HTC ThunderBolt

Normally I don't care about what other people think, especially when it's not on Android Central. I'm funny like that. But I'm also easily baited by Jerry Hildenbrand. And that brings us to the following: Gizmodo in its "Chatroom" feature today asked "What's the worst gadget you actually paid for?" We've all got one, of course. But one comment in particular stood out, for a couple reasons. It was from Steve Wozniak. Perhaps you've heard of him. And his poor purchase? The HTC ThunderBolt.

That's my HTC ThunderBolt you see up there. OK, maybe not exactly "mine." But until last Friday, it was still active on our company Verizon account -- and sitting on a shelf here in my house. We got it the day it (finally) came out, and for months it served as my Verizon LTE line. That mucked up display was but one problem. I'm a little rough on phones. I get that. But I've never had a display get that bad on me. And I have a few phones going in and out of my pockets. Then there's the kickstand, which for some reason decided to shed its skin on more than few of us. And then there are the legendary battery issues. Don't even think about using a ThunderBolt without one of those ridiculously big extended batteries. A year and a half ago, you'd have been relatively proud to take this thing out of your pocket. Now? You don't dare do so, but you also risk funny looks and "just happy to see me?" jokes.

HTC rebounded, of course. We hemmed and hawed and said "Hey, it's the first generation of LTE phones." And the 'Bolt indeed was one of those first phones. But that doesn't change the fact that what showed promise and power at the beginning turned into a lemon for many of us.

Woz, you're in good company.

More: Gizmodo


Reader comments

Woz: HTC Thunderbolt among worst gadgets he bought


Thunderbolt's nowhere near the worst device I've had. I'd throw Droid Charge and even the Nexus One into that category before the Thunderbolt.

My Thunderbolt (one of four active phones I use) is still my major heavy duty workhorse for Hotspot and streaming audio/video duty. With the extended battery on it it will go all day doing both with a little room to spare.

The Thunderbolt also has an amazing feature that many overlook. It will do voice and data simultaneously even in 3G areas, something no other Verizon phone will do that I am aware of. This is important if you're in a non-LTE coverage area and need to look something up on the web while in a call.

All that said, Galaxy Nexus and HTC One X put the Tbolt to shame and get most of my palm time, but any time I need some heavy lifting, the Tbolt's the phone of choice.

THE SGS3 and the rebound are the only other two that can do simultaneous voice and data over 3g I beleive.

Maybe on VERIZON. But on Sprint, the Evo LTE does voice and data simultaneously on 3G. Not sure about the SGS3, but probably.

Thanks! I stand corrected. I guess I hadn't stayed current on that kind of feature; it was advertised as a big deal for the TB, I've nor really seen it mentioned for the S3. This certainly makes the S3 more interesting to me. Perhaps I replace the TBolt with an S3, then the Tbolt replaces my Droid Charge which sits in the car 24/7 as a BT phone and wifi hotspot for passengers.

That's because the '3G' that the Thunderbolt used was a GSM-based network and not the CDMA 3G from Verizon. Download speeds on its 3G were much better. They used the Alltel network that Verizon had purchased some time before.

Verizon Wireless doesn't operate a GSM network in the United States. The TBolt can do simultaneous voice/data on 3G because of a technology called SVDO. Google it.

Maybe you should google it yourself? It's called eHRPD, and it is a transitional wrapper for EV-DO networks; and from my understanding in the past they DID use Alltel's towers to implement it as it is a transitional tool for CDMA to the GSM-based LTE. The Thunderbolt I was using for development on the manpack-portable 3G tower was getting 3Mbps down on Verizon's 3G network when connected. :)

Do yourself a favor and don't parrot bullet points, you might be talking to someone who actually knows what they're talking about.

eHRPD has nothing to do with GSM or Alltel. There is nothing about eHRPD in itself that makes it faster, that is still dependent on the tower backhaul and your signal quality.

Maybe YOU should Google it yourself.

