HTC DROID DNA Android smartphone review

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Is it just me or does it seem like every new Android smartphone looks almost exactly like the last new Android smartphone? It sure felt like deja vu all over again when I opened the box that Verizon Wireless sent me a few days ago. Inside was the HTC DROID DNA, their latest and greatest high-end Android smartphone. Is it the same as all the others, or are there a few goodies that make it stand out from the crowd? Let’s see…

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.

Included in the box

DROID DNA by HTC Phone
Wall/USB Charger
SIM Tray Removal Tool
Quick Start Guide
Global Support Brochure
Product Safety & Warranty Guide

Hardware Specifications

Processor: 1.5GHz quad core Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ S4 Pro processor & 2GB of DDR2 RAM
Operating System: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Network: CDMA1x/EV-DO Rev A, LTE/DO Rx diversity, Global Network: GSM (850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz), UMTS (850MHz, 900MHz, 1900MHz, 2100MHz)
Memory: 16GB internal (actual formatted capacity is less)
Display: 5” 1080P Super LCD3 Corning® Gorilla® Glass 2
Camera: 8MP Auto Focus Rear–Facing camera with Single–LED Flash + HTC ImageChip
f/2.0 aperture lens on both front and rear cameras, backside sensor illumination for low light performance, and the exclusive HTC ImageChip which allows continuous shooting for up to 99 images
2.1MP 88°ultra-wide-angle front-facing with improved low light performance
Rear–Facing camcorder – HD capture up to 1080p
Front–Facing camcorder – HD capture up to 1080p
Wi-FI: 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 & 5 GHz) capable
Bluetooth 4.0
NFC – Tap and Share with other NFC-enabled devices
Headset: 3.5mm Audio Jack
Battery: 2020mAh Standard Li–Ion; non–removable, usage time up to 12.8hrs, standby time up to 14.7 days
Dimensions: 5.55 (H) x 2.78 (W) x 0.38 (D) inches
Weight: 5.0 oz

If your eyes glaze over reading hardware specs, mine do too. But I always include them anyway just because it’s nice to be able to refer back to them when you need to compare devices. If you didn’t read them this time and skipped right down to this sentence, that’s perfectly fine. I’ll let you know how this phone is different than the other high-end Android phones currently being offered by Verizon. But first let’s take a quick tour around the device.

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The DNA continues with HTC’s typical shiny black top with a matte black back and red accents. There are no physical buttons on the face of the phone. Just 3 touch buttons which are mapped to Back, Home and Recent Apps. Above the gorgeous 5″ display, which goes almost to the edges of phone, is a front facing camera and a speaker (for calls). On the back side you’ll find a soft touch shell with the camera lens, LED flash and a speaker at the bottom. The back of the phone doesn’t come off to reveal the battery compartment or a microSD slot. Unfortunately, the battery is not user accessible and there is no memory expansion on this phone. The lack of a microSD slot is a bit of a shocker given that the phone has only 16GB of built in memory. That seems like a low amount given the high-end status.

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The left side has what looks like a speaker grill, but it’s just a style accent.

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The top of the DNA has the LTE SIM card slot, power button, headphone jack and a microphone.

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On the right side you’ll find a volume rocker and a matching strip of red metal. At least I think it’s metal. The volume buttons and the power button are almost flush with the case making it hard to locate them. But they have decent tactile feedback.

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On the bottom edge of the phone is a micro USB connector and a 2nd microphone. The USB connector has a protective cover over it, which is a pain to open and close. I’d probably just rip it off if the phone was mine… or I’d buy the optional wireless charging pad and say good bye to cables forever.

The DNA feels good in my hand. It’s a large phone, but I’ve been carrying a Samsung Galaxy S3 for months, so it doesn’t feel any different as far as size. The rubberized back cover provides enough grip to keep the phone from feeling too slippery. The DNA is very solid and easily passed the Gadgeteer squeeze test with zero flexing, creaking or cracking.

What is special about the DROID DNA?

