HTC ThunderBolt, First Verizon 4G LTE Phone, on Sale March 17 for $250

The 4G-enabled HTC ThunderBolt, Verizon's first 4G LTE smartphone, will be available starting March 17 for $250.

Verizon Wireless will begin selling the HTC ThunderBolt, the first smartphone to take advantage of its 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network, on March 17 for $249.99 with a two-year contract.

The ThunderBolt runs Android 2.2 and features a 4.3-inch WVGA display, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with HD video capabilities, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calling, a 1GHz newest-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and the ability to act as a mobile hot spot for up to eight WiFi-enabled devices.

It also has a built-in kickstand, making it more comfortable to view videos on that not-insignificant screen, plus the latest version of HTC's Sense, which includes enhancements such as new personalization options, a consolidated e-mail in-box, and new camera effects and filters. Support for Google services, like Gmail and YouTube, are included, and there's also quick access to Google's Android Market. The ThunderBolt comes with a 32GB microSD card installed, and there's 8GB of onboard memory.

A DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) device, it can wirelessly stream music, photos and movies to other DLNA devices, such as a high-definition TV. And there's Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity, as well as GPS and WiFi.

Through May 15, Verizon is offering the ThunderBolt's Mobile Hotspot capabilities free of charge. Afterward, however-once you're hooked-you can add it for $20 for 2GB of data per month. ThunderBolt owners also need to subscribe to a Nationwide Talk plan and have a 4G LTE data plan, which starts at $30 a month.

HTC and Verizon first introduced the phone-officially, that is; some images leaked ahead of time-at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

"We are proud to not only be bringing one of the first 4G LTE Android smartphones to the Verizon Wireless network, but to offer people the unprecedented speed and ease of use that the HTC ThunderBolt provides to them," Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC Americas, said in a statement at the time. "What makes 4G so compelling is not just technology, but what the technology allows people to do."

On Dec. 5, 2010, Verizon launched its 4G LTE network in 38 cities and 60 airports, with plans to extend it to its entire 3G footprint by 2013. In a March 15 statement, Verizon said that ThunderBolt customers can expect 4G speeds of 5M to 12M bps and upload speeds of 2M to 5M bps in coverage areas.

Competitor AT&T, which has said it plans to introduce 20 4G devices this year, currently offers an HSPA+ flavor of 4G, but has plans to roll out LTE later this year. AT&T currently offers the 4G-enabled, Android-running Motorola Atrix 4G smartphone. However, following customer complaints that the phone-or AT&T-wasn't delivering on its promised speeds, AT&T has revealed that, while the Atrix is an HSUPA-capable device, AT&T doesn't quite support it yet.

According to a March 11 Boy Genius report, responding to a Better Business Bureau complaint, an AT&T spokesperson wrote, "We currently are performing the testing and preparations necessary to ensure that, when we turn this feature on, you will continue to have a world class experience."