The technology is called SVDO, it has nothing to do with a GSM backhaul of any sorts. It's just an implementation/upgrade for CDMA2000 that allows simultaneous voice and data over Verizon and Sprints 3G CDMA based network.

Do yourself a favor and just stop.

Yes the thunderbolt had a horrible battery yes it released with Frito, yes it had many problems. But! The year and four months I had my thunderbolt I loved it. It had a big enough screen, eventually I was able to run Netflix on it. It had LTE. I upgraded to an S3 and though I am happy having the S3 I will always be happy to have owned a HTC Thunderbolt or as my brother and I call it: the phone HTC forgot they made.

+1 to AEA and with SkyRaider Zues ROM + rebound battery that phone was just as good as anything on the market until GS3 LMAO @ frito

I've had the TB since it was released and I love it. Yeah, HTC does seem to forget they made it, but they did made it well.

Agreed, the thunderbolt had bad battery life and the kickstand peeled. But it was a good phone overall, by October of 2011 their was a very good rom called LiquidSmooth that I ran on it and it provided reasonable battery life with the standard battery, with the extended battery it would last a day and a half.

I wouldn't put it anywhere near the worst phone I've owned. That spot is reserved for the motorola backflip, which was actually my first android phone. Please don't judge, someone gave it to me lol

One of my greatest customer service experiences was when Verizon offered to move up my upgrade date so I could replace my thunderbolt with a galaxy nexus after going through multiple refurbed tbolts.

The tbolt seemed cool at first but got real old fast. I'm still in love with my nexus and would have to think long and hard before ever going HTC again.

You and me both. I went to the Gnex (I am no longer on contract, I left VZW). I rooted my T-Bolt using BAMF and that is what made the T-Bolt usable.

I am sure HTC phones are fine, but the T-Bolt really soured me on HTC.

"The Thunderbolt also has an amazing feature that many overlook. It will do voice and data simultaneously even in 3G areas, something no other Verizon phone will do that I am aware of. This is important if you're in a non-LTE coverage area and need to look something up on the web while in a call." +1!!!

LOL Worst? Nah, it's been the BEST gadget I've purchased in a long time! Still happily rocking it over a year later; no kickstand peeling, screen is as pristine as the first day out of the box and battery life drastically improved with Gingerbread and subsequent software updates.

These types of comments that it's the worst gadget typically come from those who didn't keep the phone long enough to see it mature. It was Verizon's first LTE phone after all and was bound to suffer growing pains. Now, it's a rock solid phone! I still don't see anything of interest that I'd replace it with yet! :P

Really? So you're telling me no phone can be improved upon after its initial release? Oookay.... Thanks man! Trollolo... ;P

Sorry but your wrong, I owned the thunderbolt for a little over a year. The first 4 to 5 months with the device were rocky. Software bugs, random reboots etc. By the time gingerbread came out for the device it transformed into a much better device.

Software updates can without a doubt make a phone better, and it's not only for phones that everyone likes to hate like the thunderbolt. Many phones ship with bugs and other problems that are taken care of later.

I wouldn't say it was the worst, but I wouldn't say it was the best either. it's definitely not been as bad as people have made it out to be. battery life was definitely suspect, and my kickstand did start to peel, but this was after having it for a year.

it was a serviceable phone, but for me, it's time to move on. this last week I had it, I flashed back to the stock ruu, rooted it and debloated it and it was running quite nicely. took off the screen protector I had on it and wow does the screen look good. I almost wanted to stick with it over the S3 I just got, but I keep losing 4G signal with it now so it was time to move on.

I can not in good conscious let this post go without a rebuttal. The thunderbolt did have teething issues i will grant you that but with the OTA updates and the upgrade to gingerbread cured the thunderbolt of most issues, batterylife remains lackluster (but being the first LTE device not much was know of the 4g vampire at the time of launch.)
The Thunderbolt is still being judged from its early flaws and that is quite unjustified. Remember the galaxy nexus launched with numerous issues but is regarded as a great phone, the nexus 7 launched with all kinds of issues (ie. screen seperations) even the One X had a great deal of Wi-fi issues.
The thunderbolt judged in its current incarnation is a great workhorse of a phone very rugged and gets the job done.
Time of bashing the bolt is over

I just ditched my Thunderbolt for the S3 a little over a week ago. I loved that damn phone, but it became outdated so fast. Does that mean it's a bad phone in my eyes? No. It was the best phone I ever had until I got the S3 in my hands.

