HTC ThunderBolt First Impressions by Taylor

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: March 17, 2011

After many months of cryptic hints, leaks, rumors, and several delays, many of us wondered if the HTC ThunderBolt would ever arrive. The elusive device finally made its grand appearance this morning at 9 AM at Verizon and Best Buy locations nationwide. Being Verizon's first LTE capable phone and made by the very popular, Taiwanese company, HTC, it is expected that the ThunderBolt will be a hit. Although, at $249.99 with a two-year agreement, it is priced a little higher than many of us were hoping. Now that it has finally arrived, the biggest hurdle for the ThunderBolt is the pair upcoming devices with more processing power. Will HTC's charm, reputation, and good looks be enough to ward off the approaching heavyweights?

I've spent the entire day with the ThunderBolt and here are some things I've noticed thus far:

  • First and foremost, the LTE network has been a dream come true. Here in Concord (Charlotte metro area), the coverage has been very good. I've experienced a few areas that were missing LTE coverage while driving down the road, but the switch between 3G and LTE is pretty quick. The biggest plus is that you have unlimited access to this network for no extra charge beyond the unlimited data plan.
  • As for speeds, they've been incredible. Right after leaving the Verizon store this morning I did a speed test. The first run yielded 7.5 Mbps down and 38.4 Mbps on the upload. Downloading applications only takes a matter of seconds, and photos upload in the blink of an eye. I've been running tests all day at different locations and the speeds did fluctuate a bit, but still remained above expectations: anywhere from 5-10 Mbps down and 20-41Mbps up. I did hit one anomaly that gave a reading of 86.9 Mbps on the upload, but I think it was an error in the software.
  • When it comes to hardware, the ThunderBolt is exactly what you would expect from HTC. It's very well built and feels great in the hand. It feels heavy, mainly because it is. But at 0.52-inches thick, the device is a little on the chunky side, so that doesn't help at all. It weights a nice 5.78 oz, which is slightly lighter than the EVO 4G at 6 oz.

  • Some people feared that the ThunderBolt not getting a dual-core processor was awful news. I'll admit, I was upset when I first found out, too. But it isn't all that bad. My experience with the ThunderBolt has been the best, performance-wise, out of any Android device I've used extensively. I still need to put it to the true test, but I'm impressed so far.
  • Behind the kickstand, you will find a large Dolby Surround Sound speaker. I didn't listen to a lot of music on the ThunderBolt, but what little I did sounded awesome. That said, don't get excited because you see “Dolby Surround Sound.” It may be “surround," but it's still on a phone and isn't going to blow you away.
  • I've made a few voice calls so far. The quality of the calls were pretty impressive. They were very clear and the earpiece speaker is very loud. I never really hit a spotty area, so I obviously didn't drop a call. I also didn't test simultaneous voice and data. I will include that in the full review.
  • The ThunderBolt ships with Android 2.2. For someone that has been using 2.3 for a while now, it feels like you're taking a few steps back. And you are. Tiny steps, not leaps. The noticeable differences are with battery life, power management, and the obvious UI discrepancies. To make up for shipping with the older version of Android, it does come to market with Sense 2.0, which is a nice upgrade from the original version of Sense.

  • I've taken a few stills with the 8-megapixel rear camera and quality is great. You have a fair amount of control over the auto-focus feature and it's very quick to react. It also comes with many different filters (sepia, posterize, negative, etc.) that you can apply to spice up your photos. The problem is, there is little to no image stabilization, so your shots often turn out blurred. The front-facing camera takes decent shots as well. As for video, check out Aaron's sample of the ThunderBolt's 720p video sample.
  • Something that I have expected to be pitiful on the ThunderBolt is battery life. You may remember back when the ThunderBolt experienced a few delays. The rumor was that those delays were over reports of poor battery life. I charged the phone completely and unplugged it at 5:00 PM. By 10:00 PM it was sitting at 38% after light to moderate use (mostly standby). Considering this is a huge weak spot for the device, I will do a lot of extensive testing for the review. I plan on calibrating the battery tonight to see if that helps any. One thing is for sure though, coming from an iPhone and still using a myTouch 4G that easily gets 14 or more hours of use, the ThunderBolt's battery life woes are definitely amplified.
  • Another oddity coming from the ThunderBolt is the time it takes to charge. Like I said, I fully charged it earlier, but I was busy and wasn't paying attention to how long it took it actually took. It started at roughly 50% and I know it took at least a couple hours to complete. That's not a good when paired with bad battery life. I'm hoping this gets better.

There will be more ThunderBolt coverage to come, so keep it dialed in to PhoneDog!

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