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Nov
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Last Updated: November 23rd, 2012

The latest and greatest from Verizon and HTC's ongoing DROID partnership marks something of a shift in strategy for the two companies. In the past, if you wanted an HTC "DROID," your options were basically limited to the Incredible brand, which has become decidedly, well, less incredible over time. And while the Incredible started out as a top-of-the-heap smartphone back in 2010, it too was quickly eclipsed by bigger, better phones. Verizon's approach to HTC from basically day one has been "the DROID phone that costs less than some other DROID phone we throw a lot more marketing money behind."

There's nothing so wrong about that, but it hasn't exactly helped HTC grow its reputation on America's largest wireless carrier. Missteps like the ThunderBolt and Rezound, HTC's only recent flagship devices on Big Red - one of which was the first LTE phone in the US - left a seriously bad taste in the mouths of a lot of consumers. But since then, we've seen the One series brand reboot shoot HTC back into critical relevance, with the One X having been (debatably) the most widely-praised Android phone of 2012 among tech outlets.

That brings us to the DROID DNA. The DNA is based on the J Butterfly, which is almost certainly based on a yet-to-be-revealed international phone known only by its codename, "Deluxe." On paper, this is arguably the most cutting-edge Android phone currently sold in the US. 1080p display. LTE. NFC. Wireless charging. A Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM. It's like someone grabbed one of those imaginary "concept" phone wish-lists and made it. So, did it work? Sort of!

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DROID DNA: Specifications

  • Price: $199 on contract
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ9064
  • GPU: Adreno 320
  • Network Compatibility: Verizon CDMA and LTE, GSM HSPA+ 14.4 quad-band (unlocked SIM).
  • Operating System: Android 4.1.1 with Sense 4+
  • Display: 5" Super LCD3 1920x1080 (440DPI)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM / 16GB storage
  • Cameras: 2.1MP ultra wide-angle front, 8MP rear
  • Battery: 2020mAh, non-removable, wireless charging
  • NFC: Yes
  • Ports / Expandable Storage: microUSB (MHL) / none
  • Thickness: 9.7mm
  • Weight: 138g

The Good

  • The fastest phone HTC's ever built, easily. Multitasking is handled with aplomb, and games (*when they run) are smooth as butter.
  • The display is very, very good. It's not the best one ever, but the 1080p resolution should provide some solid future-proofing when it becomes the norm next year.
  • Battery life is above average for a high-end LTE phone. The DNA easily lasted me a whole day.
  • NFC, MHL, wireless charging, GSM compatibility - the DNA has a lot of little extras going for it.
  • Like most modern HTC phones, it's well-built and very solid.

The Not So Good

  • Sense is really, really showing its age and general shortfalls. Even LG is getting better performance out of Android than HTC, and that's kind of sad. Meanwhile, Samsung is lapping everyone fifteen times over with new features. Sense 4+ doesn't feel like much of an upgrade.
  • I'm not a fan of the design. At all. The pictures do it too much justice. Also, it's not Note II-size, but it's definitely a bit of a reach in the hand.
  • The display is a marked step back from the S-LCD2 of the One X / X+ in terms of colors and brightness.
  • Right now, some games are broken because of the DNA's high resolution (at least I'm pretty sure that's the issue).
  • 11GB of usable storage isn't exactly "high-end" in my book, but then again, it's probably sufficient for most people.

Hardware

Design and build quality

Big and boring - but solid.

I do love the feel of HTC's polycarbonate phone chassis that have become the norm for its high-end handsets. That said, the DNA is not the unibody-style chassis found on the One X / X+, but a two-piece affair. The polycarbonate "grippy" coated frame extends about two-thirds of the way up from the back of the phone, where the black, glossy plastic matching the display bezel starts. The result? The phone experiences pops and creaks uncharacteristic of HTC's One X. Don't get me wrong, it feels very solid, it just doesn't feels as tight as the One X in terms of build fit and finish.

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Design wise, I'm not going to mince words: the DNA isn't ugly, but it's a total mess in terms of communicating a consistent aesthetic. Let's count the number of textures, surface types, and shapes, shall we? First, the matte-rubberize back / part of the sides. The black glossy plastic that extends up to the bezel. The perforated red aluminum running up and down the sides of the phone (it doesn't even match up with the size of the display or any other apparent geometric landmark). The red aluminum volume rocker, a sharply-edged rectangle with a concentric circle pattern. The power button, a pill-shaped piece of red aluminum with the same concentric circle pattern. The SIM tray, a hard, uncoated matte black plastic. The speaker grille, untextured red aluminum in a cutoff triangle pattern with circular perforation. A discrete, slightly lighter piece of black glossy plastic above the speaker grille.

I hope I'm getting the point across here - this thing is the definition of "fussy." It's like they took the basic design points of the HTC 8X and said, "how can we differentiate this as being Android through slightly rounder corners and a hopeless amount of aluminum bedazzling?" I loved the look of the One X / X+, but the DNA is about as elegant as a carbon fiber Bugatti Veyron. Which, if that's your sort of... thing, more power to you, I guess.

