iPhone 5 vs. Droid DNA: Which phone should you get?

iPhone 5 vs. Droid DNA: Which phone should you get?

No sooner does Apple released the iPhone 5 than HTC and Verizon escalate with the Droid DNA. Where the iPhone 5 is slim and sophisticated, the Droid DNA is big and brutally powerful. Where Apple is anodized aluminum, HTC is soft-touch polycarbonate. Where iOS is consistent across all Apple's mobile products, HTC Sense changes up the Android interface for good or for ill. From atom to bit, the iPhone 5 and the Droid DNA couldn't be more different. So if you're looking for a new phone on Verizon, how do you choose between them?


The HTC Droid is huge. It's not part tablet, part phone, if such things concern you, but with a 5-inch screen, it's about as big as a phone can get. What's more, that 5-inch screen houses and incredible 1920x1080 (1080p) screen at a retina-rupturing 440ppi. It's the biggest, densest display on the market today. However, all that screen-power is being driven by the same Snapdragon S4 Pro horse-power that drives other, much smaller displays, like the 720p Nexus 4. HiDPI comes at a performance price, after all. The cameras are both excellent, with an 8 megapixel f/2.0, 1080p sensor with BSI on the back, and a 2.1 megapixel, 1080p sensor, also with BSI, on the front. The bad news is that the battery is only 2020mAh, which some will find acceptable and others won't, and Verizon is only offering the Droid DNA with 16GB, no more. And that's not a lot of space when you're dealing with 1080p.

The Droid DNA shops with Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, but should get an Android 4.2 update at some point. As usual with HTC devices, instead of the stock Google experience, you get the Sense interface, in this case, Sense 4+. You get 5 Home screens, adorned, of course, with the iconic HTC clock. You've also got a suite of Amazon media apps, whose streaming capabilities should help reduce the burden on the 16GB of storage (technically 11GB once the OS and apps are factored in), and a few other pre-installed apps, courtesy of Verizon.

In the Verizon Droid DNA review, Phil Nickinson of Android Central summed it up like this:

The simple fact is this: Alongside the Samsung Galaxy S3, the HTC Droid DNA is the best Android phone you can get on Verizon. Display, power, camera, and it's running Jelly Bean out of the box. What more do you need?

In the U.S., the Droid DNA is exclusive to Verizon, though versions of the same basic phone, with different names, will likely show up on different networks, especially internationally, at some point.

Apple iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 has a completely re-engineered unibody aluminum chassis to allow for a bigger 4-inch screen in a phone that's 12% smaller by volume. It's taller but not wider, thinner and also lighter. That 4-inch screen uses in-cell technology to combine the touch sensor right into the LCD so the pixels look painted on. At 1136x640 and 326ppi, it's still backlit LED, and still IPS, and while nowhere near the biggest, it's still one of the most advanced panels on the market. Apple also rolled their own, manually-set Apple A6 processor this time, based on ARM v7s, for high performance and excellent power management.There is CDMA, HSPA, and international LTE. And you can get it in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions. There's still no NFC or wireless charging, however.

iOS 6 comes loaded on the iPhone 5, and includes a new, controversial Maps app, some great extensions to Apple's virtual assistant, Siri, deep Facebook integration, Passbook for tickets and vouchers, and enhancements to FaceTime, Mail, Safari, Photo Stream, Panorama, and Accessibility. And because Apple makes both the hardware and the software, there's no integration cost, no added interface layers, and a seamless experience overall.

iTunes has the biggest international content footprint, so if you're into buying your music, TV, and movies, there's a better chance Apple will take your money than anyone else. They also have the free iCloud service for backup, restore, and sync, as well as Apple Retail Stores with Genius Bars which, if you ever break your phone, you'll absolutely consider a killer service.

In the iPhone 5 review, I summed it up as follows:

Taller, thinner, faster, lighter, brighter; the iPhone 5 represents nothing more nor less than the latest, relentless iteration on the Platonic ideal Apple has been striving towards for almost a decade. Redesigned in every way but shape, compromised but true to its purpose, the iPhone 5 is once again the best iPhone Apple has ever made, and one of the best phones ever made. Period.

The price on-contract price for an iPhone 5 is $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB, unlocked and off-contract is $650, $750, and $850 respectively.

Apple iPhone 5 vs. HTC Droid DNA: The bottom line

The Droid DNA has absolutely the biggest, sharpest screen on the market, and if pure pixel density is your measure, the best one too. HTC Sense is a mixed blessing -- some love it, others hate it. Like the Verizon crap-ware that comes pre-installed, however, you'll have to root and flash a different ROM, like Cyanogen, to get an experience that's closer to stock. Also, while Android Central didn't encounter major battery or performance issues, other reviews have found them problematic (but then, the same could be said about the iPhone.) 16GB of storage is anemic, however, no matter how you slice it. Still, but for that, and from a pure tech and spec perspective, the Droid DNA is arguably the baddest ass Android phone on the planet now. And if you're on Verizon, or willing to switch to Verizon, and don't want an iPhone, it really looks like the phone to beat.

