HTC, probably the single most underrated Android smartphone manufacturer of them all, is at it again. After months of endless rumors and speculation, the Taiwanese manufacturer has officially revealed its flagship smartphone for 2013: the HTC One.
Naturally, one question rises above them all following HTC’s announcement: how much better (if at all) is the HTC One when compared against the two previous HTC flagships, namely the HTC One X+ and the HTC Droid DNA.
If you’re looking for a versus piece that pits the HTC One against the HTC One X+, head to the article here. On the other hand, if you’re looking to learn exactly how well the HTC One fares against the most recent HTC high-end smartphone, the HTC Droid DNA, look no further as you’ve come to the right place.
Before we go into the meat of the article, I urge you to keep in mind that since the HTC Droid DNA was released roughly two months ago, it is probably wise not to expect the HTC One to be an entire class above the Droid DNA, even more so as the HTC Droid DNA is widely regarded as among the best (if not the best) Android smartphones currently available on the market.
To aid us in keeping score, we’ll divide this article into four equally important sections: Display, Design & Build Quality, Internal Hardware and Android Version & Software Improvements.
The HTC Droid DNA (also known as the HTC J Butterfly) was the first smartphone to feature a full HD display, meaning that it features a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution (also known as 1080p). Part of a new wave of smartphones, namely the 5-inch 1080p kind, the HTC Droid DNA’s Super LCD3 panel measures a 441 Pixel Per Inch (PPI) density, currently resting at the top of the PPI density rankings, alongside a number of other smartphones.
Color accuracy, viewing angles and contrast ratios are all as high-end as they get, although it should be mentioned that while plenty specialists think of the Droid DNA as the smartphone with the best display currently around.
In the opposite corner, the HTC One features a 4.7-inch Super LCD3 display working at a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, thus measuring a PPI density of 468, the new champion when it comes to display crispness. However, when it comes to noticing the difference in crispness between the HTC Droid DNA and the HTC One, I’m not sure that the average untrained eye is able to perform this task.
As with the Droid DNA, the contrast is good, colors are vivid without being overly saturated, while viewing angles are not going to be a problem even if you don’t look perpendicularly on the display.
Verdict: Although the HTC One features a slightly higher PPI density, quality differences are not noticeable (both are amazing displays).
Design and Build Quality
To start off with the only bad thing about the HTC Droid DNA’s design, the Verizon-bound smartphone is made out of plastic, instead of polycarbonate or aluminum as most people expected it to be. Other than that, the narrow bezel and sleek curves make up for this design flaw, although they do not improve the chances of the DNA surviving an impact with a concrete floor.
One additional note that should be made regarding the design of the HTC Droid DNA is that it features dual notification LEDs: one in the front and one at the back, so that you don’t miss important notifications even when the smartphone is placed front first on a table. It’s not exactly revolutionary, but it sure is an useful small feature to have.
The HTC Droid DNA measures 141 x 70.5 x 9.7 mm (5.55 x 2.78 x 0.38 in) and weighs in at 141.7 g (4.97 oz). The curved back measures 9.7mm at the center and then slims out to 4mm at the edges, thus somehow improving its maneuverability.
Back when HTC launched the Droid DNA, plenty (myself included) argued that it would have been the smartphone of their dreams if HTC would have decided to go for a smaller screen. Thankfully, just two months following its first phablet release, the Taiwanese manufacturer has equipped the HTC One with a 4.7-inch screen, meaning that is easier to pocket while allowing for full use with a single, medium sized hand.
The HTC One also seems to be the sturdier of these two devices thanks to its aluminum curved back. Official measurements are 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm and 143g, and the HTC One is definitely a more compact, but heavier, device.
There’s no reason to beat around the bush: HTC knows how to design sleek smartphones.
Verdict: Looks are a subjective aspect, so I’m not going to touch that area. However, the HTC One is both sturdier and more compact. It wins this section in my book.
CPU, GPU & RAM
The HTC One uses what’s essentially an overclocked Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, one that Qualcomm brands as the Snapdragon 600.
There no architectural differences between the Snapdragon 600 that you can find inside the HTC One and the S4 Pro that rests inside the HTC Droid DNA, but the maximum frequency of the quad-core Krait processor is now 1.7GHz from 1.5 GHz on the Droid DNA. The Adreno 320 has been overclocked as well. Both the HTC One and the HTC Droid DNA come with 2 GB of RAM.
The first HTC One benchmarks have shown that the Snapdragon 600 is significantly faster, not surprising considering that Qualcomm promised a 40% improvement over the S4 Pro.
The HTC Droid DNA comes equipped with an 8MP primary camera and a 2.1MP front-facing camera for video calling.
The HTC One features a 4MP sensor that has point-and-shoot-like pixels bigger pixels, which combined with an f/2.0 aperture capture three times more light. HTC has introduced a new term to properly characterize this new imaging technique: the ultrapixel. You can read more about how this works in the article here, but for the sake of this article, what you need to know is that the camera on the HTC One should provide (at least in theory) much crisper photos and videos.
The HTC Droid DNA is available in the 16GB version only, while the HTC One comes in a 32GB / 64 GB versions. Unfortunately, neither of our two contenders feature a microSD card slot for expandable storage.
The lack of microSD card slots has become a trademark choice for HTC, a decision that has been blamed by quite a large number of fans and potential customers. It also makes little sense for HTC to do this, seeing as the Taiwanese manufacturer is not a cloud storage company.
The HTC Droid DNA was largely criticized for not featuring a big battery, and HTC did take a small step towards solving this problem with the HTC One, by upping the battery capacity from 2020mAh on the DNA to 2300mAh on the HTC One. Unfortunately though, we’ll have to wait until battery tests can be performed to learn if this extra capacity translates into a significantly better battery life or not.
Verdict: It is a close call, but the HTC One takes this round thanks to its overclocked CPU and slightly larger battery. The camera promises to take better pictures, but we’ll have to test this feature out before we can decide upon its real world usefulness.
Android Version & Software Tweaks
While the HTC Droid DNA uses Android 4.1 with HTC Sense 4+ UI, the HTC One runs on Android 4.1.2, with HTC’s New Sense on top of that. Several design changes and the new BlinkScreen, a feature that turns your homescreen into a live feed of events (in many ways just like what’s available on Windows Phone 8) are amongst the most remarkable changes.
Verdict: The improvements are not huge, but the HTC One wins this round thanks to its New Sense UI.
Although most of those who have already purchased the Droid DNA will probably feel like they are still very happy with their device, the reality is that the HTC One seems to be the new king of Android smartphones, exceptionally so if we’re to take into consideration that quite a large number of smartphone users consider devices equipped with a display larger than 5 inches to be phablets.
Until the new generation of CPUs and GPUs from Qualcomm, Samsung and NVIDIA starts reaching the market, there is little more you can ask from a smartphone at a hardware level (the little part is related to the lack of a microSD card slot).
You now know how I think the HTC One fares against the HTC Droid DNA, but what do you guys make of this comparison? Is the Droid DNA preferable to you thanks to its extra display real estate? Are you craving for the HTC One or is the Droid DNA that makes your Android clock tick?