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In terms of size, the DNA is certainly big. It's far closer to a One X or Galaxy S III than a Note II, though. It's ever-so-slightly wider than a One X, and significantly taller. It's also thicker. That'll definitely make it a reach for one-handed operation for many people, especially since the power button is on the top-center of the phone. Because that makes sense.

I'm not a fan of the hardware buttons. The power button's action is too shallow, and I constantly second-guess my presses of it. The volume rocker is better, though it's a full quarter-inch shorter than the rocker on the One X, which makes it more difficult to discern volume up / down.

The DNA does have a bit of a hardware party trick in the form of dual notification LEDs. Yep, there are two - one on the front, and one on the back. Fancy, right? Unfortunately, they suffer from the same limitations of the One X notification light. First, they only blink green or red (amber). Second, they're basically invisible unless you're in a dark room or looking straight down at the phone, because the perforations letting the light through are too deep (eg, the light source is too far inside the phone). Regardless, the notification light on the back is pretty awesome, and I found myself thankful for it on a few occasions.

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You can see the rear notification light flashing dimly.

Also, a cover for the microUSB port? Really? Really? If this was my phone, I'd want to slice that thing off ASAP. That's just lazy, HTC.

Display

Diminishing returns and compromises.

OK, I want you take everything you've read in pretty much every other review of the DROID DNA about the 1080p S-LCD3 display and forget it. Done? Great, because I'm going to tell you something totally different from most of the reviews I've read personally. Here goes.

The display is really, really good. But by no means is it the best smartphone display on the market, nor is it even the second-best. Let's break it down.

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The resolution. You might have heard that it's sharptacular, smootherific - retinal sex, if you will. It's.... none of those things. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some luddite suggesting that increasing display resolution beyond the point of the human eye's ability to discern pixels at anything but an inch away is pointless. Of course it's not - standardizing resolution across multiple form factors will do wonders for scalability and display mirroring and all that jazz. It's a good thing, as Martha would say. There is no real drawback to increasing it at this point - the GPU / CPU hardware out there can easily push a 1080p phone.

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But it's not something your eyes are going to appreciate if you're already coming from a full-matrix 720p phone. If you're comparing it to, say, a qHD phone, or even a PenTile 720p display (Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S III, etc.), you'll be able to see the difference pretty quickly. But put this up against full-matrix 720p fare from the likes of Sony, LG, and HTC, and the sharpness is no longer anything special. Your eyes just can't see it, and the only content I've even heard offered up as potentially making use of these extra pixels are CJK characters (Chinese, Japanese, Korean). So, if you read a lot of manga, this could be the phone for you, I guess!

Otherwise, settle down everybody: they're just pixels that your eyes still can't see unless you're some freakish half-man, half-bird-of-prey hybrid. In fact, the pixels do far more bad than good right now, and I'll tell you why in the software section of the review.

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Other aspects of the display are good, but certainly not groundbreaking. Colors are a noticeable step down from the beautiful S-LCD2 of the One X / X+ - blues are too hot, and reds too dull. In fact, I'm reminded a lot of LG's IPS display on the Optimus G / Nexus 4... which makes me wonder if LG makes this panel. Brightness is subpar. I've had a heck of a time using the DNA in direct sunlight, more so than I'm used to for a high-end phone. Finally, the display has a decided blue hue-shift, whereas the One X / X+ had a much more natural slight yellow shift that made whites appear vivid and almost print-like.

Let me put it this way: visually, the DNA's display is a step back from the One X's in two apparent ways (color, brightness), and a tangible step forward in only one (size) - and I'm not even sure that counts as a step forward. I'm not saying it's bad, but I am saying this really isn't the part of the phone to get excited about.

Battery Life

Much better than you'd expect.

If you want the fully skinny on the DNA's battery life, I suggest my post detailing it (link), which goes into what the images below really mean. If you want the tl;dr version, though, here it is: the DROID DNA has pretty good battery life. I easily made it through a day on my review unit every day, even when I did some gaming. I was thoroughly surprised.

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My power configuration was as follows: no Wi-Fi, full sync (Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), auto brightness, GPS on, Bluetooth off. I was working the phone decently hard, too - I make my review devices my primary phone during the time I have them, and I've been asking more of the DNA than I typically do my own phone. Rest assured, that 2020mAh cell may sound anemic on paper, but in reality, the power-sipping S-LCD3 display ensures the phone lasts plenty long for moderate users.

And that brings us back to the display: S-LCD3 doesn't use nearly as much power as S-LCD2. Which is probably why it doesn't get as bright, and the colors aren't as good. At least that's my guess.

Storage / Wireless / Call Quality

Media junkies beware.

