HTC Droid DNA $549.99

16th Jul 2013 | 23:54

HTC Droid DNA

Verizon and 'quietly brilliant' HTC get big and flashy

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Seriously beefy specs; First-rate camera; Great display; Runs Jelly Bean very well; Nice price;

Dislike:

HTC's UI is a bit tacky; No removable storage, only 16GB internal; Difficult to use with one hand; Mediocre battery life;

Introduction and Design

Update: Probably because the HTC One on Verizon is coming soon, the Droid DNA is now just $50 with two-year contract.

The Droid DNA by HTC is a big phone with a long name. Droid is Verizon's brand, but HTC has constructed a slick looking device with enviable specs and a mammoth high-resolution display.

It also runs Android 4.1: Jelly Bean, making it the second HTC phone to launch with this version of the Android OS, next to the HTC One X+.

It's big, powerful and loaded with relevant software, and even priced to move. The Droid DNA is only $199 with new Verizon contract. Not bad for a brand new quad-core device.

In addition to the Droid's good looks, it has the brilliant display and snappy camera HTC phones are known for. Sadly, its also got some of the HTC turn-offs, like a closed body without microSD support, just 16GB of storage inside, and a battery that often struggled to make it through the day.

A few qualms aside, we're prepared to say that there's still a lot to love about the Droid DNA. With butt-kicking hardware, a knockout screen, fast Verizon service and a nice price, it's a very good phone on a solid carrier. Still, it's a pity to see a device with such meaty specs come up short of true greatness.

Design

Remember when a little phone signified a premium handset? Well the Droid DNA confirms that those days are over - for now, at least. Measuring in at 5.6-inches tall and 2.7-inches wide, the DNA is a real beast of a device.

It's tall and relatively slim, measuring 0.38-inches at its thickest. That makes it a little bit fatter than a Samsung Galaxy S3 or fellow Verizon exclusive the Droid Razr HD, but you really need to go side by side to tell.

HTC Droid DNA review

The Droid DNA is a big boy, but there's not really any wasted space. This phone packs a whopping 5-inch display. For pure visual real estate, it edges out the Galaxy S3 and the Droid Razr HD, both of which come in at 4.8 and 4.7-inches, respectively.

The screen is built with Gorilla Glass, as is nearly every phone on the market these days. However, the Droid DNA has no bezel wrapped around the edge of its screen. Instead, the display rounds and curves at the edges, meeting the chassis to form a particularly smooth-featured device.

Below that monolithic super LCD3 screen are three capacitive Android buttons: Back, Home and Recent Apps. Each provides light, springy haptic feedback when touched.

HTC Droid DNA review

Aesthetically, the Droid DNA looks somewhat sci-fi. With its matte black finish and red, aerated racing stripes, it wouldn't look out of place on the helm of the "Prometheus," or poking out of Noomi Rapace's space suit.

HTC Droid DNA review

That red line look extends to the primary call speaker at the top. Inset within that there's a little light that glows when the phone is charging. This is handier than you'd think, since the Droid DNA supports wireless charging. It serves as a nice confirmation that the phone is getting juice without having to wake the screen.

HTC Droid DNA review

To the left of the call speaker is a circular notification light, which glows orange. To the right of that is a Verizon logo. The DNA, like all Droid phones, is exclusive to Verizon.

At the very top of the handset you'll find the standard headphone jack and a red Sleep/Wake button. There's also a micro-SIM card slot up there.

HTC Droid DNA review

On the right side is a shiny red volume rocker. The left features nothing but a metallic red line.

The overall construction of the Droid DNA is very smooth and glassy. It definitely has a premium feel that will appeal to anyone turned off by the more plastic-feeling phones (ahem, Galaxy S3). It maintains a very tight profile thanks to its sunken Sleep/Wake button and volume rocker.

However, the switches on the Droid DNA are so flush they can be a bit of work to find and press. To operate them, we needed a better grip on the DNA than on other phones with more pronounced features.

Though this is not a slippery handset, thanks to a soft-touch polycarbonate backing. This is the DNA at its most HTC-tastic, with a feel that's reminiscent of the HTC One X, One X+ and Windows Phone 8X, other phones from the self-proclaimed "Quietly Brilliant" brand.

As is the case with many HTC phones, it's a completely sealed design. That means no removable battery or microSD slot. This is a bit of problem, since internal storage is only 16GB.

