Wondering if the Thunderbolt could be your next phone? If you’re rocking an original Motorola Droid or worse, a HTC Droid Eris – the question is relatively simple. However, if you’re using newer hardware like the Motorola Droid X, HTC Incredible, or Samsung Fascinate, the upgrade path may be a little bit murky. Wait for dual-core? Better phones coming soon? Hold off or pull the trigger on the Thunderbolt?! Read for some considerations to make the decision easier.
The first place I head when considering a new phone is over to mobileburn.com to watch @MichaelOryl review the phone on video. Check out his review of the Thunderbolt here for an overview of the hardware and software. A few other good reviews that might sway your decision:
PhoneDog video review
Beyond the Specs
Beyond the specs, what makes the Thunderbolt a great phone?
Speed – Speed tests abound on the web showing that the Thunderbolt is blazing both in upload/download data speeds as well as Quadrant speeds. These scores are good to know and for the geeks among us, are enough to make judgment on the relative worth of the phone. For non-geeks let me say, the upload and download speeds are as fast and sometimes faster than my 72mbps wifi service on my home network. Fast. Waiting for a wifi connection to download large files is no longer a necessity as files download crazy fast. In regards to the general speed of the phone for every day use – the Thunderbolt is noticeably faster than anything available on Verizon today. Not only in terms of quadrant scores, but noticeable in your hand. The Thunderbolt is so fast that I can’t see the transitions in ADWEx when swiping between screens. What makes it stand out from the Incredible, Droid X, and Fascinate? There is no lag ANYWHERE on this phone. Nary a stutter. Ever. It is fast without fail – even without root.The speed on the this single core, Snapdragon, 1GHz processor makes me wonder what on earth dual-core can bring to the table. For now – not much. Apps have to be optimized for dual core and the vast majority of apps are not. At this point, and in the near future, I don’t anticipate that speed differences between dual core and the Thunderbolt will be noticeable. So if you’re waiting for a dual-core phone – speed versus the Thunderbolt’s single core should not hold you back.
Updated Sense UI – I normally am not a fan of manufacturer skins and Sense is no exception. My momma always told me, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. So here’s what I can say that’s nice. Sense is becoming more and more customizable. It’s now possible to download skins to personalize the look of your homescreens. Sense doesn’t have to look so… Sense-like.That said, Sense is still Sense, and as such, is still limited in customizing options. In keeping my momma happy by only saying nice things, I can say that Sense is easily covered up on the Thunderbolt. Adding ADWEx, Launcher Pro, GoLauncher, or even SPB Mobile Shell on top of Sense doesn’t slow things down at all.
A welcome update to the Evo product line – yup the Thunderbolt is essentially a better looking Evo with updated internals, and that’s not a bad thing.
Gone are the plastic feel of the sides, the rounded buttons. The Thundergbolt sports a bigger kickstand that allows both landscape AND portrait propping (Ha! Take THAT Evo). The hardware is heavy and feels like quality construction. No plastic feel (like the Fascinate) and well balanced in the hand (unlike the Droid X).
Outstanding camera. I have used the Fascinate, Droid X, and iPhone 4 cameras recently, and the Thunderbolt camera bests them all in terms of speed and image quality. Specs aside, I’m able to capture my ever moving kids with still photos and no blur. Will it replace your point-and-shoot camera?
No, but if the best camera is the one you have with you, this is the camera I want to be carrying with my phone on it.
The Thunderbolt is Verizon’s flagship phone for the time being. This means there is a large ecosystem of accessories available – cases, docks, batteries…etc. It is also already attracting a large developer base for those who are into rooting and installing custom ROMs (not that we encourage that kind of thing ).
What’s not so great about the Thunderbolt?
Battery life sucks (literally). If you live in a 4G network area, you’ll need to keep lots of chargers handy, invest in the extended battery (that makes the phone seriously ugly, unbalanced, and uncaseable (new word), or buy multiple batteries and an external battery charger (my choice). On a strong 4G signal, I’m getting about 4-5 hours of battery life. On wifi or with 4G turned off, I get about 8-10 hours of battery life – both with moderate usage. 4g definitely takes a hit on battery life. There’s some speculation that dual-core phones may have better battery life, but as yet, this is untested. The battery issues should not be taken lightly. All the speed offered by the Thunderbolt must be weighed against the ever present need to charge the device. I’m managing fine with 3-1500MAH batteries and an external battery charger. But it takes all 3 to get me through 24-hours without disabling 4G and using wifi when available. Unlike the Droid X, you’ll always need to consider battery life when planning excursions that will keep you away from electrical outlets.
It’s big. I mean really big. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Awesome 4.3 inch screen, great for browsing, apps, games, but 4.3inches in your pocket or hand. Unless you have very, very large hands, this isn’t a device you’ll use with one hand.
It’s first generation 4G hardware, it’s somewhat buggy. My Thunderbolt suffered random reboots and would shut down on its own 3-4 times daily. This seems to be a known bug (in the forums – of course Verizon and HTC have never heard of it) though not extremely widespread. I fixed it by doing a factory reset on the phone. Some people are experiencing difficulties switching from 4G to 3G. Verizon is pushing a fix out to those customers as needed. Other issues with individual apps are cropping up, though I’ve personally not experience this with my Thunderbolt.
Who is the Thunderbolt right for? If you have an upgrade available right now, and want the newest hardware on a one-year contract – RUN, don’t walk to Verizon and get the Thunderbolt. If you’re sporting an original Droid or Eris, or other last generation hardware, and are eligible for an upgrade now, no question, pick it up. Upcoming Verizon phones don’t sport enough of a spec bump to make waiting worth it. If you have a Droid X, Fascinate, or Droid 2 and you’re reading this, I expect you just want the newest hardware and my opinions don’t really matter. For me, coming from the Droid X, Fascinate, and iPhone 4, the move to the Thunderbolt was worth it in terms of raw speed and camera quality.
Sound off in the comments if you’re going to make the jump to the Thunderbolt. One thing for sure, if you pick one up, you won’t be disappointed.