The DNA comes with 11GB of usable storage, and does not have a microSD slot. Easy there - breathe before storming down to the comments. I know, it can't possibly be enough. But for most people, it probably is. Would a 32GB model hurt? No, but I don't see that happening, and I'm pretty sure Verizon (and all carriers) is on a warpath to annihilate expandable storage. But so is Google, so deal with it. If the storage capacity is keeping you from buying this phone, I'm not even sure why you've read this far in the first place, honestly.

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Wireless performance has been totally solid. Switching from 3G to LTE is smooth, and Wi-Fi speeds and reception were great. Verizon's LTE out in the suburbs where I live is still crazy fast, too. I was pulling 50Mbps down and 10Mbps up at times. Seriously - and my reception isn't even that great.

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Call quality was strong. The earpiece speaker on the DNA is very loud, which I think we can all appreciate. Parties on the other end seemed to have no problems hearing me, either. Let's be real: until VoLTE (voice over LTE) starts happening, a phone call is basically going to sound like a phone call no matter what you're using.

Audio / Speaker

Moar volts.

HTC has been talking up the discrete 2.55v headphone amplifier in the DNA as "unique" in the smartphone world. And I guess it is. Because unlike most phones, the DNA has separate amplifiers for the rear loudspeaker and the headphone jack. This does have benefits, though I'm not sure most people will notice them. First and foremost, headphone audio out of the DROID DNA is significantly louder than most smartphones on the market. Oftentimes I find myself cranking the volume on some tracks near the max on the phones I review in order to get the full aural "depth" of a song, and that's not exactly good for my ears. On the DNA, I was far more comfortable leaving it in the 50-70% range.

The quality of the audio is something that, again, most people won't probably notice. It's like most Snapdragon S4 phones - fantastic, with very little distortion. Otherwise, I plugged three sets of on-ear headphones into the DNA, and found that once again, volume was substantially better than I'm used to on a smartphone. This is the primary benefit of that discrete amplifier - on or over the ear headphones with big dynamic drivers simply aren't meant to be used with the tiny little headphone amp in most smartphones. The DNA, though, delivers a more full listening experience with a large set of cans. When it comes to earbuds, you'll just notice it's louder - not better. And as with all things audio, the quality of the thing you're putting on / in your ear is going to be far more important than something like the voltage of your headphone amp - the DNA isn't going to make your crappy Skullcandy buds sound any better.

The rear speaker was nothing exciting - it's not any louder, better-sounding, or otherwise easily differentiated from almost every other smartphone loudspeaker on the market. It sounds pretty crappy, and it gets decently loud. Not much else to say about that.

Camera

Excellent. And exactly the same as it was nine months ago.

Nearly every piece of hardware on the DNA is an improvement from the One X. Except the rear camera - it's exactly the same. Don't get me wrong, the One X had a great camera at the time it was released, and that camera is still great. It's just not as good as some of the other ones on the market now. The 13MP sensor on the Sprint Optimus G, the 8MP Galaxy S III / Note II camera, and even Sony's 13MP Exmor R sensor (various phones) have all begun to outstrip HTC's 8MP ImageSense camera for sheer quality.

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I've come up with something of a bad joke to describe HTC's cameras: never go full crop. At 50% of that 8MP resolution, photos can be downright gorgeous. Get closer to 100%, and they become a mosaic mishmash that looks like it went through a very subtle Photoshop blur filter. The quality of the images is what it's been since the One X came out, and that's to say very good, but they still have all the shortcomings of that shooter, too.

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However, I'd still say that HTC and Samsung have the easiest to use Android smartphone cameras on the market. HTC's rapid-fire mode is intuitive (just hold the shutter), pictures snap very quickly, auto-focus works brilliantly, and touch-to-focus makes it easy to sort of selectively tweak your exposure on the fly. And for most people, this is really what matters - as long as the picture is good, it's the UX of camera app that most people are going to love. Too often, I find myself fiddling with settings and adjustments on the smartphone cameras I review, and that has never been something I've needed to do with HTC's phones - the software is simply top-notch.

Software

Performance

Very fast, but something is undeniably left on the table.

No, the DROID DNA doesn't have "UI lag." It doesn't stutter or choke. It's a very fast phone, one of the fastest on the market, to be sure.

But I've used faster phones - some with slower chips. The US Galaxy S III with the dual-core Snapdragon still feels smoother running through the UI than Sense does on the DNA. The Exynos-powered Note II extends that advantage even further, it's yet more responsive and quick, especially in multi-tasking scenarios. The Optimus G, packing the same S4 Pro processor, is decidedly smoother, too.

Again, don't take my words the wrong way here, I'm not saying the DNA is slow. It's not. Compared to the One X+, for example, it handles multi-tasking far better and is much smoother under R/W load. To provide a real-world example, restoring all my apps on the DNA (around 40, I think) took about 10 minutes, whereas on the One X+, the same task took nearly 30, and the phone became much slower while all that was going on. The DNA remained basically smooth.

Rest assured, the DROID DNA provides plenty of processing and GPU horsepower for gaming and all sorts of smartphone heavy lifting, but it's hard not to point the finger at Sense for the comparative smoothness shortfalls.

