The HTC Thunderbolt is so close to being the perfect 4G phone. You won’t find a faster data speed than the remarkable eight to 10 megabits per second I was able to achieve with this phone on Verizon’s vaunted new LTE network. YouTube videos will begin streaming a mere two seconds after clicking the program’s icon and will continue seamlessly even as you switch between an upright and widescreen view.
And the little ingenious touch of a kickstand behind the phone means you can keep it propped up — why don’t all phones have this simple convenience?
My biggest problem with the phone actually has nothing to do with the phone itself. It’s the operating system, Google’s increasingly popular Android 2.2. The hidden icons. The many unnecessary desktop screens. The weird “steering wheel” that runs across the bottom of the phone. It’s all a little too messy and garbled, as if the designers are trying to be as different from Apple as possible even if it means sacrificing what works.
We’re at a point where the technology should teach you how to use it. But unfortunately, you may have to keep the user manual close. Otherwise you’ll never know that a hidden dropdown menu — which strangely juxtaposes a series of icons with your social networking notifications — is accessed by pulling down the top of the screen. Or, that the way to find your applications is by clicking on an arrow that sits on the bottom left corner of the screen, right above the home button.
These are problems that you won’t have with the operating systems of Apple or the Windows Phone 7. Android needs to neaten up its interface if it wants to continue dominating the market.
While it may take you time to get to know the Thunderbolt, I think you’ll find it’s worth the effort. The video camera and 8-megapixel rear camera took clear, crisp photos even in low light. It’s handy and intuitive to have the volume rocker double as a camera zoom.
I won’t say much on call quality because if you have Verizon you know that, generally speaking, reception is reliable, and this phone is no exception.
But with the capabilities of Verizon’s 4G network comes a price: battery drainage. You may find yourself looking for an outlet after a few hours of day-to-day use. So if you’re constantly on the go and without a place to plug in, this phone isn’t for you. Otherwise, the Thunderbolt is a great addition for someone who wants a high-powered data experience and is willing to learn the idiosyncrasies of Android.