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Verizon to sell HTC's Droid DNA smartphone as holiday flagship

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless said on Tuesday that it plans to sell HTC Corp's latest smartphone, the Droid DNA, as its flagship phone for the holiday season.

The device may help HTC in its battle against arch-rivals Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc, to which it has heavily lost ground in recent years.

While Verizon Wireless also sells Samsung and Apple phones, its promise that the Droid DNA is its "flagship for the season" may indicate heavier marketing of that particular device.

"We think it's poised to be a real blockbuster for the holidays and certainly into 2013," Verizon Wireless Chief Marketing Officer Tami Erwin said at a press event.

The Droid DNA will cost $199 to customers who sign a two-year contract and goes on sale November 21, the day before Thanksgiving, the un-official start of the shopping season.

The device has a large 5-inch display and a high-resolution image quality for photographs and video.

The DNA's displays pictures with a 440 pixels per inch density, which according to HTC is the sharpest resolution so far on a smartphone screen. In comparison, Apple's latest iPhone offers a 326 pixels per inch display while the Samsung Galaxy S III has 306 pixels per inch.

"This screen is really what sets Droid DNA apart," said Jonah Becker, HTC's design director who took the unusual step of comparing several of the phone's features directly with Samsung devices at the event.

The executive said the phone's display had an 80 degrees viewing angle, which was much wider than that of the Galaxy S III, and he said that the display is also brighter than the S III, Samsung's flagship phone.

HTC likely made the Samsung comparison because both HTC and Samsung devices run on Google Inc Android software, Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said.

"For HTC it's actually more important to win the head to head battles with Samsung," than trying to compete with Apple's popular iPhone, Greengart said, adding that an advertising push from Verizon Wireless should also help.

However, HTC may lose something from the fact that Verizon Wireless will advertise the device under the "Droid" brand, which it stamps on lots of Android phones from many different vendors, said another analyst, Ross Rubin, who is founder of Reticle Research.

"The Droid brand has been a double-edged sword for manufacturers," Rubin said.

While Droid promotions help volume sales to Verizon Wireless customers, the manufacturer's brand identity takes a back seat, lessening the sales boost outside Verizon Wireless, Rubin said.

The phone will be exclusive to Verizon Wireless in the United States. A similar device is being sold in Japan under the Butterfly brand, HTC said.

The DNA comes with a wireless charging pad that allows the user to set the phone down to charge it rather than plugging it in. The charger is a direct challenge to Finland's Nokia, which also sells wireless charging pads with its smartphones.

Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; Editing by M.D. Golan)

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