Resolution Concerns

Take a look at the size of the power control widget's little icons in the screenshot below. Yeah, they aren't scaled properly - they're tiny! I haven't encountered many issues with the DNA's resolution, but that's not to say I haven't had any at all. I tried several games that failed to open, and that's a concern for a phone that's so media and graphics-oriented. Heck, Angry Birds Star Wars crashed whenever I tried to load a level - not cool. But several others I ran worked fine. Basically, it may be a little hit-and-miss getting your games to run on the DNA for the next month or two, but it's almost certainly not going to be a long-term issue.

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Oh, and if you really want to get the full benefit of the DNA's high-res LCD, I suggest you go into the display settings and set the font to "small," which will scale down a lot of apps, allowing them to show more content on screen. Just look at these two screenshots comparing Twitter on "Medium" and "Small," respectively.

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UI / UX

Sense 4+ is not the refresh HTC needed.

I have a nasty habit of falling in and out of love with HTC's Sense UI. Every day I go without opening the gallery app, for example, I feel far better about it. Every time I use the dialer, I get slightly ill. My problem isn't so much how Sense looks (even if the new holo blue accents are super uggo), but how little HTC has done to fix its absolutely glaring flaws.

While Samsung (and even LG) continue to evolve their UX and add features (some of decidedly questionable value), HTC seems content to rest on its laurels and let Sense age. Sense 4+, whose naming scheme I cannot begin to comprehend, should be called Sense 4.01 - because it's an absolutely tiny jump from the previous version. The biggest changes are those that came with Jelly Bean anyway, in the form of expandable notifications and Google Now.

Before I start tearing Sense apart piece by piece, I do want to lay out a major caveat to all these flaws: I still think Sense is most user-friendly custom UI on any Android phone, and that HTC has a better understanding than Samsung of how regular people (eg, not you and me) actually use their smartphones. And there's a lot to be said for that.

Homescreen / Lockscreen / Notification Bar / Recent Apps Menu

The homescreen UI is largely the same as it's been since Sense 4, and moving between screens is generally very smooth (though not TouchWiz / stock Android smooth). You get the same add app / widget / shortcut UI that was added in Sense 4, one HTC addition I genuinely like. Adding apps and widgets from the drawer may make for a "simpler" user experience, but having to open the drawer over and over to do so absolutely drives me nuts. HTC, unlike Samsung and LG, has also adopted the uninstall from the app drawer option found in stock Android, something I very much appreciate.

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The app drawer itself is the same as ever, and you get a fourth "drawer" along the bottom for Verizon-branded apps (hooray), which is helpful for figuring out exactly what you need to go into settings and disable right away. This tab can be removed, too, so it's really not much to complain about. The app drawer also now has holo blue highlights that are totally out of place with the rest of Sense's bright green accents, and similar highlights appear throughout the OS.

The lockscreen is largely unchanged from Sense 4, showing your quick launch shortcuts and the HTC pull-up unlock circle. The lockscreen can be customized in the same ways, with widget-like "styles" that can be overlaid through HTC's personalization area in the settings menu - and there appear to be a few new such styles. Personally, I like the weather one, though it has a ridiculous animation before it actually pops up, so it's not all that useful for a really quick glance at conditions, since it's no faster than just unlocking the phone and looking at the homescreen widget.

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The notification bar adds the rich notifications of Android 4.1, but still lacks the now-something-I-take-for-granted power control switches found in Samsung, LG, and Sony phones. I guess HTC's implementation is closer to stock, but that's one feature I think everyone agrees even Google is doing it wrong on. Verizon, in their infinite wisdom, have decided a persistent Wi-Fi notification is a good idea, because you're an idiot and don't know what Wi-Fi is or why you should turn it on.

The recent apps menu is still awful. I have no idea why HTC went with their own, quirky implementation when Android's works just fine. It's a pain in the ass to navigate, and it's ugly, to boot. Google Now is brought up by long-pressing the home button, and seems to work well enough.

HTC's Senseless Tweaks: The Legacy Menu Button & App Associations

Two of my least favorite parts of Sense have returned in the DROID DNA. First, the absolutely evil virtual 3-dot legacy menu button. And HTC doesn't include an option to disable it by remapping the recent apps capacitive key on the DNA, presumably because of the larger screen. Not acceptable. While the number of apps that require the legacy menu button is ever-decreasing, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon (Mobile, MP3, and Kindle) still use it, along with dozens of other highly popular apps. There was no reason to get rid of the option, HTC - especially after responding to a very vocal demand for it on the One X / S.

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The second thing I really don't like about Sense is the app associations menu. This was put in place on American HTC phones in response to Apple's ITC import ban on the One X / EVO 4G LTE, and removed much of the native app picker functionality from Android. What's so odd about it is that some actions (opening a PDF, for example) still use the Android app picker to associate an app. Hopefully this little "feature" will be removed in a future OTA update now that Apple and HTC have settled their dispute.

