HTC ThunderBolt Hands-on Preview

by Reads (48,721)

UPDATE: This “first thoughts” review was written after just a brief time with this smartphone. A more complete version based on extensive testing is available here:

 


The HTC ThunderBolt is going to be one of the world’s first LTE-equipped smartphones, and is poised to become Verizon’s new flagship model.

HTC was kind enough to demonstrate this upcoming Android OS device to me at the Consumer Electronics Show, and I wanted to share my first impressions.


BUILD & DESIGN

HTC ThunderBolt from Verizon WirelessThis model is going to set a new standard for what a high-end smartphone offers, starting with its 4.3-inch, WVGA touchscreen. 

This isn’t going to be an AM-OLED display, but HTC ran into problems trying to get enough AM-OLED screens to meet demand for its products last year, so it’s not surprising they decided to forgo this new technology in what’s almost certainly going to be a very popular device.

This large screen is going to make the ThunderBolt a good option for watching video while on the go, especially as it includes a kickstand on the back to hold it up at a good angle.

But keep in mind, this won’t be a small device. Like all models with 4.3-inch displays, it’s going to make a sizable lump in a pants pocket.


PERFORMANCE

The HTC ThunderBolt will run Google’s Android OS 2.2 (Froyo) on a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor. It will also include the latest version of HTC’s Sense overlay.

This combination is already available on a number of other smartphones, and performance for this is quite good… I see no reason this one will be any different. Still, there will be rival models with faster processors, as the first devices with 1.2. GHz processors and ones with Tegra 2 dual-core chips will be hitting the market soon.

In addition, the device is going to sport 768 MB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage. But that’s just the start — it will include a microSD card slot with a 32 GB card, bringing its total storage capacity to 40 GB.

Communication & Wireless
Of course, the most-advertised feature of the ThunderBolt is going to be support for Verizon’s new 4G network. The carrier says this LTE network is going to provide data transfer speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps for downloads and 2 to 5 Mbps upload speeds under real world conditions. For comparison, tests on this carrier’s current 3G network give download speeds of 0.6 to 1.6 Mbps and upload speeds of 0.5 to 0.8 Mbps.

HTC ThunderBolt from Verizon WirelessVerizon is still rolling out 4G service, so most customers will still need to depend on 3G. But that’s going to change significantly over the next year or so.

LTE is a data-only service, so this HTC model is also going to support CDMA voice calls. These will use the carrier’s very extensive voice network.

This smartphone is going to include hotspot software, so it can share its fast connection with outer devices over Wi-Fi. And it will also support Bluetooth accessories.

The ThunderBolt is going to be one of Verizon’s first that can make video calls — it is going to include a 1.3 megapixel, front-facing camera and an upcoming version of the Skype VoIP app. This software is still some way away from being released, so I wasn’t able to test it out.

Other Features
Because this model hasn’t been released yet, it’s too early to do any testing of a great many of its features, such as the 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, or the life-span of the 1400 mAh battery.

Play an HTC ThunderBolt VideoAlso on the feature list is a digital compass, GPS, a proximity sensor, a G-sensor, DLNA, and Dolby and SRS surround sound.


CONCLUSION

The HTC ThunderBolt will be an amazing device, and it’s going to be a noticeable improvement over models that Verizon released last year, like the Motorola Droid X or HTC Droid Incredible.

If it has a flaw, it’s a lack of innovation. This is essentially going to be an enhanced version of Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G a smartphone that was released last year. Still, sometimes it’s best to not mess with a good thing.

Verizon hasn’t said yet when the ThunderBolt is going to be released, aside from the fact that it’s going to be after march but before the end of June.

The carrier has also kept mum about pricing, but I’m willing to guess it’s going to be in the neighborhood of $200 with a two-year wireless contract.

 

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