The iPhone 5 manages to fit a 4-inch screen into a phone that's ludicrously thin and light, and built like nothing else on the market. iOS 6 is iOS 6 on every iPhone that supports it, so there's no third-party layer on top of the core operating system. That's either a plus or a negative, depending on how you feel about iOS. There's also no crap-ware, however, and no carrier pre-installed anything. There's also 32GB and 64GB options if you want to store more apps and media on your iPhone. And you can get the iPhone 5 -- the same iPhone 5 -- on almost any carrier you choose. You can also get iTunes content in more countries than any other media store, and Apple Retail provides the best customer care in the business.

If you're on Verizon and want an LTE phone, and the even the idea of 1080p display sends you heart racing, get the HTC Droid DNA. Otherwise, for most people, most of the time, the cliche remains true -- get the iPhone.

More help

Need more help choosing between the iPhone 5 and the Nokia Lumia 920? Here's where you can have your questions answered!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone 5 vs. Droid DNA: Which phone should you get?


He's kidding. Nobody would seriously pick a 920 once they tried to pick it up. Its a huge ugly brick of a phone with no apps and is rapidly becoming a joke.

You said it, and I'll repeat it. The Lumia 920 is an awesome phone. Windows Phone 8 OS is all grown up now as well. But the 920 build quality surpasses all others.

920 build quality surpasses all others.... U mean all other staff by Toys R Us.... DUDE.... ait ? :-)
is all grown up now as well.... U mean grown huge... fat... and fkng HEAVY....

Come back and comment when you actually know what you are talking about. I mean, when "U" know what you are talking about.

CMN... DUDE.......that's an flagship comparison iOS vs andrOS... no one.... cares about some fckng brix with what ever OS - U call it in Redmond those days...6--7- 7,5 or 8.... even if its * all grown up now*..(.I guess that means it wasn't grown up before... so what was the point of releasing it than)...* THE TRAIL PHASE IS OVER*....ait?... do "U" know what are you...talking about???... $oft DUDE

True, wp8 has some good hardware on its side, but until it achieves commercial success, then it will never stack up. I dont doubt that wp8 is gonna be big, but I seriously doubt it will in the lifetime of the lumia 920. Not to mention that Microsoft in all makes good design, but let's admit, some of the software isn't the prettiest preinstalled app in the phone. And I have to agree, the flagship lumia 920 is about 55 grams heavier than say the htc one x or sg3, and 70 grams heavier than the featherweight iPhone 5. That's huge considering they're at about 130 and 115. Plus, what do they have, Htc and Nokia? Until super popular manufacturers pick them up, I consider wp dead. Plus, what was that with wp7 phones not updating to wp8? Android is bad with updates too, but they get them eventually!

While I agree that WP8 had matured a lot in the last few years, you can't possibly think that the 920 has nicer build quality than the iPhone 5 or even the Droid DNA. It looks like something Fisher-Price would make.

as Eric implied I'm in shock that any one able to profit $4673 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this website PIE21.ℂOℳ

"iOS 6 is iOS 6 on every iPhone that supports it..." Can't wait to fire up Siri on my iPhone 4. Oh, wait...

I also thing touting iTunes content overseas is a moot point in this case, given that the DNA is only being released on an American carrier.

RENE.. shouldn't it be more like... ... iPad mini 7,9" cellular vs. DNA 5" .....which cellular tablet should U get ? ...as all the analytic firms count 5"s as tablets and its impossible to use.... with just one hand

Got something to back that claim with?
I'm 5"11 with slightly above average hands and can use the Note 2 with one hand comfortably..

Every other article is a copy/paste now on iMore lately. I guess if you are a first time visitor it doesn't matter. But come on, some new content would be nice.

Forgive me Rene. Am a little bit confuse. This website purpose are mainly for the Apple and related products/news or mixed with others as well. I feel like it turning into Engadget or The Verge. Please don't get me wrong.

I find this comparison very bias towards Iphone, I understand this is a apple product fan's site then again if you are presenting these type of comparisons(which I find completely unnecessary at the first place and agree with comment of Traisoon above) be realistic & honest. I find the these sentences "HiDPI comes at a performance price" with respect to screen's resolution & " the Droid DNA is arguably the baddest ass Android phone on the planet now" with respect to space absolutely dumb. There is no performance degradation observed in Droid DNA because of this screen, infact it is as fast as other high end android phones if not faster than them. I'm not saying this, this is the opinion of the Phil(your sister site androidcentral.com's editor who has done DNA review). And coming to the space available, yes i agree that is the dumbest decision by Verizon & HTC in the design of DNA. But it doesn't make that phone Baddest ass of all, Nexus 4 has even 8GB version also, still it is more than usable phone, you know latest android phones support USB Host support which enables you to connect external USB drives whenever you can. Yes I agree that they should have made 32GB available. There are so many features that are available in Android phones are not available in Iphone but you still boast a lot of it, I've no problem with that as this is Iphone & IOS fans site, but making a irrelevant comparison to android phones(which is a completely different ecosystem altogether) and giving kind of wrong information is absolutely wrong. Even the so called In cell technology is used by HTC from their HTC One line itself, if not the same or they use similar technology in their latest lineup.