Stock Apps: Gallery, Calendar, Dialer, Keyboard

HTC, I like you. Really. But if there are three stock apps I open up remotely often on a phone, they're the dialer, the calendar, and the gallery. And yes, third-party replacements are available (you can even just get plain old Google Calendar), but these are the sort of things I'm often too lazy to seek out alternatives to. And frankly, expecting them to be done in a way that is half-decent isn't exactly asking the world.

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Green and neon blue, two great tastes that go great - no wait, I mean whatever the opposite of that is.

The dialer feels like something out of Sense 3.5. It's cramped, crowded, and a visual disaster. Too much small text, too many buttons, and the keypad is way too small. You can switch to a "full screen keypad," but then the predictive T9 and number matching stuff goes away, so you'll never want to use it. I do like that recent calls are shown in a list above the dialpad, but the use of real estate in this app is just so inefficient.

The stock calendar is probably the worst I've ever used. It displays almost no information, even on the DNA's high-density 1080p display. And "Week" view has to be added manually from the settings menu, for whatever reason. Not that it helps, because it still doesn't show you much of anything in detail. This app is in seriously bad shape.

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I use the gallery app a lot on any smartphone, and I'll admit - I'm hard to please. I find Google's stock gallery app the best, because it's simple to navigate, and easy to share from. Sharing is the number-one thing I'm doing from the gallery, actually, and HTC makes it absurdly hard to do. You can't long-press to select multiple photos - you have to hit "share" first. You have to select "my phone" to actually get to your local albums upon opening the app, because HTC initially presents you with 5 photo sources you probably don't want. You can't share a screenshot from the preview image if you tap the notification (though the "share" option is on the expanded notification) - you have to open the galley app back up and share it from there. This all sounds minor, but when you're doing it several times a day, it eventually drives you nuts. The user flow is just all kinds of out of whack, and when the stock Android experience is so, so much better, it's hard to understand how HTC screwed it up so bad.

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The keyboard, thankfully, allows me to end this sub-section on a high note - it's great. Aside from a few quirks with predictive text (It doesn't predict I'll if I type I-L-L, for example), accuracy is fantastic, and the DNA's large display means even the clumsiest of fingers will probably find their mark more often than not. It's responsive, quick, and generally a joy to use.

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Bloat

There's some Verizon bloat on here, aside from the Wi-Fi notification. I counted a solid dozen apps, all but one or two of which can simply be disabled in the app settings menu. They're a nuisance, I guess, but since the ability to remove them from sight was added in Android 4.0, I can't really complain about them.

Qualcomm actually put an in-house game on the DNA, too, which I didn't have an opportunity to test, but supposedly it's pretty neat - Reign of Amira is the name.

The Sum Of Parts

Listen, it's not that Sense is bad, it's that once you've experienced the alternatives (stock Android, TouchWiz), it's hard to look at it as anything but a little underwhelming. It's especially hard knowing that with Sense 4+, HTC had an opportunity to bring its UI overlay up to date with the competition, and really didn't do that. Maybe they're going to wow us with Sense 5. But right now, honestly, I might even prefer TouchWiz. Yeah.

Before I take my rant too far off the deep end, though, I'll say this - Sense is fantastic for people who want a simple, clean, intuitive UX. Not as clean as stock Android, but decidedly more friendly. If I were to pick an Android phone for my parents or less technically-inclined friends, an HTC would be at or near the top of my list, without a doubt. The best thing about Sense, in my opinion, is that compared to TouchWiz or any other custom UI overlay, I find myself doing far less tweaking and tinkering - HTC is very close to getting it "right" out of the box.

Conclusion

The DNA is a great phone, easily the best non-phablet - because it definitely isn't one - on Verizon. (I say that mostly because the Note II has its own, other merits - crazy battery life, stylus, extra-large screen.) This is the DROID daddy, and I'll say quite confidently that it's going to be the phone to have on Big Red for most eager Android fans this winter. Let me put it this way: I doubt most people will care about the less-than-stellar performance from HTC's hardware design group on this one.

But there are other drawbacks, most of them in the software. Sense is losing its luster, and the blame there lies squarely with HTC. You can't escape the feeling that the DNA is holding something back, that it could be more. Sometimes, it's hard to put your finger on why - it just doesn't feel right. But too often, it's very apparent. Case in point, traversing HTC's Gallery app is nothing short of a UX nightmare.

The DNA generally tries to overcome these flaws and silly notions of "practicality" like a 1960's muscle car... with more power. HTC and Verizon have been anything but shy about flaunting the specification sheet. That leaves a question, though; is power enough to keep you interested? And more importantly, can HTC and Verizon keep putting that power down to the road with timely software updates?

This leads me to my biggest problem with this phone: if I were to buy a DNA, the real point of anxiety wouldn't be focused on today, but six months from now. Will I get Sense 5 (or whatever it's called)? How long will I have to wait for it? Is HTC just going to fall further behind Samsung's growing arsenal of sometimes-useful software features and quick updates? And to speak of the here and now, the DNA already feels like it sometimes struggles to effectively use the hi-po tech packed inside of it, and that's 100% because of Sense. Call me crazy, but I don't see too many Android phones getting better as they age. I find my misgivings in this area difficult to shake.

