The HTC One X, the EVO 4G LTE, and the One X+ are among our favorite phones. But the company hasn't had a flagship device for Verizon in a long time. Now, with the Droid DNA, HTC decided to go all out and make the most impressively spec-filled smartphone the world has yet known.
This thing is nuts.
The Droid DNA has a five-inch, 1080p, Super LCD 3 screen. 1920x1080 display, with a pixel density of 440 pixels per inch (PPI). That is the highest-pixel density on any mobile screen to ever hit stateside, by a gigantic margin (HTC announced the J Butterfly last month in Japan which has the same screen). To put that in perspective, the iPhone 5 has 326 PPI, or 114 fewer pixels per inch than the Droid DNA. It also surpasses any tablet, computer, or TV on the market. That is crazypants. But it gets better. The HTC One X (which currently has the best screen on any mobile device) uses a Super LCD 2 screen. The Droid DNA uses the updated Super LCD 3. What does that mean, aside from being a whole integer more than the last one? HTC claims to have improved the viewing angle to 80 degrees. It's made the display brighter and upped the refresh rate so there's no video blurring. It uses the nigh-indestructible Gorilla Glass 2.
Even though it's cutting it close at five inches, the Droid DNA is clearly a phone, not a phablet. HTC claims it's much slimmer than the Galaxy Note II, and has almost the same footprint of the HTC One X. We hope so, as a lot of people may balk at the 5-inch screen. You could think of it as "only 0.2 inches bigger than the Galaxy S III," or "only 0.5 inches smaller than the Galaxy Note II," but any way you slice it, it's big. The phone has red accents that gives it that Droidy look. It's sides are a kind of grill. Looks cool, but hopefully it isn't a lint-collector.
How about guts? The Droid DNA doesn't disappoint there, either It has the 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor that made the LG Optimus G and the Nexus 4 the fastest phones we've used. Add 2GB of RAM and Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean, with HTC's Sense UI on top) and you've got a lot of vroom. It packs an 8MP camera that opens up to f/2.0, 16GB of built-in storage (there's no 32GB option), NFC, Beats Audio, and Verizon's 4G LTE. The DNA is also one of the first phones to support wireless charging.
The one spec that's worrisome is the 2,020mAh battery. Sure, that's bigger than a lot of other phones, but with that gigantic screen, LTE radio, and that powerful processor, it may not be enough. The Note II, which is just a half-inch bigger, has a 3100 mAh battery and it got decent but not incredible battery life. We wonder if the Droid DNA can do more with less.
HTC Sense 4+ offers a bunch of improvements to the camera software. There's an improved gallery with photo maps, better HDR, smile recognition, and a cool countdown feature for vanity shots. The Beats Audio now offers dual amplifiers; one for the headphones, and one for the external speaker. We'll see how it actually sounds.
This all makes for a very intriguing device. The Droid DNA lacks the Note's stylus, but it clearly has a better screen, and HTC's Sense UI is much simpler and more intuitive than Samsung's overwrought TouchWiz. It's got the same guts as the Nexus 4, but a better screen and LTE. On paper, at least, this looks like the best Android smartphone out there out there. The Droid DNA will go on sale November 21st for $200 with a two-year contract from Verizon. You can pre-order it today.
UPDATE: Hands On Impressions
We just spent some time fondling the Droid DNA, and in a nutshell, we're very impressed.
For starters, our biggest worry is that it would be too big. A phablet like the Note II that's difficult to navigate with one-hand. Surprisingly, it doesn't feel anything like the Note II. Actually it feels almost identical to the Galaxy S III. It's the same width, it's approximately as thin, it's just a little taller. It's because the glass screen just melts into the curved sides. Basically it's a giant screen that doesn't feel giant in the uncomfortable ways we expected.
And speaking of screens, mercy.
It is simply the best screen. HTC already had that title, and they just leap-frogged themselves</strike. [Update: Nevermind!] It's bright, colors were lovely, and it's just unbelievably sharp. Holding it next to an iPhone 5, not only does way more text fit on the screen, but the text is way larger, sharper, and easier to read.
The phone's design felt really good. It's got that strong, matte polycarbonate that the HTC 8X has, with that same nice curve that fits very naturally in your hand. It's smooth, but just grippy enough that it wouldn't slide off your leg if you left it there for a second (which the Nexus 4 does, constantly). The camera doesn't bulge out anymore; instead it's flush with the back of the phone. It has the same optics as the HTC One series, which are very solid performers, though probably not quite as sharp as Samsung's high-end entries. Unfortunately there's no micro SD card slot, and no 32GB onboard option. The only thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is the micro USB port cover. It's a flimsy little piece of plastic. Then again, if you buy the wireless charger (sold separately), you may never need to bother with it.
The phone felt nice and fast. HTC retains the same physical buttons as the One X series (rather than the buttonless design in Nexus phones). To open Google Now you just hold down the home button. Everything looked pretty smooth. I opened a ton of apps at once, and they continued to load up quickly and the system didn't stutter. It was may not quite as fast as the Nexus 4, but from what I could tell, it's very close.
We'll have a full review in the days to come, but from our first impressions, this will very likely be the new phone to beat.