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The HTC Thunderbolt will be Verizon first LTE phone. That makes it one of the most compelling smart phones of the spring.  (Source: HTC/Verizon)
The new handset launches March 17 on Verizon

The wait for a true Verizon 4G phone is almost over.  Verizon Wireless, America's largest carrier, is set to become only America's second carrier to offer a phone that supports true fourth generation wireless technology, following in Sprint's pioneering footsteps (T-Mobile and AT&T advertise HSPA+ as "4G", but it's roughly half as fast in its current form as deployed LTE and WiMAX from Verizon and Sprint, respectively).

The HTC Thunderbolt will land on March 17, and come complete with a $249.99 USD price tag with two-year contract, according to a long awaited official announcement.

If you were hoping for Android "Gingerbread" 2.3, you won’t find it with this release. The phone only comes with Android "Froyo" 2.2 (though a Gingerbread update will likely be in the works before long).

Otherwise the phone packs solid hardware.  It offers a massive 4.3-inch touch-screen WVGA display and standard 8 MP/1.3 MP rear/front cameras for imaging and video chatting.  It features one of Qualcomm's next-generation 1 GHz SnapDragon single-core processors.  

The new phone's resemblance to the HTC EVO 4G on Sprint in features and looks is somewhat uncanny.  Like the HTC EVO 4G on Sprint, it has a kickstand, for watching movies when you're seated.  It comes packed with 8 GB of internal flash and a 32 GB microSD card.

Verizon will be offering customers LTE data for the same rate as 3G -- $29.99 USD for unlimited use (Sprint bumps its 4G data rate by $10).  If you want a hotspot, that will be an extra $20/month.  The hotspot will be capped at 2 GB per month (unlike Sprint's which is currently unlimited) and will support up to eight devices.

Compared to other Verizon offerings like the recently acquired iPhone 4, the Thunderbolt looks competitive from a hardware perspective.  While it lacks a dual-core CPU like the upcoming Motorola Atrix "4G" on AT&T (which can only muster HSPA+, not true 4G), ultimately it should have more than enough power and the single-core processor will arguably be more beneficial in terms of prolonging battery life -- a trouble spot for HTC in the past.

And at the end of the day, having LTE is what really sets this phone apart.  The EVO 4G and Epic 4G on Sprint were arguably two of last year's top smartphones, not so much because of their hardware (which was matched by similar or identical models on other networks), but for it's ability to tap much faster data speeds.

A lot of the utility of a smartphone is the ability to browse the web, send emails, and more.  In general data speeds still have a ways to go before attaching large files like pictures to emails becomes painless and until web browsing reaches desktop-like page load speeds.  The switch to 4G wireless technologies is an important step in that direction.





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