HTC is hitting the U.S. with a major heavyweight entry in the big phone market, teaming with Verizon Wireless (s vz) on the release of the Droid DNA, the two companies announced Tuesday. The 5-inch phone, which will run Android 4.1(s goog), stands out because of its 1080p Super LCD 3 display, which shows 440 pixels per inch, more than any other smartphone in the U.S. market.
The $199 device, which goes on sale Nov. 21, is part of a strong holiday line-up for Verizon, but it represents even more to HTC, which is struggling to regain its footing against Apple (s aapl) and Samsung. The Droid DNA should get some takers with its beautiful display and its quad-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon(s qcom) processor. Like the HTC J Butterfly, another version of the same phone that appeared first in Japan, the Droid DNA will sport 2 GB RAM, 16 GB of storage
and room for a microSDHC expansion slot.
The pixel density is a nice bragging point in this age of retina displays. But it’s unclear if people will be able to distinguish the added clarity. And there’s a question of whether the display will also burn through battery life faster. But HTC has packed on more features to sell the Droid DNA.
The display also features a wide 80-degree viewing area, can handle blurry action better and is reportedly 50 percent brighter than the Samsung Galaxy S III. The phone incorporates wireless charging, an ultra-wide lens for the front-facing 720p camera and improvements to Sense 4+ that provides better support for pictures and galleries. The phone also includes the Beats Audio profile and also comes with two amplifiers for headphones and the speakers.
Even without a stylus, the Droid DNA will draw some comparisons to Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, which is the class of the so-called phablet market, selling three million units in its first 30 days. But HTC is pitching this as more of a Samsung Galaxy S III competitor, saying the styling and design keeps the form factor firmly in the realm of a smartphone. The slim design, which narrows to just 4 millimeters at the edge, pulls from earlier HTC Droid devices like the Incredible with red accents and a red side grill.
The Droid DNA, which is now available for pre-orders, will keep HTC in the conversation this holiday season, especially for spec heads who appreciate the souped up hardware. The harder challenge will be to explain why every day consumers will need all that power. HTC’s design director Jonah Becker said the company went with 1080p because it satisfied professional photographers, so it should also work for regular consumers. We’ll need to see more explanation about how consumers can make the most of hardware. But I have to give it to HTC. The phone is beautiful, very sleek and elegant. Not as thin or light as the Galaxy S III, but it feels less bulky because of its tapered edges. It’s a phone that looks good coming out of your pocket and feels good in your hand.