Also on the rear are the requisite still and video lenses, the first of which is ringed in the DNA's signature red metal. There's also a rear notification light, something we've never seen before. Hidden beneath the black finish, it's only detectable when it glows orange to let you know you've missed a text, email or call.

HTC Droid DNA review

There's also branding for Dr. Dre's Beats Audio. It claims boosted audio performance for headphones, and the sound is certainly better with it activated, but we're not sure it does any better than the iPhone 5's equalizer.

Dre's Beats do nothing for the phone's external speaker, which is found low on the DNA's backside, and is plenty loud anyway.

While that rubbery rear grip means the Droid DNA won't go flying out of your hand too easily, there is the larger issue of the phone's massive size. Even those with big hands may find it difficult to operate with just five digits. When locking the phone, we often found ourselves bracing the DNA on the bottom with one hand while we locked it with the other, and we have pretty big hands.

The size of this handset is by no means a poor choice on the part of HTC, it just comes down to personal preference and what you want out of a phone. If you want a smartphone built for media consumption plus web browsing and squint-free reading, the DNA should be on your radar. If you want a device that fits easily in the palm, that you can pop in a pocket and forget about, maybe go down a few inches.

Interface

The Droid DNA by HTC runs Android 4.1: Jelly Bean and HTC's Sense 4+ UI. Thanks to a beefy processor and ample memory, it's more than capable of running the advanced multitasking functions offered by the Android operating system.

Android 4.1: Jelly Bean

HTC Droid DNA

This powerful HTC handset may have Droid DNA, but its lifeblood is Jelly Bean. After the HTC One X+, this is the second phone by the Taiwanese manufacturer to launch with Jelly Bean already installed.

While it's not packing Android 4.2: Jelly Bean, the absolute latest version of the OS, consumers shouldn't balk, that software suite is currently reserved for Google own Nexus devices, the Nexus 10, Nexus 4 and Nexus 7.

HTC Droid DNA review

The 4.1 version of the Android OS brings with it a handful of performance enhancements, including better app loading times, quicker web browsing and a more responsive experience overall.

This streamlined software performance is compounded by the Droid DNA's capable hardware. Flicking from screen to screen, adding widgets to the home screen and switching between programs all happens with absolute butter smoothness.

Jelly Bean also provides greater capacity for multitasking from the notification center, a panel that is pulled down from the top of the screen. It now provides a preview of incoming emails and text messages, and one touch access to basic functions like "reply" and "forward."

As with Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich, everything is built around a Home Screen and up to six additional panels. That makes for a total of seven screens that can be decked out with apps and widgets to your heart's content.

A single press on the Home button returns you to the Home Screen, the third panel by default. Pressing it again displays all the panels at once, which makes for easy management and rearranging.

HTC Droid DNA

The four default icons found on the dock are Phone, Email, Messages and Camera. These can all be removed, swapped out for icons or transformed into folders, but you are limited to just four on the dock. There's also a grid-like icon that lets you browse all your apps. It can't be removed.

Your four dock icons are also accessible directly from the lock screen. There's also native support for folders, which lets you cluster apps together in whatever combination you choose.

There's also a powerful new Google Now search function that's accessed with a long press of the Home button. From here you can perform a text or voice search that offers results from both the web and your phone. It's fast, and startlingly accurate.

Jelly Bean has given Android vastly improved speech recognition, to the point where it's now competitive with Apple's Siri. Talk to type is available any time the keyboard pops up, and can be activated from the Google Now menu just by beginning your request with, "Google…"

HTC Droid DNA review

Those lovely Android Widgets have also been tweaked in Jelly Bean. Many Widgets can now be resized, giving you at-a-glance access to your email, calendar or a forecast.

The Droid DNA is loaded with a lot of large and powerful Widgets that are worthy of a panel all their own. The Amazon Widget is particularly useful, giving you a preview of books, music and movies in your library, all of which can be accessed with a single touch.

The Droid DNA's powerful hardware proved to be very apt at handing seven Jelly Beans loaded to the gills with Widgets, folders and icons. While having lots of Widgets pulling live data from the web can be drain on your battery as well as your data plan, it took no discernable toll on the Droid DNA's overall performance.

Flicking across panels or jumping directly to the home screen happened in the blink of an eye. Once again, beefy specs and Jelly Bean make for a potent combination.

