Verizon is now selling the 4G-enabled HTC ThunderBolt. Does it beat the Apple iPhone 4 as Verizon's most compelling offering? That depends on what you're after.
The HTC ThunderBolt, Verizon Wireless' first
smartphone to take advantage of its 4G Long-Term Evolution network, is now
officially available. With a two-year contract and a data plan, it's priced at
power. Scorching speed. Now the fastest, most advanced 4G network in America puts
lightning in the palm of your hand," Verizon advertises.
indeed, and at a price higher than its long-awaited Apple iPhone 4. Is the
ThunderBolt, not the iPhone 4, now Verizon's most compelling offering?
depends. If your focus is on network speed, absolutely. If your focus is on
access to apps and media, the ThunderBolt is no slouch, but the iPhone 4 is
still much stronger in those areas," Current Analysis analyst Avi
Greengart told eWEEK, adding that Apple also has a dramatic lead when it comes
to accessories, as everything from docks to cars has been designed to interface
with the iPhone.
Verizon subscribers get for 250 big ones?
To start, a
4.3-inch capacitive touch-screen (the iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch multi-touch
widescreen). The rear-facing camera is 8-megapixels, to the iPhone 4's
5-megapixels, and it can record video in high-definition. There's a
1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls. (The iPhone 4's front
camera takes VGA-quality photos.)
As with a
number of Android-running phones-and here you'll get Android 2.2 with HTC's
Sense 2.0 user interface-the ThunderBolt supports Adobe's Flash Player 10.1,
which the iPhone, as has been well-publicized, does not.
ThunderBolt can also act as a mobile hotspot-a feature for which you'll pay
extra, though Verizon is offering it free through May 15-for eight WiFi-enabled
devices. And it can wirelessly stream content, such as videos, to other DLNA (Digital
Living Network Alliance) devices, such as an HDTV. Or users can just watch on
the ThunderBolt itself, enjoying the combination of its considerable display,
1GHz Snapdragon processor, built-in kickstand and the Verizon 4G network.
As for that 4G
network, Verizon says the ThunderBolt will feature applications that are
optimized for it, including EA's RockBand, Gameloft's Let's Golf and Tunewiki
and BitMop. According to the carrier, users can expect download speeds of 5 to
12M bps and upload speeds of 2 to 5M bps in 4G coverage areas-pretty standard
for 4G, and the same speeds T-Mobile promises for its HSPA+ (Evolved
High-Speed Packet Access) 4G network.
phone to showcase what Greengart calls Verizon's "exceptionally fast (and,
for now, relatively empty)" LTE (long-Term Evolution) network, some
consumers may pause at a price point above the $199 smartphone norm.
justifies the higher price not only with LTE, but also with 32 GB of storage-equivalent
to the $299 iPhone 4," said Greengart. "The user experience is also
different. HTC Sense provides widgets and customizability, while the iPhone is
the matter of their dramatic difference in size: The ThunderBolt measures 4.75
by 2.44 by 0.56 inches and weighs 6.23 ounces, to the iPhone 4's 4.8 ounces and
4.5 by 2.31 by 0.37 inches.
with small hands may find [the ThunderBolt] more phone than they want,"
said Greengart. "HTC has smaller devices for this very reason, but none
with LTE. Yet."
Just as Sprint
has enjoyed a healthy response to its 4G-enabled smartphones, it seems Verizon
could have a hit on its hands, so long as its 4G network can deliver, and consumers
know what to expect-or even hope for.
According to a
December report from the Yankee Group, most Americans don't really understand
what 4G is, and by the end of 2011, the vast majority still won't. Penetration,
by the time, said the report, will likely be just 0.33 percent, with consumer
awareness remaining "stubbornly low."
customers fully appreciate the link between a new wireless-network technology
and the superior user experience it delivers, their interest in upgrading will
naturally be muted," said the report.
Verizon, making good on its
long-time promise of a live 4G network, and a smartphone to run on it, now
faces the challenge of educating consumers about just what that means.
Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.