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!