HTC's Sense 4+

As we mentioned, the Droid DNA isn't running a vanilla version of Android 4.1: Jelly Bean. A layer of HTC's Sense 4+ UI has been poured over it. It mostly just provides aesthetic differences. Generally, it stays out of the way, and only one or two of its visual quirks are truly questionable.

HTC Droid DNA review

The most immediately obvious aspect of Sense 4+ is its weather and clock widget. Plopped on the Home Screen by default, it displays the current time in the style of a retro flip clock.

Touching the clock or the weather gave a detailed breakdown of selected time zones and a more detailed forecast, respectively. Also, after unlocking the device, you'll sometimes be greated by clouds or glowing sunshine. The widget has animations that reflect the forecast. They're a tad cheesy but fun, and easy to disable if you grow tired of them.

HTC has also reconfigured the look of the Recent Apps preview. Tapping the third capacitive Android button, called Recent Apps, of course, accesses this.

Instead of showing them as smaller, square tiles, as is the Android default, it makes them into long, rectangular previews. This strikes us a poor use of space compared to the default method. It takes longer to scroll through the previews this way, and gives apps the look of that weird floating space prison from "Superman II."

HTC Droid DNA review

HTC also made another questionable choice by separating app and widget management. Normally in Jelly Bean, users can see both their apps and Widgets by touching the grid icon on the dock.

Not so with the Droid DNA. Instead, the grid icon only shows apps, which have been divided into All, Frequent, Downloads and Verizon apps (more on them in a minute).

Widget management is accessed with long press on any blank area on a panel. Users Unfamiliar to HTC's Sense UI may have difficulty finding this. Additionally, if you've got a lot of crowded panels, it may take a bit of scrolling to find a blank space to long press. Overall, an odd choice on HTC's part.

HTC has also reconfigured the lock screen. Rather than the circular Jelly Bean look, the Droid DNA has a silver ring that's dragged upward to unlock the phone. To jump directly into a dock app, you just drag the icon of your choosing into the ring. The DNA's ample stats make all of this happen in an instant.

HTC Droid DNA

HTC's Sense 4+ is mostly inoffensive, but not helpful either. We prefer the simpler aesthetic of vanilla Jelly Bean. While its signature Widget provides useful info, we found it unreliable. Also, the fact that it can't be resized makes it feel a bit behind the times.

Motorola manufactured Droids like the Droid Razr M and Droid Razr HD are either just now getting Jelly Bean or still waiting, but have a more simple and useful manufacturer UI.

Still, HTC's goofy UI choices certainly aren't enough to drive away consumers, but begrudging and tech savvy users may end up rooting their DNA and removing it altogether.

Contacts and Calling

Contacts

Importing your contacts to an Android phone has never been difficult. No matter what your preferred digital address book is, you can have all your familiar names and face on the Droid DNA by HTC in a matter of seconds.

HTC Droid DNA review

However, if you're a Gmail user, you'll find the process especially easy, to the point where we recommend making an account if, for nothing more, than for importing purposes.

The People app is the primary home for all your friends and their phone numbers. Of course, this isn't the only way to jump into your address book. It's also accessible from any app that would need such info, such as Phone, Messages and Email.

Contacts can also be imported and synced with Facebook and Google Plus. Your friend's social network profile pictures add some life to the People page. This method also retrieves whatever new contact info your friends might provide online, such as email address and phone numbers.

Of course, bringing in contacts from multiple sources can result in lots of annoying duplicates. The Droid DNA handily solves this problem by presenting the option to "Link Contacts." Doing so can take a minute or so, depending on how redundant your phone book gets, but the result is a tidy and permanent solution.

For further organization, contacts can also be sorted into groups. Pre-made groups include Co-workers, Family and Favorites. You can also make your own custom groups. The Droid DNA also keeps a running list of your most frequently contacted people

Of course, this is all pretty standard Jelly Bean stuff, which in turn boasts a few improvements over the old Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich methods. However, iPhone expatriates might be impressed, since iOS 6 only lets users choose VIP and favorite contacts, and does its most powerful contact management functions via a Mac's Address Book program.

Calling

HTC Droid DNA review

In addition to all the apps and media functions, smartphones also make calls, remember? HTC hasn't forgotten, as the Droid DNA offers very good connectivity as well voice quality.

Testing the phone on Verizon (the DNA's exclusive carrier) here in San Francisco, dropped calls were never an issue. We heard our friends' voices clearly and free from static, and the handset speaker provided plenty of volume.

