Posts tagged 4G
The Motorola Xoom, is the first android 3.0 tablet to hit the market, we already gone through our first hardware impression of the device, you can read it here. But I can tell you I do like the hardware is solid overall and worth complement to the OS. So what makes the Xoom different from other tablet and what sets it apart. Two things, its the first Android 3.0 Tablet, so it sets the standard for other to follow, and a good one at that . A solid camera hardware finish feel good, device as a sturdy feel in the hands, the ability to stream video out via a HDMI out port. Secondly Android 3.0 has really taken a big step into the Tablet arena.
They say specs aren’t everything, but the XOOM’s hardware is powerful enough to make any tech geek drool:
- 10.1-inch 16:10 WXGA (1280×800) LCD display
- 2MP webcam
- 5MP rear cam capable of recording 720p HD video
- 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor
- Stock Android 3.0 (Honeycomb)
- 1GB DDR2 RAM
- 32GB internal storage
- 3250 mAh 24.1 watt-hour lithium ion polymer battery
- WiFi 802.11b/g/n
- EVDO Rev. A radio upgradeable to LTE
And now that your interest has been piqued, I present to you the short, "in a nutshell" version of the review:
Pros & Cons
- Honeycomb’s UI is stunning. Stunning.
- Honeycomb apps are miles ahead of their mobile counterparts in terms of both functionality and interface
- Full HDMI capabilities
- Powerful dual-core CPU and 1 GB of RAM provide all the power you could ever want (and then some)
- Beautiful 10.1-inch display
- Steep $600 on-contract / $800 off-contract price tag
- No Flash at launch
- No LTE out of the gate; upgrade won’t be available for about 90 days and will take 6 business days to complete
- SD card functionality not yet available
- Honeycomb apps are few and far between (at least for now)
Motorola’s XOOM is a large tablet with a wide-screen 10.1-inch touchscreen display. The display offers a 16:10 aspect ratio and 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, which is great, but it lacks the brightness, color saturation, and overall visual appeal of the display found on its arch-rival, the iPad. It is entirely passable, but it just doesn’t offer much in terms of wow factor.
The rest of the hardware, however, is pretty solid. It is very well constructed and feels comfortable to hold. Some people might complain about the power button that sits on the back of the device, but I find its position to be natural when the XOOM is held in landscape mode. The rear facing speakers, however, are a problem. They don’t sound great to start with and supply sound better to everybody else in the room than to the XOOM’s user. That’s a design error. The 3.5mm headphone jack sits on the top edge of the XOOM, which I also feel is a poor choice.
When viewing the device in landscape mode, the power port, micro-USB data port, and micro-HDMI port are located on the bottom edge, where they can connect to the two different dock accessories that Motorola offers. It’s annoying that the XOOM uses a non-standard charger, but Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is the same way.
The rear cover of the XOOM is not user removable, so there is no access to the battery. It features a matte finish that looks nice, but shows more finger prints than would a more typical soft-touch paint. The 5 megapixel camera and its dual-LED flash sit near the power button and the speakers. The layout works as well as could be expected, but the truth is that a huge tablet is not a good device for snapping photos or videos. The 2 megapixel camera that sits on the front of the device is perfectly placed for video chatting, though.
Apart from the volume keys on the left edge of the device, there are no other external controls. Unlike the smartphone version of Android, the main controls for things like back and home are on-screen, not dedicated hardware or touch sensitive buttons.
There are two as-yet unused hardware features on the Motorola XOOM. Under one cover on the top edge of the device sit the microSD memory card slot and the SIM card slot for LTE 4G data support. The microSD memory card is not usable at this time, but will be enabled in a future OS update. The free upgrade to LTE 4G data support will require a trip back to Motorola, and will take over a week for most people when you include shipping time, but won’t require any change of data plan or additional monthly fees.
Since I have them at my disposal, I’ll touch on the accessories that can be bought to work with the XOOM. There are two docks available, as I alluded to earlier. The smaller dock offers charging and an auxiliary 3.5mm audio jack, the larger features a built-in speaker, charging, and a micro-HDMI cable pass-through. The larger model also requires a different charger for some unfathomable reason. The built-in speakers in the HDMI model are not great, but better than those in the XOOM itself. The last accessory is the Bluetooth keyboard that I am using to type this review. It has great key feel, and I can’t imagine not using it now, but it (or the OS) often suffers from a stuck key problem during prolonged use.
Though it may not have the viewing angles of the iPad’s IPS display, the XOOM definitely holds its own when it comes to the all-important screen. As can be seen from the photo above, the 10.1-inch LCD’s 1280×800 WXGA resolution looks really crisp, and colors are vibrant and bright, just the way I like it.
