Verizon HTC Thunderbolt: Eight Key Features and Facts

Verizon Wireless this week releases the long-awaited Android-powered Thunderbolt smartphone from HTC. Here are eight facts and features you need to know about Verizon's first LTE handheld before you buy.

U.S. wireless carrier Verizon today confirmed that its much anticipated Android smartphone, the HTC Thunderbolt, which was announced back in January at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), will be released this week, on March 17, for $249.99 with a new service contract.

Verizon's HTC Thunderbolt Android Smartphone
Verizon's HTC Thunderbolt Android Smartphone

With so many feature-packed handhelds available today, it can be a chore to determine which smartphone is best suited for your individual needs. To help ease that burden, I've broken down the facts and features that set the new Google Android 2.2 HTC Thunderbolt apart from the competition.

1) HTC Thunderbolt is the First Verizon LTE Smartphone

The HTC Thunderbolt is the very first smartphone to run on Verizon Wireless's 4G, LTE network. That means Thunderbolt owners should see download-speeds of five to twelve Mbps and upload-speeds of two to five Mbps, or more than two to three times the average Verizon 3G speeds, according to the carrier and assuming you live in a Verizon LTE coverage area. (Check out Verizon's LTE coverage map.)

And as a LTE smartphone, the HTC Thunderbolt is a true 4G device&unlike some other new-ish handhelds deemed 4G devices that really aren't, such as the Motorola Atrix 4G/HTC Inspire 4G/etc.

Not only should the Thunderbolt see some of the highest data-transfer speeds available on Verizon today, users will also be able to place voice calls and surf the Web at the same time--a feat not currently possible via Verizon's 3G EV-DO network.

Since wireless coverage should be one of, if not the most important consideration when purchasing a new device, you should make sure you're satisfied with Verizon's network in your area before running out to grab the Thunderbolt. Potential buyers may also want to hold off on the Thunderbolt for at least a month or so, since it is the first LTE device, and it's not unheard of for carriers to experience initial problems with new devices on new-ish networks.

2) HTC Thunderbolt is Not a "World Phone"

The Verizon HTC Thunderbolt may be a blazing fast device while connected to Verizon's LTE network, but unfortunately for global travelers, it is not a world phone, meaning the device won't work on GSM networks outside the United States. (Many of Verizon's other high-end devices, such as the BlackBerry Bold 9650, work on both Verizon's CDMA network and other GSM networks.)

The Thunderbolt's network compatibility is officially listed as LTE 700, CDMA EV-DO revA, so it will only work on Verizon 3G and 4G networks, and that could be a deal breaker for many folks who frequently travel outside of the United States.

3) HTC Thunderbolt Packs a 1GHz Processor

The HTC Thunderbolt packs a powerful 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, which means it should be powerful enough to run many applications and services simultaneously without performance degradation.

However, if you're seeking the most powerful processor available in a modern smartphone, you may want to consider a dual-core device, such as the recently released Motorola Atrix 4G or the LG Optimus 2X. Put simply, a dual-core processor lets your smartphone handle two tasks at the same time and faster than a single-core processor.

4) HTC Thunderbolt Mobile Hotspot Features

The Verizon Wireless HTC Thunderbolt has mobile hotspot functionality that allows other Wi-Fi compatible devices to connect to Verizon's network via the Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt mobile hotspot feature will lets as many as eight separate devices connect to Verizon's network, according to Verizon's website--though HTC's site says only five.

Verizon is offering the mobile hotspot feature free to those who purchase the Thunderbolt by May 15. After May 15 Verizon customers will need to pay $20 a month per two GBs of mobile-hotspot data, according to the carrier.

5) HTC Thunderbolt Supports DLNA

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) wireless standard lets users with DLNA-compatible devices share media over a wireless network, and the HTC Thunderbolt fully supports DLNA. So, for example, a Thunderbolt user could send music or video to a DLNA-compatible and Wi-Fi-connected television or home stereo system to listen to the content on better-quality speakers or watch it on a larger, HD display. More and more consumer-electronics makers are currently incorporating DLNA features into their products, and in the coming months and years, DLNA support could become very valuable to users who store lots or media on their smartphones.

6) HTC Thunderbolt "Instant Boot" Feature

Verizon's version of the HTC Thunderbolt has a new "instant boot" feature that enables the device to start up faster than its rivals, nearly instantly, according to HTC. I've yet to see this feature in person, so I can't truly attest to HTC's claim. However, as a long-time BlackBerry user, I can say with certainty that having to wait multiple minutes for a smartphone to boot or restart, as is the case with many Research In Motion (RIM) smartphones, gets old very quickly.

7) HTC Thunderbolt Price Is More Than Reasonable

The HTC Thunderbolt will be available through Verizon Wireless starting March 17 for $249.99 along with a new two-year Verizon service agreement and an LTE data plan. Considering the device is brand new and it's Verizon's first LTE device, that price is reasonable.

But when you throw in a 32GB microSD media card, which ships along with the Thunderbolt and typically costs at least $70, the price is actually quite impressive. (The Thunderbolt also has 8GB of built-in storage.) In comparison, Motorola's Atrix 4G Android smartphone currently sells for $199.99 through AT&T, with no media card.

And if you act now, you can pre-order the Verizon HTC Thunderbolt for only $199.99 along with a compatible Verizon data plan, via Wirefly.com. That's a steal.

8) HTC Thunderbolt is a Multimedia Workhorse

Folks looking for a powerful Android smartphone with a clear multimedia focus are sure to find a friend in the HTC Thunderbolt. Its fast, 1GHz processor means it should be able to handle streaming video and media playback without issue. The device's nearly 40GB of storage--8GB internal, 32GB card--should provide ample room for vast music, video and image libraries. It packs an 8MP digital shooter for capturing images and 720p HD video, along with a "surround sound" speaker set up for better-than-average mobile-device audio quality. And the Thunderbolt also has its own fold-away kickstand, to help balance it for easy media viewing.

Read more about the HTC Thunderbolt on HTC's website.

AS

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Al at asacco@cio.com

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