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Wireless charging

This my favorite feature of the HTC DROID DNA. You would think with that type of feature built in that the phone would come with a wireless charger, but unfortunately you have to buy it separately for $49.99. The Nokia wireless charging plate is a small oval shaped plastic slab that will wireless charge the DNA (and other phones. See product page for list of compatible phones). The great thing is that you don’t have to buy a special case or a replacement back for the DNA in order for it to work with this charger. You just set the phone on the plate and 2 seconds later the phone will come on to show that it’s charging. It’s great.

Quad core processor

Another way this phone is different than others is that it has a quad core processor. Most high-end phones have a dual core processor, so this one has 2x that… It is definitely snappier than my inferior SGS3 with its measly dual cores. That said, I only noticed the speed bump when navigating around the phone while scrolling and launching local apps that didn’t rely on data access. Once an app had to dance the net for info, the DNA felt no different than my SGS3. System performance is great though, no complaints at all.

Battery life seems very good as well. Granted, I not had the opportunity to use it for an extended period of time. But in the short time I’ve had the phone, it seems a little better than my SGS3, giving me a day or two per charge. That’s surprising given that the DNA has that 5″ high res display and a hot rod processor.

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1080P display

Speaking of the display, it offers a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with a pixel density of 440ppi pixel. Apple’s Retina display wishes it was that good (it’s only 1136 x 640). When I compare the DNA side by side with my SGS3’s 1280 x 720 resolution display, it isn’t obviously better at first glance.

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I tested both phones side by side browsing the web, scrolling through app icons, watching Youtube videos and reading ebooks through the Kindle app. I noticed little things like the color White on the DNA seems more White than on the SGS3  when both devices are set to max brightness. The image above isn’t backing up what I’m saying, but trust me, White backgrounds on the DNA display look more White than the SGS3. But it wasn’t until I compared text with both devices running the Kindle app, that I could see that text on the DNA looked crisper and sharper. So yes, the DNA’s display is gorgeous, but so are the other high end Android smartphone displays.  If you’re considering buying the DNA, I would not base your decision solely on the resolution even though it would be easy to do so.

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Camera features

HTC put 2 nice cameras in the DNA. They have some cool features like being able to shoot up to four photos per second with a rear–facing 8MP HD camera, the front camera has a wider angle than most phones to capture more people and background in self–portraits, you can take 1080p HD video with both cameras and you have the ability to snap still photos while capturing video.

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Here are a few quick example shots. It does a good job with macro shots. The other image of my bookcases was taken to show how well it does in low light. As you can see, the image is really grainy. That was without flash. A flash version wasn’t much better…

Beats audio

With stand alone audio players becoming more irrelevant all the time, having a smartphone with great audio just means one less thing to carry around with you. The DNA has Beats audio which provides a notable boost to bass. One thing to note though… this only works when you plug in headphones. Audio through the built speakers is normal.

Wireless charging, quad core processor, 1080p display, extra camera features and Beats audio, are the 5 main things that the DNA offers that other high end Android smartphones don’t have. The rest of the phone is pretty much stock Android and performs the same as far as making, receiving calls, etc. The 16GB of memory is the biggest problem with this phone as far as I’m concerned. Otherwise, the DROID DNA is a really nice phone. If it had more memory and/or a microSD card slot, I’d be very tempted to buy one and switch from my SGS3.

 

Product Information

Price:$199.99 with 2yr contract ($599.99 without contract)
Manufacturer:HTC
Retailer:Verizon Wireless
Pros:
  • Quad core
  • Built in wireless charging
  • 1080p HD display
Cons:
  • Wireless charger costs extra
  • Battery not accessible
  • No microSD slot
Posted in: Android related, Reviews

17 comments… add one

  • Scott January 3, 2013, 12:32 pm

    Kinda like every new iphone looks like the previous iteration…?

    • Julie January 3, 2013, 12:34 pm

      @Scott Yes… Apple is actually worse than Android as far as that goes. I guess I’m just bored. Trying something really new (to me) next… a Windows Phone!

  • Scott January 3, 2013, 12:37 pm

    I agree with your final summary btw – I was contemplating switching from my gs3 – which i love – til i read about the lack of a memory card slot.