Thunderbolt was trash. Went through 7 and every single one of them was a hunk of crap. That was the second time HTC screwed me over and that was the final straw.

After seven phones sounds more like operator error. What were you expecting the phone to do. Just saying if the thunderbolt did infact have failure rate that great verizon would have had to immediatly stop selling the phone or risk class actin lawsuit style action.

Bullcrap. I've gone through five Galaxy Nexus phones, Koush today just tweeted about how his seventh GNex is trash. You have no clue what you're talking about. Some of these phones are pushed out with very little thought put into QA, Samsung is notorious for this. Not saying anything about the Thunderbolt's quality, just saying that going through that many phones doesn't necessarily mean user error and definitely doesn't warrant a class action.

Would you please link the research about the QA that Samsung and HTC put into their devices. Kinda inflammatory rhetoric. But with that being besides the point going through five phones let alone seven phones would have to be the very EXTREME case of that phone failing or more easily explained as operator error, which is the case the majority of the time. How many times in your life have you had a family member or friend tell you something is broken and you look at is a few seconds and the device works perfectly fine for you.Operator error is not a bad term some people just dont understand how the device works or their expectations are not met so the phone has to be "broken."
But i dont have time to argue with you i'm sure you have never been wrong in your life so i will let you continue being right

Agree 100%, I have owned many smartphones, I'm a recovering addict lol, I use to upgrade 2 - 3 times a year. Now I'll admit that I probably got lucky to some degree. But I've never once had to return a smartphone, issues do arise but usually a quick search on xda reveal that it's a usually a software issue, which a new phone will not fix.

I've seen a lot of broken phones and known people who do these constant replacements. most of the completely broken phones are people who don't take care of their devices. and most who return phones repeatedly for issues are people who insist the issue is a hardware issue when it is in fact a software issue for which a patch is needed. They generally don't take much time to try to figure out the issue for themselves.

Now I'm not defending the fact that these phones comes out with software bugs, but it's a fact of life.

I doubt the Thunderbolt even sold well enough to garner enough rage for a class action lawsuit, it was mediocre to begin with. If the average consumer said "I went through seven phones" I'd probably ignore them, but an Android forum goer probably knows how not to brick a phone seven times. Just saying.

Hardly operator error. THREE of the phones that I received that were "Certified like New" wouldn't even turn on since the power buttons didn't work. HOW the hell does something likek that slip through not once, twice, but three f'ing times. Random reboots all the time, dead battery by 12pm and horrible power buttons. Worst phone I have ever had. I've had OG Droid, Droid X, Thunderbolt, Charge (what they sent me instead of another Thunderbolt and was light years better than the Thunderbolt was) Galaxy nexus, and now the S3

"Certified like New" that's your problem, returning phones to Verizon for "Certified like New" devices is a waste of time, they are just the phones that have been returned to Verizon because they had some issue.

The random reboots, that was like I said previously a software issue for which getting a replacement would never help, until they came out with new OTA's which eventually fixed the issue, and dead batteries, well that was just the thunderbolt.

The Storm was pretty bad. One full screen clicking....but yet I had one. WTH was I thinking...oh yeah replace this with the TBolt!!!

The Storm 1 was my first smartphone. It take me long to start counting the days for my upgrade. I got the DInc first day I could upgrade and have since moved on to a Rezound. I guess I owe it to Blackberry to opening my eyes to phones that aren't junk.

I never had a Storm, but some days I get into texting frenzies and I miss the heck out of my Tour because these touch screens murder the battery fast.

