The Thunderbolt 4G is the first honest-to-goodness 4G phone on Verizon, the first LTE smartphone you can buy in the US. In other words, it's the fastest phone—connection-wise—that you can buy right now. And holy crap, is it fast.
At the same time, it's a phone that feels incredibly familiar because it is: a steroid-infused version of a phone that HTC's been selling us in various guises for a very long time. Albeit, things are better in this version than before. The 8-megapixel camera and screen quality are notably better than what we got in HTC's last take on this phone, the HD7, and there's a slightly fresher version of the weathered Sense UI running on top of Android 2.2. Oh, and for the first time with a Verizon phone, you can talk and surf at the same time—we tried it over 4G and it worked, though the call quality didn't sound great.
Uh, check out those speedtests! This is faster than a good portion of the country's home broadband. It's faster than the current Gizmodo office internet, even—so I've been using it for all my internet needs as a hotspot for the last few days, and it's been killer. It feels like real broadband, even for streaming video and music. (Unfortunately, no upload speedtests with Speedtest's current Android app for direct-from-the-phone upload testing, but as you can see, everything's pretty tightly clustered.) I mean, most apps download faster than they're installed, which is crazy.
A lot of wild things start running through your head once you start to fathom what it means that every phone is one day going to have internet this fast. You're buying a little taste of the future of mobile broadband when you buy this thing, more than anything else. 4G is the reason to buy this thing.
The screen is legit nice, even if the resolution feels a bit dated.
The big catch? Um, 4G. You can't turn it off. Which means if you're using the phone in a 4G area, you're always using 4G. And 4G uses your battery. One night I got something like 3.5 hours off the charger, with a moderately heavy mix of maps, Foursquare, Twitter and some light browsing. On average in New York, which has fairly extensive Verizon LTE coverage, I'm getting 6 hours at the very best. (There's a reason Verizon is selling a tiny coal power plant that plugs into the back of this thing, which is already not thin.) Update: Here's a widget to easily turn off 4G.
The other curse of 4G appears to be that the device's reception itself is somewhat finicky. Besides taking a few minutes to pick up 4G again if you ever lose 4G service, I saw way more than average fluctuation in signal strength moving around the city. And while 4G can be flawless when you're planted using the device as a mobile hotspot, it's weird noting the limits of its usefulness on the phone itself—like, you can't use video calling over 4G, and it doesn't make 720p Flash video run in any way that's passable, even with Flash 10.2.
So much bloatware! Go die, Let's Golf 2.