HTC has seen some difficult times lately, as it has seen it’s place in the smartphone market steadily shrink amid gains by competitors Apple and Samsung. As late as Q3 2011 it was the leading smartphone manufacturer in the United States. The company needs a shot in the arm and believes that the Droid DNA smartphone is the medicine. The question is, will it turn out to be the cure?
In superficial terms the Droid DNA seems very impressive packing excellent specs into a thin 141 x 70 x 9 millimeters. Even though it has one of the biggest displays to be found on a smartphone, the device measures no wider than the Samsung Galaxy S III and is actually smaller than the Droid RAZR HD. HTC has gone the Apple route in expanding the screen vertically like the most recent iPhone. Its not the biggest or the smallest, but it has found a definite niche in an increasingly crowded variety of smartphone sizes.
The design of HTC devices doesn’t undergo a drastic redesign here, and that’s fine because here they are dealing from a position of strength. To put it simply, their devices fit comfortably in your hand if you are familiar. The build quality is stable and feels like quality in your hand. It doesn’t have the stop-a-bullet-in-your-shirt pocket feel to it, but it also feel like your holding a children’s toy either. The design for better or for worse is HTC; good for some, not so much for others.
The strongest feature of this device has to be it’s brilliant display which features a full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution that is above and beyond what the human eye can see. Though most Super AMOLED tend to have a blue hue, HTC has avoided this but the brightness also doesn’t measure up to the very best.
HTC has decided to equip the DROID DNA with a 1.5Hz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro from Qualcomm. This serves to keep everything running snappy and the 2GB of RAM makes multitasking what it should be: smooth and efficient. Even for intense device usage it holds up exceptionally well and that is just great when running on Verizon’s 4G LTE. It comes with Jellybean 4.1.1 however there has been no word on when an upgrade is likely to appear.
That said, there are drawbacks as with any device and with the Droid DNA that starts with the paltry 16GB of internal storage with only 11GB stock. For those who like to have games and movies on their device at all times, this is problematic even if this does push the user to the cloud. Even still, with benefits like the wireless charging and the notification light which allows you to see when you have a notification if the device is face-down seemingly make up for some of the failings.
Though HTC is not known for the best smartphone cameras, they are nonetheless impressive as is the one included here. There is an 8MP camera on the rear of the device that features it’s own software, captures 1080p video and still pictures simultaneously. Indoors where even lighting occurs it still takes brilliant pictures making it one of the best on an Android device. The camera on the front of the device is a 2.1MP edition that can make 720p HD videos and can take pan images with no problems at all. The software also has an innovative touch-to-capture feature included with the software. This presents a veritable smorgasbord of wonderful features like face detection, group photos, panorama, auto-smile, and slow motion among other features.
The battery life as tested doesn’t quite match up to the manufacturer specs, but it still gets around 13 hours with decent use rates like calls and social media, browsing and that sort. The problem with the battery is that it cannot be taken out of the device which kind of keeps you on the lookout for an electrical outlet. Add to that the cover over the microUSB being fairly cumbersome to handle, and the overall charging experience can be a hassle.
The Droid DNA features the HTC skin Sense 4+ and is a simple, user-focused experience. It’s not particularly complicated but there will be those who prefer the stock Android UI. There are some popular apps like Angry Birds, Xbox and others that are essentially unusable because of some display issues. This could be possibly attributed to the excellent resolution. There is some bloatware here with offerings from Verizon, HTC and Amazon, but you can disable them via the Android settings.
The Droid DNA has in fact set a mark in the smartphone device class with this device. The design is appealing to the eye, an excellent processor and a high-end camera makes this a very tough customer. However, the battery life and lack of storage options might make you want to look elsewhere. The questions surrounding upgrades to Android paint a murky picture when it comes to the OS technology. Of course there are features like wireless charging and the notification lamp on the rear that make this a very viable device if not one of the best the market has to offer.