On the other end, callers reported voices as easy to understand and without distortion, though they never once confused it with a landline connection. The phone does offer excellent noise canceling, and we had significantly less trouble making calls in crowded public places than we've experienced on cheaper phones. Still, it was nothing that blows away other premium smartphones.

HTC Droid DNA review

The DNA's speakerphone is very good. It can get very loud, and even at the maximum volume, which we doubt users will ever engage, sounds suffer only minimal reverberation and distortion. At more reasonable levels, voices were crystal clear. On the other end, callers weren't even able to discern that were using a speakerphone, except in noisy public places. That's rather impressive.

Getting back to Verizon's service, while we did encounter places in the city where we were bumped down to 3G data service, we could still reliably place calls in those areas.

As far as the phone application itself, HTC has given retooled the aesthetics somewhat, but as far as functionality goes, it's all Jelly Bean. From the phone tab there's a white on black dial pad, with a list of recent calls and favorite contacts to scroll through before hitting an alphabetical list of everyone you know.

There's also the Android smart dialing feature, which automatically begins to suggest contacts as you dial. This works for both numbers and letters, which means that dialing 595 will bring up numbers with those digits, and whatever names can be spelled from the associated letters.

All in all, it has a lot of thoughtful features, reskinned by HTC to match the matte black finish of the DNA. The biggest boons in calling department are the high quality speakerphone and Verizon's cell service, which never gave us a dropped call or garbled conversation.

Messaging

Text messaging

Texts are fielded through the Droid DNA's Messages app, which handles SMS/MMS as well as Voicemail.

HTC Droid DNA review

In typical Android fashion, your texts are laid out in a list, with a contact image and a preview of your most recent communication. Selecting a text shows your conversation in the back-and-forth fashion of an instant message chat.

Android's strong contact integration and address book maintenance holds everything together nicely.

There's also a powerful search function within Messages to make it all highly navigable. The search applies to both the names of the people involved as well as the actual text of the conversation. It's easy to find a specific person or bit of information buried within a conversation.

The Droid DNA's extra large screen makes for a sizeable keyboard. It's easy to punch out messages in either portrait or landscape mode. HTC's Sense Input also provides a "trace keyboard" feature, which is basically Swype typing. It works about as well as the name brand version.

There's also support for text message attachments. You can include media files as well as contact cards and calendar appointments.

Email

The Droid DNA's proprietary email client is found on the dock by default. It does an admirable job of managing multiple accounts. You can easily see all your email in one inbox, or browse one account at a time. Color-coding is used to mark unread messages.

HTC Droid DNA review

You can also choose from a handful of filters, which appear as tabs at the bottom of the screen. Selecting these filters allows you to see all your mail, unread messages only, emails from favorite contacts or emails with attachments. For example, it makes it very easy to find important messages, or an email with your movie tickets attached. Also, the fact that you can sort these icons into any order adds a fun level of customization.

Of course, you're in no way limited to the default mail client. The Google Play store has plenty of email programs to choose from, including the stellar Gmail client.

Both Gmail and the default mail client have great widgets that give you a preview of your inbox, let you scroll through messages and let you start replying and composing with a single touch. This is the kind of stuff that makes iOS 6 users jealous.

Lastly, because this is Android 4.1: Jelly Bean, there's a lot of email functionality built into the notification center. You'll see icons in the upper left to alert of incoming emails. Pull down the notification center and you'll see previews of your new messages, with the option to reply or forward built right in.

However, the one annoying stumbling block of Android email is the fact that emails do not resize well. Reading an email with a lot of images or a wide format requires a lot of panning around. This wouldn't be such an annoyance if the iPhone 5 didn't handle it much better, easily resizing emails for a better reading experience. Android users, now it's your turn to be jealous.

At least the Droid DNA's mammoth screen means slightly less panning and scanning than on smaller phones. Still, it's odd Android hasn't introduced a more elegant solution by now.

Bottom line, the Droid DNA has a superb texting and email experience. The way Jelly Bean handles contacts makes it close to effortless to maintain a neat address book, and all the widgets, apps and notifications make it impossible to miss a communication.

Our only complaint is an old sticking point with the way Android formats emails. We're not sure if that will ever get sorted out, but it's a minor gripe. Not enough to make us want to ditch the OS, but it's one thing iOS 6 does better.