I was one of the lucky ones that snagged a one year contract. I've been upgrade eligible for 8 months now. Still haven't upgraded as I like HTC's stuff. But didn't like the Rezound enough to upgrade. And the new Incredible is too small. I like the 4.3"+ screen size.

I agree the Bolt sucked as stock. Then I rooted and BAMF Forever'd it and it's been fantastic for what it is. Extended battery of course, but nothing on VZW (I'm in Denver - it's Verizon or TMobile for real world coverage. AT&T and Sprint (data speeds) suck out here in the mountains) has lit me up this year as I'm hesitant about the Nexus radios and the SIII feels cheap to me. I also really don't like TouchWiz. And not a huge fan of the Razr aesthetics with its screen (although the Razr HD might persuade me once it's out).

What I think I'm waiting for the 1080p HTC thingy that's been rumored.

I Concur.I also own a Thunderbolt.And I used BAMF on it. Stock was a nightmare. The custom ROM made it awesome, and the battery lasted longer. The updated radios also worked like a charm. Once I got the Rezound battery, it was as good as any phone on the market at the end of last year.

Unfortunately, the hackers have mostly moved on, and even that is because HTC isn't releasing code that would enable developers to put ics on the phone themselves.

Once it comes out, the Thunderbolt will have a second wind. My daily driver now is the Galaxy Nexus and my wife still uses the Thunderbolt.

The worst phones I owned by far was the Samsung Infuse and the Droid Charge. The Infuse would overheat occasionally and would completely lock up forcing me to perform a hard restart on the phone several times a day. The Droid Charge was also plagued with constant locking up and numerous force closes per day. I now own Verizon Galaxy S III and couldn't be happier. Never once has the phone locked up and I've only experienced a couple of force closes; always from third party apps. I almost lost my loyalty to Samsung until they restored it with this great phone.

Droid Charge pretty much tops my list of hated phones, as mentioned in first post above. The Charge had so much potential...beautiful, non-pentile SAMOLED+ screen, physical buttons, should have been a winner, but it's lack of RAM and even more lack of software updates and ROM just made it good for nothing other than a backup phone. Mine currently serves as a full-time car=phone. Sits in the glove box, bluetooth connected to my car, and broadcasting out a WiFi hotspot for passengers. It will never get ICS, nor's the red-headed step-child of the Droid line.

The Droid2 was my worst. Just hated everything about it. The bolt wasn't great but with that huge battery and LTE I was happy until 12/15/11.

Worst device I had was the BB Storm 2. When I jumped ship from AT&T (loved the iPhone 3G, hated how the cellular service deteriorated) to Verizon ~4 years ago, it was a choice between WinMob 6.5, Android 1.5 or the 'Berry. In 14 months, I went through SEVEN Storm2's, one of which arrived dead.

The last straw was when an OTA broke BB Messenger (which I never used) to the point where the device would through a series of java.lang errors periodically and on every reboot - which it needed several times a week, and BB's solution of "wipe and reload the OS" resulted in the complete breakage of email as well.

Never mind the fact that I never understood how a device that grew up as a mobile email device could get the handling of email so... wrong.

I have a friend that still has his Thunderbolt and, outside of the battery, loves his phone. With that said, he's ready to upgrade. I have met about 10 people since the phone was released that gush over the phone. I had the OG Droid Incredible for over 2 years until I upgraded to my GSIII, and still have very fond memories of the best phone I had until this one. And a lot of folks feel the same about the Thunderbolt.

As much as I lived the thunderbolt, the only way to make it through your contract, was to root. That's all I can say for now my tbolt is blinking red and about to die.

I have used both blackberry storms, the original incredible, the thunderbolt and now the GNex. While I'm happy to be using the Nexus I loved my thunderbolt. My issue was finally being tired of waiting for updates. I have to say the device I have bought that I disliked the most is my girlfriends galaxy s 4G on tmo.


Seriously, I have no idea why I kept buying them. I didn't even like buying stuff of iTunes because I hated iTunes.

They would die within a year. The battery life after a few months was terrible on top of the battery life being terrible.

The Zune 30 on the other hand was amazing and still works.