Also the comparison charts are always wrong, like missing glanoss from other phones that support it. It's just random iSheep junk to make people buy the same old junk and keep that precious stock price up that iMore keep worrying about recently.

Adding an external usb drive to a phone so it looks like a male appendage?? Nice fix for a small phone memory syndrome.

im just surprised they said the screen was nice. im used to them not saying anything that is better then a iphone.

I think Rene needs to take a short sabbatical; he is about as open-minded as Gellar, the boy genius. Where shall I begin...

1st I concur that "from atom to bit, the iPhone 5 and the Droid DNA couldn't be more different." Yet, you are doing a comparo of this apple (no pun intended) and orange?!? I'm pretty sure most folks who frequent this site already know about iPhones, so why not just review other phones on their own merit? Or better yet, leave that to Android Central.

"HiDPI comes at a performance price, after all." In what way? Did you do any performance benchmarks? "The bad news is that the battery is only 2020mAh" Any battery data to provide us with?

Could you have possibly spent les time on the new, controversial Maps app, or the lack of NFC and wireless charging?

"Like the Verizon crap-ware that comes pre-installed, however, you'll have to root and flash a different ROM, like Cyanogen, to get an experience that's closer to stock." Crap-ware is user-subjective; I consider bookshelf to be crap, and non-gamers probably view Game Center as such. Just as some DNA user will root for the stock experience, many of us iOS user jailbreak for the non-stock experience. Some might same we give oud devices more of an Android flavor to them.

"At 1136x640 and 326ppi, it's (iPhone 5 screen)still one of the most advanced panels on the market." Agreed, however 1080p FHD LCD 3 (1920×1080) 440ppi display is more advanced.

"iOS 6 is iOS 6 on every iPhone that supports it" Siri-ously, Rene?

"16GB of storage is anemic" So in your opinion, no one should purchase a 16GB iPhone or iPad?!?

"Otherwise, for most people, most of the time, the cliche remains true -- get the iPhone." Most people, most of the time...is this you again having issues with Samsung Galaxy S3 sales numbers?

Why did you spend little or no time on NFC, wireless charging, Beats audio, LTE performance, backside secondary notification LED, or since we are talking about phones, call quality.

In closing, please go back to the reporting style that set iMore apart from BGR and Engadget; if you feel the need to do comparos, please don't appear so one-sided in your reporting that you lose your audience. Thank you for your time.

Got yur buttons pushed, so sorry :). NFC who cares, not relevant in the USA yet. Wireless charging is still, ah charging. Beats audio sounds good but mostly hype. Notifications, got the Iphone there. Call quality, to much variation to review. 16GB is low, especially on limited data plans. I don't know how much bloatware is on the DNA but my Droid maxx had many, many more than the two you listed. Galaxy S3 on its way out already, Go look at Samsung's accessory site, some stuff gone, Note2 is the new cool. This is the IMore section so what audience are you referring too?

The DNA is an awesome looking device. The comparison tween them boils down to how big of an phone can you comfortably use and how much customization do you like on your phone. The specs are largely meaningless, both phones are fast with great displays that defy the human eye. As far as the bloatware from Verizon goes you can freeze any app in Android now and hide the icon from the app drawer. We used to have to root the device for that. Given these 2 devices I would choose the DNA, mostly because I like the added functionality you get from Android in a phone but I use my iPad most of the time.

don't you guys ever get sick of writing the same article? a new android phone comes out with awesome specs and a worthy competitor and you guys write and article stating "oh this is nice, but if you like iOS and apple services you can never go wrong with iPhone" so whats the point?

If you think Philip`s story is terrific..., last munth my brother in-law also got a cheque for $5711 putting in a seventeen hour week at home and there roomate's mother-in-law`s neighbour has been doing this for 10-months and got paid more than $5711 parttime from there labtop. apply the guidelines from this web-site.))>> bit40.cøm <<((.

"There's also no crap-ware..."

Newstand and "iMaps". I'd also throw Stocks, Weather, Passbook, and iTunes in there because they aren't able to be uninstalled and are useless to me personally.

Rene, I don't understand why you even bother to write these comparisons between the iPhone and other devices. Anyone who reads your "articles" knows that the conclusion is always the same, no matter what. Captain Picard himself could pull the Starship Enterprise out of warp speed, land it next to an iPhone, and you'd proclaim the iPhone superior technology, no contest. I've been a reader of the Mobile Nations sites for a long time, and your work on this site has come to read less and less like journalism, and more and more like the excited gushings of a squealing fanboy who just can't help himself.

Before the flamers light up their blowtorches, I do understand that iMore is an Apple-centric site/community, so therefore, let it be just that. Rene, please stop these fake attempts at objectivity, which are more annoying than anything else, and stick to what you do best--being Apple's Minister of Propaganda on the Interwebs.

Nice post!!
I always buy The HTC Droid DNA.. because of it's excellent features like that Camera quality, internal storage and so many others. i was heard it's some other additional features on: themoney times .com