updated 06:40 pm EST, Thu January 6, 2011
HTC Thunderbolt hands-on
Verizon's most iconic launch of its 4G rollout was the HTC Thunderbolt, and Electronista had the opportunity to try it first-hand. It promises to be Android's main contender against the iPhone -- possibly with both on the same network -- and in some ways is surprisingly close. Read after the story break for our early impressions.
The phone is, on the surface, a Desire HD with an LTE connection. That's not necessarily a bad thing in our view. The 4.3-inch screen is still as nice as ever, if still potentially too large for some pockets, and it touts both an eight-megapixel back camera and a VGA front camera. Its 1GHz second-generation Snapdragon is surprisingly responsive, and in some cases felt faster than the Samsing i520 and LG Revolution that should be theoretically faster.
LTE is of course the selling point, and in our experience it was extremely fast loading both our own site and a few content heavy pages. The device is potentially as fast as the raw 4G network behind it and was only slightly behind what we'd expect from Wi-Fi, if at all. For a device large enough to almost be a tablet and more likely to be used as a mobile data device than a phone, that's important.
HTC's custom Sense UI is virtually unchanged, though when the phone ships it will have Skype Mobile integration with audio and video chat. We can't complain, since it adds a fair amount of polish to the OS. We can only hope that Android 2.3 and later roll out in a timely fashion.
Verizon hasn't given a price or a ship date for the phone beyond its first-half 2011 target, but we're looking forward to it. It promises to be one of the best-built and more feature packed devices for Android on the entire network. It could provide significant competition for the Verizon iPhone should it arrive in the next few weeks. Apart from 4G, we're not sure that it's better: the larger screen is a tradeoff rather than a coup, and what you get in camera resolution and OS flexibility is lost in graphics speed, ease of use and possibly battery life as well.