I'm going to call you out and say BS. Just about anything that had to do with a new app release or LTE related from the day it was released up until the Galaxy Nexus was released was reviewed on that there unit by you. Even when there were other handsets released (Droid Charge and Moto Bionic come to mind), you still reviewed everything on that handset. Like you also say, up until very recently, it was still activated on your company account. If you hated it that much, you would have done all that stuff on another device. It really isn't that bad aside from the fact that its always been behind on OS except for the tiny moment it was upgraded to Gingerbread before ICS came out. HTC has said it will get ICS... what other single core phone have you heard confirmed to be actively developed on by the Manufacturer towards ICS (aside from Google's baby Nexus S since that is not developed on by the manufacturer). Also, I don't know what the hell you do to your phones, but my screen still looks great. Sure the kickstand has its coating coming off on the edges, but its not like its broken, its paint. I still have mine even though its not activated. I just cannot come to selling it. I test all my apps I develop on it first before the nexus because I know there is a greater chance someone will download my app on a similar device to it than my nexus. I even bought a used one for a good friend of mine and he loves it. He works from home, so its not like he has to worry about battery life very much... and from the sounds of it, it lasts longer than his old Incredible. There are far worse devices out there, quick sucking on the Woz teet. He seems to flip flop more than political candidates these days. Makes me wonder if he just gets paid to talk about products.

Easy there, Killer. It's just a phone.

And yes, Phil does indeed get paid just to talk about products. This is his job. His actual, bill paying job. Unless you meant Woz...he owns quite a bit of Apple what with being a co-founder. He can do whatever the heck he wants.

I said it was activated. I never said I still used it.

And I never owned an Incredible, much to the chagrin of many people around here. 

I'm also able to cover a phone while at the same time being unhappy with it. It's pretty easy to do, actually, what with my more than a decade of editorial experience. 

I'm glad you love your Bolt. I'm very much the same way about the Nexus One. But is there anything else I do that I'm apparently unaware of that you want to enlighten me with?

My point is, you didn't just cover the phone. You covered apps. You featured it on that device up there for a long time, even when other newer phones came. I think you really did like it. And complaining about minor physical blemishes when the phone is built like a freakin' tank is just ridiculous. You don't treat your phones well. You chose not to put a case on this. You also know its not as plastic like the Galaxy phones. It will ding. I don't know what the hell you did to get the screen to look like that. Considering this phone has Gorilla Glass, it would look the same no matter what phone you used for the past few months on VZW (except for the nexus).

I'm pretty sure he was in love with the phone when he first got it. And you're correct; he's abusive towards his tech. He reminds me of my sister and her husband. Everything they have gets ruined in short order no matter how well it's made because they simply do not take care of it. They literally throw their phones around, and I'm not talking about underhanded lobs onto the bed but rather overhanded throws at the dashboard of their car. Four months later they're calling it a stupid unreliable phone because it's not functioning properly anymore.

The battery life was rough, but I didn't have any problems with it besides that. The extended battery effectively nuked the battery issues anyhow.

What killed me was the Gingerbread update. How many months did we wait on it only to find a new launcher that made bloatware easier to access? The fact that Android was so buried under an old version of Sense (that HTC didn't have the courtesy to update) killed it for me. It was a fast, smooth running phone for me, I guess I wanted more out of it than what HTC and Verizon were willing to give.

My first and last Sense phone. Nothing against it, but it ain't for me.

I think that the experience with the Bolt depends a bit on whether it was rooted or not. I rooted mine on day one or 2 and was on gingerbread shortly thereafter. I loved the Bolt but just in case, paid an extra $100 to shorten my contract to one year. Although I loved the thunderbolt, I moved onto the Rezound in 10 months but the thunderbolt is still serving the family and working well. I think the Rezound is an improvement (again especially when rooted to ICS months before Verizon). I am stuck for 2 years this time but would not hesitate to pay full price if Verizon ever got the equivalent of the HTC one x (which many pundits give higher marks than given to the galaxy S 3) .