But that's the rambling of someone that probably knows far more about Android and smartphones than is healthy. I can't stand feeling like I'm behind the curve. I don't think my personal doubts are going to ring true with the vast majority of people who buy this phone. And make no mistake, I still recommend it - the DROID DNA's drawbacks are of concern to a decidedly niche audience. If you're upgrading your phone every 6 months anyways, or simply want the best phone on Verizon right now, you can't go wrong choosing the DNA.

I still think the name is silly, though.

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David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://twitter.com/KickingLettuce Kicking Lettuce

    just ... can't .. do it

  • JeffColorado

    No SD? No removable battery? LOL! You cannot call this the best Droid yet.
    My Droid 1 from 2009 is running ICS and Jelly Bean in 2012. This phone, however, will be a forgotten memory in 3 years.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dominick-White/642535026 Dominick White

      If you're not getting the phone why comment on the reviews about the phone, are you in that much need for attention?

      • Designer

        why should not he comment? is it forbiden to tell your opinion on a phone? and he is right about the no sd and build in battery

        @ topic
        too big and 11GB is a no go

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dominick-White/642535026 Dominick White

          There is a difference between making a informed comment and another to do it just to troll

    • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

      The only reason the Droid 1 is remembered is because it's nostalgic for a lot of people. It was the first Android phone for people and it was the reason people fell in love with Android. That doesn't mean it was any good. I know people who switched to an iPhone because of the D1 and their hatred of it. Personally I think the Droid 1 is an ugly brick.

    • QwietStorm

      And you think the original Droid isn't a forgotten memory right now? LOL! No phone on the market is on anybody's mouths 3 years later. If you don't like the DNA for whatever reason, that's fine, but don't be one of those people nitpicking about specific design decisions, especially on a phone that's loaded with high end features, just for the sake of carrying the torch for your own outdated model.

      • DYNK

        Whats the point of all the high end features when there isnt enough battery power to use it all? Say that we do forgive the lack of removable battery and microsd, 2020mah battery for a phone this size and calibre is just unacceptable with the fact that HTC phones generally have bad battery life. Biggest mistake ever.
        Before you say anything about software improvements for battery s4 quad core whatever that will n e v e r compensate for an extra 1000mah juice. Physics is law.

        • QwietStorm

          That's not the point I was making

        • Kwam Gary

          Do you copy n paste your comments over n over? Your c&p remark had nothing to do with point of the statement. Here to shut you up. Say HTC buys its Qi batteries from energizer $30-$40 per unit. Multiply this number by 5 million handsets estimated to sell over next few years times 3% defective replacement cost. There's no way HTC can go to a 3300 may Qi battery and keep the cost at $199. Why do you think Samsung is more expensive? And all test have shown the battery last a full day.

    • chris125

      it will be a forgotten memory in 6 months lol look at the one x and one x+ perfect example

    • enoch861

      Thats funny... You just mentioned all the traits of recent Nexus and HTC phones. Yet they're all remembred.

  • http://www.theandroidsite.com benmarvin

    Clearly the worst part of the DNA is the power button placement.

    • DYNK

      No the battery is. Say that we do forgive the lack of removable battery and microsd, 2020mah battery for a phone this size and calibre is just unacceptable with the fact that HTC phones generally have bad battery life. Biggest mistake ever.
      Before you say anything about software improvements for battery s4 quad core whatever that will n e v e r compensate for an extra 1000mah juice. Physics is law.

      • http://www.theandroidsite.com benmarvin

        Did you actually read the review above?

        mAh's do no not directly correlate to daily battery life. Have you actually used the Droid DNA yourself? Where's your review showing how horrible the battery is? I'm reserving any judgement about the battery till I actually use it. Going by mAh is like trusting the MPG ratings for a car, real world usage may yield greatly different results.

        • DYNK

          No going by cpu and gpu implementations is like trusting the MPG ratings of a car. Going by the mah is like trusting the size of the fuel tank for a car!!...sigh* fanboy am I just wasting my time here? Having an extra 50% of battery is better no? The Note 2 did it. Htc failed on this. Thats all Im saying.

        • Tom

          are you saying that if the battery was 50% bigger it wouldn't have better battery life? i have a note 2 and it's superb i/r/2 battery life. it would have good battery life it the battery was a 3rd smaller - like this phones.

          • http://www.theandroidsite.com benmarvin

            If the Droid DNA had a bigger battery, it would have better battery life, I'm not denying that. But a battery's mAh rating isn't a solid indicator of actual battery life. A phone with a 2500mAh battery could get less battery life than a different phone with a 1500mAh battery. Real world battery life depends on how well the phone manages power as well as how the owner uses the device.