Internet

In what must be a bid for simplicity, the Droid DNA's default browser is simply called the "Internet." Android 4.1: Jelly Bean is certainly not wanting for browser options, with Firefox, Opera and Google's own Chrome waiting in the Google Play store, but smartphone users could do a lot worse than the proprietary offering by HTC.

HTC Droid DNA review

HTC's default Internet app is your standard tabbed browsing experience, and the DNA's ample RAM and able processor make it easy to multitask plenty of pages.

Tabs are laid out similarly to the way HTC's Sense 4+ UI shows recent apps. Displayed as a large, rectangular previews, they're attractive, but not a terribly efficient use of space. We also found scrolling between them to be a bit slippery. It was easy to overshoot our target, or not slide at all.

Also, an annoying "Add to Bookmarks" bar appears at the bottom of the page every time you scroll upwards. It seemed pretty superfluous, and was easy to hit by accident.

However, the Internet browser did a surprisingly elegant job formatting and resizing text for easy reading. Browsing dozens of different sites, we never needed to pan around to see everything. Best of all, when double tapping to zoom in on a block of text, it would quickly format it to fit the screen.

HTC Droid DNA review

There are also a ton of settings and options, many of which save precious bandwidth. There's an option to toggle animated GIF support, disabling images on web pages, pre-loading videos, a built-in pop-up block and an option to automatically load the desktop (rather than mobile) version of sites.

Of course, many users will likely opt out of this proprietary Internet app in favor of their personal browser preference. If that's the case, the Droid DNA is ready to play ball, letting you easily change your default browser from the settings menu.

Browsing the web with Chrome and the default Internet app, we found that both offered zippy performance. The TechRadar homepage loaded in about three seconds.

Also, both browsers have great bookmark widgets, which display tiles of your favorite websites. Simply touching the tile takes you right to the site. Since this is Jelly Bean, the widget is resizable, letting you choose how much screen space to devote to your bookmarked favorites.

Basically, the Droid DNA is another Android phone with a great web experience. The DNA's awesome hardware make loading times trim, and running tons of tabs is no problem at all. Also, HTC's stock browser, while not our preference, is far from bad. But, we still recommend users download other browsers and experiment to find a favorite.

Camera

The Droid DNA boasts an 8-megapixel camera that's better than most. A lot of HTC phones have great cameras, and the DNA maintains the tradition.

HTC Droid DNA review

Not only does it take fine quality pictures, it does so very quickly. It has fast firing shutter speeds, and even the HDR mode shoots off at a good speed. The focus engages quickly, too.

HTC Droid DNA review

In addition to HDR, there are lots of preset modes meant to optimize your photograph.

The Droid DNA also shoots 1080p video, with fun options like slow motion.

Media

A phone with a 5-inch 1080p should be a media monster, right? Well, that's mostly the case. Videos do look fabulous on the Droid DNA's 440 ppi display, and there are lots apps and widgets to make accessing and consuming media an absolute breeze.

The only thing that holds back the DNA in the least is its 16GB of internal storage, which cannot be supplemented by microSD.

Now 16GB is nothing to sneeze at, certainly enough for a day or two's worth of viewing and listening. However, it's a level of storage where you'll have to keep an eye on how much media you're dropping on the phone.

We often ding the iPhone 5 for its lack of removable storage, and while the DNA probably got its thin frame from ditching microSD, the great thing about a premium device is being able to load up on media without having to count megabytes.

That said, there plenty of media options on the DNA, including cloud services and streaming services for those less concerned with their data plans.

Music

HTC Droid DNA

In addition to syncing MP3s to the DNA via USB, there are plenty of methods to purchase and stream music to the phone.

Google's own Play Music offers a music library with selection and pricing competitive to Apple's iTunes store. The Play Music app is also where you'll control whatever tracks you've imported through USB. Play also has a useful widget that lets you control your music right from a home screen.

For Amazon fans, there are apps and widgets that let you tap into online content purchased from the retail mogul. As with Google Music, there's a small toolbar widget for controlling your current track. There's also a large Amazon widget that gives you access to your entire content library, books, movie and music included, as well as suggested products and apps.

When you first get your DNA, this oversized widget will be deployed to a panel by default. This may offend some, but it can easily be done away with. As we've said, it's big, but we found it to be a useful and attractive way of displaying and accessing our content. It's too bad it can't be resized, like most widgets in Jelly Bean, but it's a useful widget for Amazon customers nonetheless.

