REVIEW: HTC Thunderbolt

Justin Cauchon March 23, 2011 8
HTC Thunderbolt

The long-awaited HTC Thunderbolt has finally landed on the Verizon network. Verizon 4G broadband cards have been available for a few months now, but consumers have been waiting for 4G phones to launch. The first 4G phone on Verizon being the HTC Thunderbolt. Most other carriers have already launched 4G phones like the HTC EVO (Sprint), HTC Inspire 4G (AT&T), and many more. Now the difference between the Verizon 4G network and everyone else’s 4G network is the unreal speeds you get on the Verizon LTE network.

Hardware:

The HTC Thunderbolt looks sleek when it is sitting on our desk. The front of the device is plain, yet it makes a point of showing off its nicely sized 4.3″ touch screen display. When comparing the Thunderbolt to the iPhone, the Thunderbolt is¬†noticeably¬†larger than the iPhone. Even when holding the Thunderbolt, you will notice the size. However, that is the current trend in the wireless world where large displays rule the market.

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The back of the phone has a matte finish, which makes it easier to hold and more scratch resistant in the pocket. There is also a kickstand that will allow you to stand your Thunderbolt up sideways to watch videos and such. Right under the kickstand (which flips up) is the speaker. You will notice a difference in the sound quality when the stand is down and when it is up. While the kickstand is down, it blocks the speaker making it sound not great. It gets a bit better when you open up the kickstand and reveal the speaker.

The HTC Thunderbolt also has powerful internal specs that help create a fast user experience. The 1GHz Qualcomm processor makes everything run pretty smooth, even when running a bunch of apps at the same time. There is an 8MP camera with a LED flash on the back, and a 1.3MP front-facing camera. Of course, its 4G capability is a major part of this phone since it is Verizon’s first 4G phone. There is 8GB of internal storage and a preinstalled 32GB microSD card, making it a total of 40GB.

Software:

The HTC Thunderbolt is powered by Android 2.2 and has HTC Sense UI over it. I personally think that the HTC Sense UI adds a lot to the phone and makes it more user friendly. However, it is all preference as I know some people do not like having HTC Sense over Android’s original UI. Either way, you cannot remove the Sense UI, so it really doesn’t matter.

HTC Sense UI does adds some features like an improved keyboard and its own task manager. You can also customize your home screen with all different types of widgets that add convenience. Additionally, you can choose different skins that will change the color of the menus.

As with many Verizon phones, the HTC Thunderbolt comes with a slew of pre-installed apps that cannot be uninstalled. Backup Assistant is the first noticeable one where it will backup all of your contacts to Verizon’s server so you can restore them if you ever switch to another Verizon phone. Blockbuster app, as you might have guessed, allows you to rent movies right from your phone. CityID will display the city and state associated with an area code of an incoming call. This app is free for 15 days, after that you will need to subscribe. There is an icon for a Gameloft game called Let’s Golf 2. You will find with this Let’s Golf 2 game that once you open the app, it will ask you to purchase the game for $4.99 and there is no way to remove that icon. You will also find Rock Band on the phone, but not for free. Peep is a twitter application that comes on all HTC Sense phones, which is not as good as the official Twitter app. Rhapsody is a music application that requires a subscription and cannot be removed off the phone. Another music app that cannot be removed is Slacker, an internet radio service. TuneWiki will allow you to find lyrics to your favorite songs and share them with friends. Last but not least, VZ Navigator comes pre-installed and costs money… or you can use Google’s free Navigation software.


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4G:

Verizon has been preparing its 4G LTE network for a while now. Mobile broadband cards have been available on 4G for a couple months now, but the HTC Thunderbolt is the first phone that runs on the LTE network. Don’t worry if there is no 4G coverage in your area, it will automatically switch back to 3G. Verizon’s 4G is fast, it is really really fast. Our download speeds were usually around 10Mbps. While our upload speeds were around 35Mbps, but we are skeptical on that number.

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Since our upload speeds were so high, we decided to do connect via mobile hotspot and do a speed test that way. This test showed a download speed of around 12Mbps and a upload speed of about 1.5Mbps.

Battery:

As we mentioned earlier, this is Verizon’s first 4G phone, so you can’t expect the battery to be amazing. To put it simply, the battery on the Thunderbolt is pretty bad. While the phone does have a 1,400 mAh battery, the LTE network really affects the battery life. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to disable 4G, leaving only 3G on. On days with moderate data use, a lot of texting, and minimal voice, we would need a charge after around 6 hours. Even on days with not much use, the phone would die before the end of the day.

Camera:

The Thunderbolt has a 8MP camera with autofocus and a LED flash on the back. There is also a 1.3MP camera on the front of the phone for video calling and taking pictures of yourself, however Skype doesn’t yet support video calling. We thought that the images came out real nice for a camera on a smartphone. Check out our samples:

We also tested out the video camera, which shoots high definition video. The quality of the video was decent and definitely usable, but still won’t replace your video camera. Check out the sample video:

Conclusion:

The HTC Thunderbolt is a great Android tool with HTC Sense over it. It is the first 4G phone available on Verizon so some issues are to be expected. The major problem with the Thunderbolt is the horrible battery life you will experience. While the phone is fast, fun, and useable, it is a problem when you can’t even use it for a few hours without having to plug it into the charger. You could always get an extended battery, but expect your device to be even thicker than it is. Otherwise, the phone is a a powerful device that has a lot of capabilities. You can purchase the HTC Thunderbolt online or from Verizon stores for $249.99 with a contract.

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