          • Tom

            they're factors of course, but bigger is better when it comes to batteries. especially in the case of non-removable batteries. if you plan to use your phone on vacation like i do it has to last all day. both this and the note 2 will probably do it but there's 1 difference (ignoring the size diff of the batts), the note has a removable battery so if i absolutely must - i can swap.

            this is one of the reasons i prefer samsung. they hit 3 major points that HTC don't

            1 - removable battery
            2 - removable storage
            3 - unlocked bootloader

            makes them (IMO) the best android manuf.

  • SetiroN

    "just deal with it"
    Nice review, great reviewer!

  • http://twitter.com/ElutherS19 Ethan

    ....I own a Rezound and I want nothing more that to leave HTC in the dust. I just don't trust that this phone will be updated in a timely manner at all. I fear HTC phones now because they develop these great specs and all of that, but then drop all support for them just months after its release. It's frustrating, that's for sure.

    • Designer

      yepp it is

    • Chris Webster

      I'd be blaming VZW more than anyone else. If you compare the Rezound/Thunderbolt development (or any other VZW phone for that matter) compared to its international counterpart you'd see months difference in updates, because VZW takes months to personally check the whole OS even though the phone maker already has. All the big networks in America do it, and it blows

      • chris125

        just about every US HTC phone is taking forever to get updates, not just verizon ones. TMO one S, att One X? They were the "flagship" that was going to bring HTC back and they can't even update them. Htc was first with 720p screen with the rezound and look where its at now. Samsung, lg and the likes will release 1080p phones soon and then what will htc have? I hope the best for HTC but they need to get rid of sense and get better with updates.

        • Chris Webster

          Yea, but look at their international phones that are up to date. The update problem all stems from the US carriers. Look what Verizon did to the poor Galaxy Nexus. But whenever I have a phone I intend to keep I just root it and flash the latest Cyanogenmod to it

  • QwietStorm

    "So did it work? Sort of!"

    lol

  • lilhulk

    Just htc garbage it just came out is alreafy behind

    • androidlikeaboss

      the droid dna is currently one of the best phones around and the second 1080p phone to be revealed (after htc j butterfly). How is that considered garbage?

      • http://twitter.com/PCSievers P.C. Sievers

        If your eyesight is so bad you think that design abomination is much better looking than the Note 2 or even the S3 you wont get any benefit from its screen resolution.

  • kervation

    Great review! Fair and well balanced about the key aspects of this device.

  • http://twitter.com/GitMuny Ciroc Obama

    Great review good work! I'm headed to Verizon this xmas and really don't know what to get. I feel like the s3 isn't really an upgrade over my current s2, and I'm sick and tired of Samsung build "quality". Then there's this which is just another phone that thinks bigger is better, and doesn't have enough storage. I'm also opposed to Moto after screwing over so many people with the whole ICS debacle, and mediocre performance courtesy of MotoBlur or whatever its called this week. If only Verizon had the One X+ I'd have one ordered tonight.

    • Designer

      how about u chill abit, and see what the new phones to come, will offer

    • http://www.androidsfinest.org/ Android’s Finest

      I'd recommend you jump in on the Nexus 4. I currently have a Galaxy S2 as well, the international I9100 version. As soon as the Nexus 4 stops becoming sold out every day I'll go ahead and sell my S2 and get the Nexus 4. Ill pretty much be selling my device and with no extra money getting a way better phone.

      Visit my website http://www.androidsfinest.org/ for the latest in Android news, reviews, ROMs, root, and more!

      • http://www.facebook.com/casey.a.kline Casey Kline

        Dumbass, he said he is on his way to "Verizon". NO NEXUS 4 on VERIZON. Stop trying to hitch your carriage to AP's Horse. We already have someplace to go for android news.

  • http://twitter.com/iamdannyc Daniel Cirincione

    Everyone is complaining about storage but the average consumer couldnt tell you how much space they have on their current phone

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Yep, very true.

    • leoingle

      We aren't average users here.

  • Elias

    Cdma is stupid. You can't have a global phone, you're at your carriers mercy, you can't have a real nexus, your choices are always limited to whatever your carrier offers at whatever price they like, you will always wait longer to get updates, and the independent rom developers will have a hard time doing anything for you because the cdma radio is all locked up. I really hope cdma goes extinct.
    That 1080p screen seems sweet, though - and yes, I have eagle eyes. I hope to see a kick-ass nexus with reasonable price and bigger screen boasting 1080p soon.

  • 27yearold

    without a qwerty it's just a toy

  • JG

    Network Compatibility: Verizon CDMA and LTE, GSM HSPA+ 14.4 quad-band (unlocked SIM).

    So... Does this mean I could go through with my switch from Verizon to T-Mobile & use this until the Nexus 4 stock issue is resolved??

    • Chris Webster

      It won't work on T-mobile, but it will work on AT&T HSPA and HSPA+ from what I've heard. I know it doesn't work on T-mobile for anything more than 2G

  • Benjamin Sicard

    I certainly hope that 1080p doesn't become the norm. I want better quality displays. The pixel density is exactly where it needs to be. Improve the important stuff, like color accuracy and power efficiency. The DNA is for bad consumers who are giving OEMs a good reason to make bad products for us.