Never really had a hated phone. SGS1 is my current android phone, and has served me well. I had an iPhone 4 for development (switched to iPod Touch), also a great phone. Finally, for windows phone (again, development), I had a Focus, switched to Focus S, switched to Titan. None of them have been lemons in my opinion.

If I had to say one, I'd say I liked the Focus the least, which is why I upgraded to the Titan before updating the SGS1. The first WP phones just weren't inspiring. Not bad, but not good.

Apparently The Woz never had the Droid Bionic or BB Storm 1. IMO the ThunderBolt was a mediocre as a phone but succeeded in showing the power of LTE.

I don't get why people bought this phone which shipped with 1-year old internals (excluding the LTE chip). If I'm going to be stuck with a piece of technology for two years, I make sure its got the latest and greatest hardware available for the price. The Thunderbolt most certainly did not meet this criteria and was basically a VZW O.G. Evo (which had been out nearly a year when the Tbolt was released).

Many such as myself got it because it was the first and only phone on Verizon with LTE (and still the only one with a native kickstand). The Droid Charge came along shortly thereafter, but for many just wasn't even in the same ballpark as the Thunderbolt, especially when it came to development and custom ROM's. It wasn't until late in 2011 before other good LTE phone's came along on Verizon.

This article reminds of another heavily bashed device: The Xperia X1. Same story again: the moaners use stock ROM and complains daily about this and about that.

Users that want a good device use a custom ROM and got a nice experience.:)

I had the Thunderbolt for one year and it performed very well with the InfectedROM Synergy with Sense 3.5. A stable and reliable device. I didn't experience problems with it but it was completely outmoded by the Galaxy Note I replaced it with.

There has been better devices than the Thunderbolt on the market but they arrived later. I am talking about the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Sensation. The Thunderbolt is essentially a Verizon-version of the Desire HD, which was the flagship until the Sensation reached the market.

I had the TBolt for 18 months. Beyond the battery issues, there were a number of other issues as well. I constantly needed to do the Airplane mode on/off trick to get my data back. It was advertised that the Gingerbread update fixed this, but I still had the issue. Also, I take serious care of my phones. I never have issues with screen scratches, chipped paint, etc., but the TBolt started looking rough after I had it for about a year. A handful of scratches, chipped paint on the sides, and the kickstand peeling. It looked awful. The fact that this thing never got software updates on time was extremely frustrating as well.

Thankfully, when I asked for a refurbished model to fix my radio issues, they were out of refurb models so I got a Moto RAZR instead, which has ICS and zero radio issues thus far. I don't want to give up my unlimited data, so I'm going to do my best to take care of this phone until I need to buy something off contract.

I don't think the TBolt is the worst phone I ever owned - that honor would go to my BlackBerry Curve (I never owned a Storm). But it certainly is a close second.

I must comment as well. I firmly believe that there had to have been a bad run of TBolts made that the masses received and started the smear campaign.

I fortunately did not get one of them. I've had NO major problems with my TBolt since the day it came out.

I also received a good one from the get go and it only got better with subsequent software updates. It really is a solid phone and doesn't deserve the worst gadget comments.

Still rocking my Bolt. Coming from a BB Storm 1, then a Storm 2, I can say for certain, Woz never used either of those.

My girlfriend loved her Bolt and had few problems until it took a drop or two on hard concrete. The Gingerbread update actually messed things up further with LTE data switching quite a bit. She ended up getting a refurbished replacement and upgrading to the SIII, and I rooted that bad boy as fast as I could. It's running very well with Gingeritis and Go Launcher as my work phone.

Thunderbolt was my first Android phone, and such a step up from the BB Storm 2 that I can't be too hard on it. Yeah there were some big issues with connectivity at first. Yeah, it's languishing without updates. Yeah, it's kind of pokey now and I'm slightly embarrassed of it in the same way as my first serious boyfriend. But for a while it ruled the roost, and I was psyched to show it off. That said, I'm very ready for my upgrade -- Galaxy Note II, here I come!