  • Scott January 3, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Also a suggestion for review if you guys haven’t already – the IMagnet car dock. Best I’ve owned.

    http://www.amazon.com/Cradle-less-Quick-snap-Technology-Smartphone-Windshield/dp/B008IOQ3K6/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    • Julie January 3, 2013, 12:57 pm

      @Scott I’m assuming that you have to stick a metal plate on the back of the phone in order to get that dock to work. Right?

  • Scott January 3, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Yes, they give you three and they are super think and you can cut them with tin snips if you need them a little smaller. The ones they gave me fit either under the battery cover or between my phone and my case. Has never fallen off once. Love it.

  • Scott January 3, 2013, 2:09 pm

    and it doesn’t affect the gps or maps

  • Mark January 7, 2013, 1:36 pm

    I own the DNA and one thing I notice vs a Samsung (I had the Blaze 4G) is that although the Samsung had a memory card, it didn’t utilize all of the space. You also had to manually move apps to the sd card and then only part moved and the rest stayed onboard. I have far more apps on the HTC and have no memory issues. I ran into memory issues on the Samsung constantly.

  • Lin January 22, 2013, 6:21 am

    It is no use arguing,the DROID DNA is much more better than S3 and NOTE2.I own all of them.

  • Jon February 17, 2013, 4:25 pm

    So wait… what happens if the phone freezes and needs a hard restart via battery removal? I’ve had to do this on several phones because they basically brick themselves for a bit. Granted my phone does restart itself sometimes, but when it doesn’t, a good pop-out and pop-in of the battery is great.
    The other huge turn off is the lack of SD card.. this means when I upgrade I can’t just pop the SD card out of my Bionic and into the DNA. Means a long transfer from phone to PC, PC to phone… when all I’d have to do is just transfer my SD card over… C’mon HTC.

  • Sheila Bouford-Cohoon March 7, 2013, 10:01 pm

    I have owned the DNA for months and just started having issues. I love the DNA but people have a hard time hearing me. I have now began to have issues with opening my folder and another folder opens somewhere else on the screen. I have went thru three in one month. Dissapointed with the call quality and the issues I have been having after the update.

  • RandyW March 23, 2013, 6:02 pm

    I’m on my 3rd DNA. The first one kept shutting down as not able to read SIM card. The second phone people said that my voice would fade in and out or I sounded like I was in a tunnel. The third one I have had for 48 hrs and I’m still getting the same complaints from friends that my voice comes and goes. Too many people are having the same problem and HTC needs to recall or replace. I love everything else about this phone.

  • Melissa June 13, 2013, 12:42 pm

    I am having the same issues with people hearing me. DO NOT GET THIS PHONE. Verizon is sending me a new one, but I have little hope. I went to the store and all they said was to hold the phone directly by my mouth like I’m eating a sandwich. NO THANKS! Get me something that works!

  • Jon June 13, 2013, 12:47 pm

    I’ve had this phone for 4 months now, about since release, and I love it. Have had absolutely no issues with this thing. It’s splendid. I abuse the Heck out of my phones and this one, with an Otterbox Commuter, has been absolutely wonderful. The camera is stellar, the display is amazing, and even though the battery life could be a little better, I have no other qualms with it. Have never had to force restart my phone or anything. :)

  • Paul June 28, 2013, 4:17 pm

    The video camera has SLOW MOTION and special effects. A really nice upgrade.
    The still camera has a better than average basic editor allowing a wide range of photo fixing w/o having to get the laptop with Photoshop.

  • jef July 16, 2013, 11:13 am

    I have the DNA I have had it from the start and it is a waste of money I have to knock the top of the phone off my desk almost every hour when I loose 4g and 3g but it comes right back up this is not what you want from a $200 phone at all its like a Harley you buy it for looks and the name it doesn’t really do anything I wish I had any other phone.

  • Rick Stacey November 19, 2013, 8:58 pm

    Simply put I am a cell phone junky, a gadget freek. Presently I have the iphone 5s, a galaxy S4 and an HTC Droid DNA. I am going to sell the iphone, the S4 and keep the DNA. I just love this phone. I don’t care about specs and bench speed tests, I want to know how it will work for me, you know, real world use. Screen-gorgous, camera- gorgous, phone- works great & has better signal than any other phone I’ve had. It’s a keeper!!

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