Finally, the Droid DNA has Beats by Dre audio support, as is signified by the red B on the back. This B also shows up on the notification bar whenever you listen to music with headphones.

Since Beats imposes a little extra drain on the battery, it can be toggled on and off. Turning it off, we noticed a significant drop in audio quality, big time bass reduction and a drop in overall volume. Music on the Droid DNA definitely sounds better with Beats switched on.

However, playing the same tracks on an iPhone 5, using the same pair of high-quality headphones, we could not detect any difference. This didn't really bug us, since the DNA has a reasonable $199 price tag (with contract), so it doesn't seem like the good doctor's presence has inflated the price for consumers.

Movies

HTC Droid DNA review

If you've got the kind of lifestyle where you ride the bus, a train, or do anything else that has you watching a lot of videos on your phone, the Droid DNA will delight you with its display.

As mentioned, the DNA has a phenomenally high-resolution screen. Watching Netflix or YouTube on the screen was an awesome experience.

Those aren't your only options though, as you can always purchase films and TV through Google Play, or the aforementioned Amazon widget.

As far as comparing it other smartphone displays, it's hard to declare a true winner. Obviously, if you want the biggest screen possible, the Droid DNA is a great choice. However, if you want something a little more pocket friendly, there's always the Droid Razr HD or Samsung Galaxy S3.

Both the Droid Razr HD and Samsung Galaxy S3 have AMOLED screens that offer oversaturated, bright colors that some will find pleasing and other will call tacky. The Droid DNA's LCD3 screen gives more true to life color representation. We'd call it the better phone for a cinephile, but no movie die-hard would be watching films on a cell phone screen. Not by choice, anyway.

Overall, media consumption is one of the DNA's best assets. That 440 ppi screen is big and beautiful, and there are enough app and widget options to keep your media library at your fingertips.

However, that makes the phone's limited storage size all the more frustrating. 16GB may seem sizeable, but after the OS and whatever apps you want to install, the space that's leftover is all you get to play with.

Streaming services make for a nice compensation, especially if you're on WiFi a lot, but if no you'll be burning up your data plan. If you're a frequent movie watcher or the type who likes to have lots music on the go, be prepared to manage your storage daily.

Battery life and connectivity

Battery life

Battery life can be problematic with HTC devices, like the HTC One X+. Thankfully, the Droid DNA offers better battery life than previous HTC phones, but it's still not fantastic.

HTC Droid DNA review

On a day of average usage, meaning web browsing, checking email, Google mapping and some game playing, it barely made it to the end of the day with much charge left.

When we really put it to the test with lots of YouTube, Netflix, playing games and other streaming services, it needed a midday charge.

On the TechRadar battery test, it played an HD video for ninety minutes, with push notification on and WiFi on, LTE enabled, and brightness maxed, and ended up with a 71 percent charge left. That's a very average score.

Overall, we'd say that power comes at the price of battery life with the Droid DNA, but you won't be tethered to your charger like with past HTC phones.

Connectivity

As a Droid Device, the Droid DNA is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. Not only do those red racing stripes make it fit right in with the big red carrier, Verizon's fast LTE network is perfect compliment to the phone's sharp screen.

HTC Droid DNA review

Streaming video is fast and gorgeous on the DNA. While you need to keep an eye on that data plan, it's the perfect phone for streaming Netflix or renting movies from Google Play.

Download speeds were outrageously fast, averaging around 20 Mbps. Occasionally they were over 30 Mbps. Upload speeds were impressive as well, usually coming in around 10 Mbps.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, we did encounter areas with 3G rather 4G service, but we were still able to maintain a reliable data connection as well as place calls.

Maps and apps

Maps

As an Android 4.1: Jelly Bean device, the Droid DNA has good old Google Maps to help you get around town.

HTC Droid DNA review

Google Maps used to be a given, until the introduction of Apple Maps on iOS 6. Now Android fans have something they can unquestionably lord over iPhone 5 owners.

Google Maps is as accurate as ever, and its turn-by-turn navigation service makes a reliable alternative to a GPS.

Running errands around San Francisco, on foot or in the car, Verizon's 4G LTE service gave us a reliable Google Maps connection that got us where we needed to go.

However, battery life came at a premium. Other than streaming HD video, this was one of the big power drains on the DNA. As we get into in the Battery and Connectivity section, while the DNA would barely make it to the end of the day on a single charge, extended Google Mapping can mean a midday trip to the charger.

