and so far I haven't seen any lag due to Sense. Beats Audio sounds fantastic and I am really becoming a fan of Beats.

Someone mentioned that the Droid DNA was unlocked, just like my iPhone 5, so I popped in my AT&T SIM, changed the APN, and it worked perfectly fine with an HSPA+ connection. As a multi-carrier user, I appreciate that flexibility and think the international traveler and smartphone enthusiast will too.

I understand the Droid DNA supports wireless charging and am testing it with the Nokia Fatboy I have on hand. It's good that it supports wireless charging since the stupid microUSB battery door drives me crazy. I am done with small doors so please stop putting them on phones.

To be tested

I have only had a day with the Droid DNA so there are many things I plan to test moving forward as I try to figure out if the DNA can join my iPhone 5 on Verizon Wireless. Here are things I plan to test:

  • Battery life: Can the DNA go all day with a 2,020 mAh battery? My Galaxy Note II has a 3,100 mAh battery and it lasts at least a day.
  • Camera: How does the Droid DNA compare to other smartphones?
  • Apps: Where is Flipboard? Why can't I install Xbox SmartGlass, Alaska Airlines, and other apps?
  • Charging: How well does the wireless charging work, does it take longer to charge than plugging it into microUSB?
  • Integrated memory: Is the integrated 16GB acceptable or does it appear it will be an issue?

Please let me know what you would like to see covered in a full review of the HTC Droid DNA and I'll work over the next two weeks to pull everything together.

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Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Smartphones, Verizon

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  • it's certainly an attractive device

    but based on the tiny (non removable) battery (which would give bad life to begin with, but with that 441ppi screen will have abominable battery life), tiny internal storage, and no SD card slot, it's a total waste of that attractive outer shell. If they just gave it a 3100mAh battery and an sd card slot and/or 64GB internal storage it would have bumped this up to being a great phone.
    • on a related note

      it seems HTC always makes phones that are 1 or 2 details away from being amazing, but HTC drops the ball on these simple but critical details. what's the deal? haven't they lost enough money? why don't they learn from their mistakes?
      • Drives me crazy too

        I hear you, it's such a shame that things get fixed in one product and then appear in another. I understand there are lots of tradeoffs that have to be made, but dang the battery has to be large to power LTE and this gorgeous display. If you are going to lock out memory, then put in 32GB too since only 11GB is accessible in the 16GB model.
        palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
        • HTC 8X

          Which, aside from Android, is fairly similar to this so I'll give my thoughts. I was considering this phone but I like WP8 more. However, 16GB seems to be enough. I still have my unlimited data so I can stream data and use skydrive as needed. I have my videos set to upload on WiFi so I can delete them after they're sync'ed and they no longer use local storage. I think local storage is becoming less of an issue. That said, such flagship Droid device, competing against other Androids, should have had removable storage or more.

          But the battery on the DNA seems to be a big issue, or at least seems like it would be. You can only optimize so much.
      • Everyone does that

        Apple does this every time they release something. They always leave off a few things people really want...and they do it on purpose. It makes you buy the next device which has those features, but doesn't have something else. Meh.
        • HTC is no Apple though

          HTC is no Apple. There's no "saving it for the next version". How about they blow people's mind with a product and take it from there? These 2 features a a deal breaker for me too, in spite of all the good stuff. I have a GS2 and managing battery life used to be a daily burden. Less now, since I bought a few replacement batteries. Again, not the case with the DNA.
  • One positive blogger !

    Hello Matthew,
    In the valley of hate and bigotry that the tech blogs have become, there is on man -you- who keeps sharing his bottomless enthousiasm for tech products regardless of manufacturer or OS.
    Keep on. It's a relief to read you.
  • Only Android Has Inbuilt Support For This Pixel Density.

    Meanwhile, back in the 20th century, IPhone 5 users are wondering when these black bars on all their apps are going to go away.
    • There went a mostly well reasoned

      and troll free talkback. The black bars are not due to some exclusive built-in pixel desnity support but due to the fact that some apps have not been optimized to fit the length of the iPhone 5 screen. If you actually had a clue as to how thins work you'd have realized this and not posted the FUD and lies. Then again you are a rabid frothing at the mouth Android fanboi - which is just as unreasonable, stubbron, blind, and fanatic as a rabid frothing at the mouth Apple fanboi.
  • It looks like a killer device

    And was a potential replacement for my HTC Thunderbolt but the lack of an SDCard slot and a 16GB on board limit (less than 16B due to the OS taking up some of that space) nixed that idea. Couple that with the fact I'd lose my unlimited data if I upgraded to it I'll stick with devices that have expandable storage options.
  • Unlocked?

    Hey, Matthew Miller, can you tell me more about the unlocked iPhone 5 and HTC Droid DNA? Never heard of unlocked iPhones woth a plan before
    • unlocked

      Yup the iPhone 5 on verizon is fully unlocked and works on atts network
  • Storage

    Such an awesome phone with 14gb of usable storage. Pity. This is like owning a sport car with a 3 gallon tank