HTC Thunderbolt

Based on my previous post on Apple and their business practices (, I decided to upgrade my iPhone 3Gs to a Verizon HTC Thunderbolt. Getting on a 4G network was another major draw, as was getting off of the poor-performing AT&T network, with its dropped calls, congestion, and poor signal strength in places that I frequent. This is my review. In summary, I can’t recommend this phone except for a small segment of users.

The screen was great – very bright, easy to read, and responded well to touch and typing. Sound quality was great. Processor is fast. Having a separate radio for the 4G network means that you can use your phone for data during a voice call. And the Verizon network is rock solid.

In the end, it was battery life that got me to return the phone and exchange it for an iPhone 4. Both the Verizon store personnel, and their phone customer care, are aware of this problem and tell me that HTC is also aware of it. At times (that seem uncorrelated to use, etc.), the phone seems to run some background processes that just plain drain the battery. I tried a couple of the battery management packages, turned off GPS and WiFi, etc., but none of them seemed to make a major difference. So, I resorted to leaving the phone plugged into its charger while near an outlet, and purchased a nifty remote battery back that would give an extra 15-30 min of life. The final straw was unplugging the phone at 10:30 AM and having the battery be dead at 1PM. Totally not acceptable.

Also unacceptable was the fact that neither HTC nor Verizon had any sync software ready for the Thunderbolt. I spent a ton of time trying to sync the phone with my music and photos, but nothing worked. I finally gave up and called Verizon support to learn that HTC had not yet released the sync software. Through more hard work, I got Windows 7 to recognize the Thunderbolt memory and was able to manually copy music and photos.

On the good side, the Verizon 4G network rocks! Super-fast when it is available, which is often is in Seattle. During my trip to San Diego, I found that I was often on 3G and sometimes on 1x. As a promotion, Verizon allowed the Thunderbolt to act as a WiFi hotspot. This worked flawlessly and also was really fast. All of this seemed to be a great glimpse of the future.

And, lastly, some Google Android quirks (also known as design features). This is a phone, right? Well, I expected to be able to tag phone numbers/contacts as favorites. Turns out this is really difficult. You need to add a category of favorites, then use a widget to display your favorites. And you can’t list both home and mobile – you have to choose one. All of this makes the concept of “favorites” for calling or texting pretty lame.

Another quirk: the calendar. Unlike the iPhone, the Google calendar app does not allow for time zone support; it automatically resets calendars to your current time zone as determined by the phone. In other words, if you travel from Seattle to the East coast and book an appointment for 10 AM after your arrival, the Google calendar will change the time to 7AM when you arrive. While this is useful, if you are using outlook to coordinate a number of people in different time zones, it should be an option!

There is lots more I can add about both the phone and the experience, but I really can’t recommend the Thunderbolt until the battery life problem is resolved, unless you don’t need to be disconnected from power. But, if you fall into that category, you probably don’t need a cell phone!