  • androidlikeaboss

    Awesome phone... much better than s3...

  • hot_spare

    "unless you're some freakish half-man, half-bird-of-prey hybrid..."

    ^^love this

    and thanks for not showing us some stupid benchmarks like Quadrant and Nenamark. I get sick everytime I see such a benchmark in the review.

    battery life is decent, but i still understand why they can't fit a bigger battery? when the phone's surface area is large, you also have more space to fit larger battery.

  • Petr Plachý

    What? Display is pretty much same...

    • androidlikeaboss

      the ppi of the droid dna is a big jump from the one x+'s ppi

  • Matt

    This might be the most ridiculous review i have ever read! Some points are semi valid but build quality? Pffft please. And about that screen? Dude you need to get your eyes checked or something because what you said is plain dumb and wrong! I own an evo lte which is the same screen as the one x and i can tell a very noticeable difference! If you think the DNA screen looks worse you need a different job.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Great, I'll start looking in the classifieds tomorrow.

      • http://twitter.com/TurboNegro7791 Tyler Hills

        Gotta love the trolls lol. David have you handled the vzw note 2? I wanted the DNA because my biggest concern is constant dropped data and WiFi on my gnex. I've heard that this is common on Sammy devices. Are the radios still sub par on the GN2?

        • chris125

          the radios on the sgs3 were much better than my nexus so I would assume samsung figured out that and will continue using the same or better radios in the note 2

  • Bordel

    so, would you pick DNA or X+ ?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      X+ - screen looks better, better battery life, more storage, looks better generally, and it's built more solidly.

      • Bordel

        thank you for reply. one more question if I may.
        do you think community suppot will be better for X+ also? HTC and updates are not good friends, at least not in my books.

        • leoingle

          GSM will always have better community support over its cdma counterpart.

          • Bordel

            hmm..will wait for international relese of DNA then and then pick one.
            thx

  • http://www.geekchoice.com Dagmar Schneitz

    On paper, this does look like the best Droid yet! Now if I took it for a test drive...

  • asianrage

    Here's one of the best statement about Sense and ANY OEM UI for me; "...it's not that Sense is bad, it's that once you've experienced...stock Android... it's hard to look at it as anything but a little underwhelming"

    I tried the DNA yesterday at the VZW store and I don't feel compelled to get it. I like the feel and certainly don't mind the ungainly tall form factor. But SENSE is the only reason why I'm not getting it. If it'll run AOSP and make calls with mobile data, I'll get it. Otherwise, I'll keep my smooth running GNex.

  • Billy_Joe_Bob

    This isn't a 'personal' comment of you, I didn't even look at your name. I usually think this after most reviews I read. But, I'd love to see HTC hire you as a design consultant, let the phone hit the market, be reviewed and then read a journal of your experience of the process. Most of the times the 'Cons' of phones are so obvious that you wonder what were they thinking. it's easy to sit back and be a critic but if a journal of the design process were published there may be more understanding on everyone's part. I constantly wonder, were there legitimate hardware, software or cost limitations that forced the cons. One thing I don't understand is why was the perfect design of the thunderbolt kickstand not incorporated into all new HTC phones?

  • xs11e

    Non-removable battery? No storage card? No way!

  • http://twitter.com/GitMuny Ciroc Obama

    Not trying to kick you while you're down but the nexus 4 also only has 16gb of storage and no lte, which is a huge reason I'm going to Verizon in the first place. I'm tired of this Nexus 4 circlejerk just because its a google phone, the damn thing has an average at best camera and no lte.

  • Ryan Wallace

    I own this phone and i find the display to be much much more vibrant than my One X. comparing colors they pop on the DNA. The One X seems almost faded comparing the two.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      You're seeing higher saturation. The colors are decidedly less accurate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.campbell.5621 John Campbell

    That power button is completely inaccessible. I went in to pick up my note 2 today (which of course still isnt in, thx vzn) and so I played around with the dna for a couple of minutes. There was no way I could pick up that phone one handed and push the power button with my index finger without readjusting my hand each time. I also played with the note model and found my only difficulty being reaching 3/4" radius from the top left corner without adjusting my hand with my thumb's first knuckle on the power button and ring finger on the volume toggle. I'm happy with my choice, coming from an htc phone and seeing what they have done with this one I can't see it being a better option than the note 2, the razor max, or nexus 4.

  • Uriah Romero

    I really like the Droid DNA. Sure, it doesn’t have some of the things
    that other phones have, but it’s not anything that I will cry over. Personally,
    the screen is one of the things that I can justify having over other things.
    For example, I use the DISH Remote Access app on my phone to stream live TV
    through the Sling Adapter that’s connected to my receiver. The app really comes
    in handy when I am not home to see me shows. One of my DISH coworkers also has
    a Droid DNA and we both like it a lot.