HTC Droid DNA and Samsung Galaxy Note II: Two super smartphones on Verizon Wireless

Verizon customers have two great choices this holiday season and if you are a data-centric user then the Note II or Droid DNA will be calling your name. Which one would you choose?
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I have been using the HTC Droid DNA for last three weeks and was going to post a review here on ZDNet, but Stephen beat me to the punch and after reading his review I realized my post would have echoed most of his thoughts. Instead, I'll respond to the testing issues I listed in my first impressions article and offer my comparison of the DNA and Samsung Galaxy Note II that are both now available for Verizon customers.

Test results from first impressions

There were five specific items that I planned to test on the Droid DNA since my last post on the device. Here are the results of my testing:

  1. Battery life: The DNA has an amazing display (1920 x 1080 pixels in a 5 inch Super LCD 3) and LTE with a 2,020 mAh battery, so there was great concern and even some initial reports that the battery was the Achilles heel. It turns out in actual daily usage that the battery life is just fine and the majority of people will likely go at least a day with the Droid DNA, much like every other smartphone. I am a fairly heavy user (2+ hour daily train commute) and was able to go every day over the past three weeks without losing power. Of course, if you play hours of games or watch movies then you will kill it, but for typical usage I don't see it being any more of a concern than the iPhone 5 or other smartphone.
  2. Camera: The Droid DNA has HTC's latest camera technology and it performs well. I still think HTC's software can use some tweaks (sometimes things seem artificially sharp), but I was able to carry the DNA and not worry about taking another phone for camera shots. I found the video capture to do well and loved that I was able to capture still photos while viewing video I shot of my daughter at her basketball games. The wide angle front facing camera was also fun for my daughters and I to take quick shots to share. Not printable quality, but fun for social networks.
  3. Apps: Some of the apps I was having problems with have been updated (Flipboard ) and now work with the Droid DNA. However, there are still several others, such as Xbox SmartGlass, Angry Birds Star Wars, and Alaska Airlines, that do not work on the device. In addition, there looks to be a new issue with the updated Google Search/Now application. Thus, there is still an issue with apps and the DNA, linked to the resolution and HTC's customization with Sense.
  4. Wireless charging: I dusted off my old Energizer Qi charging pad and placed it on my desk. It's great to throw the Droid DNA on it and have it charged without having to struggle with the stupid microUSB port cover. I HATE port covers on phones and if I didn't have wireless charging I would probably rip out the port cover on the Droid DNA. Charging was slower on the wireless pad, but then again I just set it there at night and it was charged up in the morning so wasn't concerned about charging speed.
  5. Integrated memory: After three weeks of regular usage I now see that there is 5.54 GB available on the DNA. I do have two Google Play movies downloaded on it and about 50 apps so I am not overly concerned about the integrated memory. As I was capturing video of my daughter's basketball games I saw the capacity start to fill up so if you spend hours filming then you will have to offload video. I would like to see high end devices like this come with at least 32GB, but the regular user will be just fine.

Comments/supplement to Stephen's review


My thoughts and experiences echo much of what Stephen posted on the Droid DNA. Here are some of my comments on what he covered:

  • Speakers: I don't make many calls and can't say I have made enough calls to have the connected calls issue he details. HTC is known for tinny integrated speakers and the Droid DNA is no different.
  • Buttons: Like Stephen, I haven't had a problem using the power or volume buttons. Yes, they do not stick way out from the top and side, but they are still perfectly usable and never bother me or limit my usage of their functions.
  • Beats Audio: I think even more than the Beats Audio, the powered amplifier in the headphone jack improves the audio experience on the DNA. I don't find the Beats integratation to be overly bassy either and am enjoying it and prefer it to devices like my iPhone 5.
  • Dimensions and weight: I continue to be blown away by how "small" the Droid DNA feels for a device with a whopping 5-inch display. It fits in my pocket so much better than the Note II and I think HTC did a fabulous job making a rock solid product with an attractive size and weight.
  • Kickstand: I agree with Stephen and am a big fan of the integrated kickstand. HTC could have added one without compromising the design, similar to what they did on the EVO 4G LTE. I have been purchasing cases that flip up for my Note II and using them just for watching video since these large displays are perfect for commute or travel video playing.

I really like that a press and hold of the Home button launches Google Now and am enjoying this experience more than Siri on my iPhone 5. I also find task switching to be a joy on the DNA and have yet to experience any slowdowns due to Sense that I saw regularly on the HTC One X. When app support is fully provided on the Droid DNA, then I will be quite happy.

If we had ratings here on ZDNet, then I would rate it higher than Stephen and give it a solid 8.5 or even a 9. I didn't find the battery limiting, I thought the camera was solid, and really only take points off for the limited integrated storage capacity. The display is the BEST out there and is absolutely gorgeous. Wireless charging is quite handy and NFC (I know most all new Android phones have it) is really very convenient for connecting to speakers and sharing things.

Which to choose on Verizon: DNA or Note II?

I have a Galaxy Note II on T-Mobile and understand this device is now also available on Verizon. If I had to choose between the two on Verizon, I personally would still pick the Note II over the DNA. They are both excellent choices, but the microSD expandable storage option, replaceable whopping 3,000 mAh battery, and S Pen functions trump the DNA for MY usage needs. Using the DNA actually helped me discover things on the Note II, such as the ability to also take still captures of video you have taken with the Note II. I use the S Pen quite a bit and the more I use it the more I find to use it for. I have yet to experience any application limitations or incompatibilities on the Note II and Angry Birds Star Wars is lovely on the 5.5-inch display.

The Note II display is larger but not as good, and the construction is not quite as solid as the DNA. However, it is still my preferred device and it is so refreshing to use it as much as you want and never worry about a dead battery. It reminds me of using my iPad and never worrying about charging it up.

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