Motorola and Verizon took the world by storm with the introduction of the original Droid in 2009. It was one of the first serious Android handsets on the market, and arguably, helped bring Android to where it is today.
Verizon has continued with its Droid branding over the years, bringing HTC into the mix with its Incredible line. In November 2012, Verizon and HTC joined hands for the introduction of the HTC Droid DNA (J Butterfly in Japan) taking many of the "Incredible" traits, but adding a lot more.
While it's not a Galaxy Note II in size, the DNA is a large handset, clocking in at 5-inches. The moment you pick up the phone its light build is noticeable. But where things really start to get impressive is the handset's display.
The Droid DNA features a 5-inch "Super LCD 3" display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. That makes it a 441 pixels-per-inch monster, and means the DNA has one of the highest resolution displays on the market. To compare, the HTC One X+ has a 312ppi and the iPhone 5's Retina display clocks in at 326ppi. Held up next to an iPhone 5, the iPhone 5 is definitely brighter, but you can see the crispness in the DNA.
Build quality on the DNA reminds us a lot of the other Droid Incredible handsets available on Verizon. HTC has included the black matte back with a snazzy red Verizon finish. It may be time for HTC to innovate in that arena.
At the top of the device you can find the power button, microSIM card slot, and headphone jack. We have to say, we wish HTC took a lead from Apple and other manufacturers and placed the headphone jack at the bottom. The microSIM card slot seems to be a little awkwardly placed, but given the handset doesn't have a removable battery and the bottom is full with the charging port, the top looks as good as it gets. The charging port's door is a little awkward as well.
Like the One X+ available on AT&T, the DNA's capacitive touch screen buttons are pretty spot on. You'll find back, home, and recent apps buttons that make it easy to control the phone. The display was also responsive in our tests, doing away with any random or missed presses that may have been found on the One X+.
Verizon call quality and data speeds over the 4G network are some of the best we've used. While AT&T has begun to catch up in recent months, its obvious that Verizon's 4G network is still dominant in the US. 4G LTE doesn't take away from the DNA's 2020mAh battery, which we found took us through an entire day on one charge.
The DNA is sporting a 8-megapixel f/2.0 rear-facing camera that gives the iPhone 5 and Lumia 920 cameras a run for their money. With 1080p capabilities, the camera takes sharp photo and video, even in low light. The front-facing camera is 2.2-megapixel and also f/2.0 and, impressively also 1080p. It's easily the best front-facing camera on the market.
Inside the DNA you'll find a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM that brings plenty of power to the display. Any speed issue on the handset can be tied down to HTC's Sense UI, which we found to be troublesome.
Stock Android is great - specifically Jelly Bean. The DNA does feature Jelly Bean, but you can hardly tell, thanks to HTC's Sense 4.
Sense adds a bunch of custom functionality and styling to stock Android, and while features like Google Now are still available, HTC changes a lot of the UI for the worse. The other issue with Sense is how much it slows down the operating system. As we've seen on stock Android devices like the Galaxy Nexus, Android is speedy. But with an OEM overlay, not so much.
Using the Incredible's design, the area the DNA really challenged the smartphone market is with that amazing screen.
The device is speedy most of the time, and the screen is really impressive. The area holding the handset back is the Sense overlay. We wish HTC would allow customers the choice between stock Android and any shenanigans HTC has thrown on, because Jelly Bean alone is a solid mobile operating system.
Given the DNA is about to replaced by the M7 in the next month, we'd advise you to hold off for now, but it's obvious that the M7 is going to borrow from the DNA's hardware. It's also apparent HTC is gearing up for 2013 with some serious plans that we will be on the look out for.
The Droid DNA may be the perfect handset for anyone looking for a 5-inch handset, and given the $199 on-contract pricing, Verizon and HTC hit the sweet spot.
However, things are going to get even sweeter this spring.