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Tech Report – HTC Thunderbolt

Lately, we have been hearing a lot about 4G phones and even more about 4G networks. But with the possible exception of the HTC Evo from Sprint, no-one has yet put the two together. (I say possible exception, because Sprint uses WiMax technology, which some have argued is just a ramped-up version of 3G.)

Well, all that is about to change, with a raft of 4G phones set to come on stream over the next few months.

First up is the HTC Thunderbolt from Verizon. Instead of WiMax, Verizon uses LTE technology, which is the next evolution of its existing 3G network and which promises significantly faster data transfer speeds. The result? A lightning fast smartphone that is truly a leap forward when compared to the current competition.

At 4.75 inches tall and 2.44 inches wide, the Thunderbolt is not the most delicate of devices. Its large 4.3-inch (800x480 pixel) screen is designed for web browsing and entertainment, so if you are looking for something that slips easily into a pocket, this may not be for you.

There is an 8-megapixel camera with built-in flash for taking high-quality photos and video, and there is a front-facing camera for video chat. The Thunderbolt also comes with a sturdy kickstand, so the phone can be propped up for watching movies or conducting lengthy conference calls.

The Thunderbolt runs Android 2.2, so the phone comes with all the usual Google apps and social networking tools. It also features a number of extra apps from HTC and Verizon, including HTC’s Peep Twitter client, Footprints, Rock Band, and TuneWiki, which lets you listen to Internet radio and view music videos complete with accompanying lyrics.

The Thunderbolt comes with 8GB of internal memory along with a preinstalled 32GB memory card, more than enough to hold all those apps, as well as hundreds of photos, songs and videos. Of course, one of the problems with super-loaded Android phones is battery life, and the Thunderbolt is no exception. With above average web browsing and heavy media usage, you will be lucky to get more than 3 or 4 hours out of it, so a handy charger or an extra battery is a must.

And there is no doubt that heavy Internet and media use is exactly what the Thunderbolt was built for. Independent tests have shown that the Thunderbolt is up to three times as fast as anything else currently on the market, blowing away industry stalwarts such as the iPhone 4 and Droid 2, which are still running on 3G networks.

What does that mean? It means web pages load almost instantaneously; YouTube videos play back without interruption; full-length movies load in just a couple of minutes, as opposed to the 20-minute wait we have become used to. That speed also transfers to other devices through the built-in tethering feature.

However, all this speed comes at a price. The HTC Thunderbolt costs $249.99 and requires a two-year Verizon contract for data ($30 per month) as well as voice and text (you can choose from a range of plans). But if it’s cutting-edge technology you want, then this may be a small price to pay. A new generation of smartphones is upon us, and the HTC Thunderbolt is leading the way.   

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