Apps

Once again, as an Android phone, the Droid DNA is part of the Google app ecosystem. Your apps will be coming from the Google Play Store, which has enough content to challenge its rival iTunes.

HTC Droid DNA review

If you're upgrading from a previous Android device, it'll be very easy to load your previously purchased apps unto your new phone. My Apps offers a list of all apps, free of paid for, you currently own. You won't have rebuy anything you've already plunked down for.

Games are definitely a strong suit for the Droid DNA. While most any modern phone, especially one running Jelly Bean, can handle the latest mobile games, the DNA loads them with ease.

A quad-core, 2GB of RAM and a 5-inch display is an excessive amount of hardware. If you're not going to be gaming, there's almost not much point in owning a DNA.

Verizon apps

HTC Droid DNA review

Since Droid is a brand owned by Verizon, all devices baring the moniker are exclusive to the big red carrier. As usual, Verizon has loaded a cluster of its apps onto the Droid DNA, none of which are particularly useful, or removable.

None of this stuff would be egregious if wasn't for the fact that storage on the Droid DNA is at something of a premium. There's just 16GB of internal space, with no microSD option, meaning every proprietary app jammed on the handset is taking space away from the consumer. That's our only real issue with these carrier apps.

Verdict

The Droid DNA is a very good smartphone, thanks to beefy hardware and Android 4.1: Jelly Bean.

It's also a very big smartphone. Coming in at over 5-inches, it barely fits in a pocket. At that size, it might be something of a niche device, but its one we recommend with few reservations.

We liked

The overall performance of the Droid DNA is very impressive. A quad-core smartphone is nothing new, but 2GB of RAM is. These specs show from the minute you boot up the DNA and start flying across its panels. Standard apps open in the blink of an eye, and the load times on games are a breeze.

Verizon's 4G LTE service is just as quick. The DNA is exclusive to the big red carrier, and benefits from its stellar data service and reliable call quality. There's still the gripe about the lack of unlimited data plans, but we're learning to live with that.

The DNA's screen is one of the best on the market. It's full 1080p, and with 440 ppi, it edges out the iPhone 5's retina display for sheer pixel density. Some users may prefer the way the Galaxy S3 and Droid Razr HD amp up and over-saturate colors, but we prefer the true to life approach.

It also has a great camera. Even in low light, it manages to fill the frame with color. It's one of many in a long line of HTC phones with high quality image capturing.

It's a handsome phone with just the right amount of flash. The unibody design gives it a clean, simple look. The price is right, too. At $199 with new contract, the DNA is one of the best deals you'll find on Verizon.

We disliked

The amount of storage on the DNA is disappointing. 16GB is not a lot after you factor in the OS, especially on a phone that seems built for media consumption.

It's the lack of removable storage that really gets us. We know the phone benefits by its sealed body design, achieving a relatively slight frame, but the DNA needed either a big hard drive or microSD support. Sadly, it got neither, and it makes us wonder if HTC will introduce a 32 or 64GB model, like they did with the One X+.

Then we come to HTC's Sense 4+ UI. It's not bad, we just prefer the way good old fashion Android lays most things out. HTC's flagship time and weather widget is charming, though.

The battery was merely ok, which is not surprising on a 4G LTE phone with a humongous screen, but better than other HTC devices like the One X+ Still, if you go easy on the media streaming, the DNA will get you through the day just fine. If you plan to game a lot, say on the train to work, consider a second charger for the office.

Lastly, the buttons the DNA are just a little too flush. We appreciate that it has a slim, no snag profile, but it's rather hard to press the unlock button. It doesn't help that it's on the top, either. The phone is so big that it's hard to get a solid grip and reach the top – note that this complaint is coming from someone with big hands.

Verdict

The Droid DNA is a very good phone. Its hardware performance is the definition of consistency, giving snappy load times and overall excellent performance.

Its sheer size makes it a bit of niche device, since its not easy to stuff in a pocket or manipulate with one hand. The lower-end storage size will likely have media mongerers shuffling files more often than they'd like, but it's worth it for that glorious 5-inch, 1080p screen.

A few flaws aside, the Droid DNA by HTC is one of the best phones HTC has ever produced. Now if only it had the One X+'s larger hard drive size, then it might be the best phone on Verizon. As it stands, it's more like one of the best deals. You can't get more performance for $199 than with the DNA - for now, at least.

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