I’d argue that the real story with the XOOM’s display isn’t its quality, however; what’s most important here is the 16:10 aspect ratio. And I, for one, found the widescreen form factor much more comfortable to use (as opposed to the 4:3 ratio found on tablets like the iPad) – as a result of this ratio, the keyboard is a lot broader, allowing for a much more pleasant typing experience. Similarly, HD movies look marvelous on the XOOM – unlike Apple’s slate, the bars across the top and bottom of the screen are nearly nonexistent. And games? Well, have a look:
The one downside of the super-wide shape is that it makes the XOOM look even worse in portrait mode. I suspect this is why Steve Jobs and co. decided to go with the rather squarish design of the iPad – when you turn the XOOM on its side, you find a strangely and ridiculously tall device.
Aspect ratios aside, I think the XOOM’s display is among the best you’ll find on any tablet, and I wouldn’t hesitate to call 10 inches the perfect size for a tablet (though I’m sure some of you will beg to differ).
When it comes to the new Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS, you can forget most everything you know about Android’s user experience. Having been designed from the ground up for tablets, almost nothing in Honeycomb is the same as on smartphones. In my opinion Google did a good job of designing the basic user interface in Honeycomb, on a macro scale, but failed to get a lot of the finer points right.
Let’s start with the new home screen, which I like. Users can swipe from one screen to the next with ease, and each screen can be configured with shortcuts, widgets, and wallpapers. That works. The main menu leaves me unimpressed, though. Sure there are multiple panels that users can swipe between, but you can’t re-order them or group them. Google had the chance to step up here, and once again failed to do so, leaving the task to the manufacturers to implement in future models that will have customized UIs. I do like that there is a separate tab that shows only user-installed apps, and appreciate that apps can be uninstalled by dragging them from the main menu to the trashcan. Newly installed will automatically show up on the home screen as a shortcut, too. That much is progress, at least.
Now on to the main navigation controls. The back, home, task-switcher, and (sometimes) menu buttons sit in the lower left hand corner of the display. The icons could have been better designed, in my opinion, but once you know what they are, they work. I dislike the fact that the menu button only appears some of the time, depending on the app. Some apps built for tablets use only a new control in the upper right hand corner of the screen (which is easy to reach), some use both, and older smartphone apps only use the menu button. That inconsistency bothers me. Google could have handled that better.
I mostly like the new notification area, which is found in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The curtain is gone, replaced with a list of notifications that are accessed by tapping on the digital clock. Doing so lists all of the notifications and some quick access functions. My complaints are that there is no way to clear all notifications at once (clearing a list of 20 can be torture) and that some of the quick access buttons require too many taps. You can adjust screen brightness or disable notifications easily enough, but turning Wi-Fi on or off requires 5 screen taps (if you count the required back button press). Samsung and others already handle this type of functionality better on smartphones, so Google should have known better.
When it comes to applications, though, things get really awkward. Part of the problem is that there are very few apps that have been optimized for Honeycomb tablets. Very few, indeed. Most smartphone apps run in full screen mode (but not all), but when they do, font sizes are often too small, input boxes and list items too wide, and things just generally feel out of proportion. When you do find a good tablet optimized application, though, you start to understand the platform’s potential. Unfortunately, that potential has yet to be realized, and probably won’t be for some time to come.
Another real issue with apps is that the XOOM’s Honeycomb OS is just doesn’t appear to provide a stable enough platform. Apps that run perfectly fine on any of the 100+ Android smartphone models that exist can be hugely unstable when running on Honeycomb. Even Google’s own apps like YouTube, Android Market, and the new Browser have crashed on me multiple times. I should also report that the home button has failed to work a few times (blank screen) and the task switcher button will sometimes show no running apps, only to change its mind when you tap on it again. Don’t let the 3.0 designation fool you, folks. This is very much a 1.0 operating system release, and you will be reminded of that often.
Apps / App Store
The real downfall of Android 3.0 Honeycomb so far is application support. Not only are there fewer than two dozen tablet specific titles available from the Android Market as I write this, but compatibility with older titles is somewhat spotty. While most of the over 100,000 applications found in the Android market will work in full screen mode, some do not, and those that do are often less than optimal, offering small on-screen controls and fonts, and overly large text input boxes. Then there is the issue with many of the applications crashing, which is likely part of the "1.0" effect of Honeycomb being, in many ways, a brand new OS.
Since the Motorola XOOM runs a stock install of Android 3.0, there are few non-Google apps pre-loaded on the tablet apart from standard personal organizer apps like the Calendar (which syncs with Exchange and Gmail accounts). Google Maps, Navigation, Places, and Books are all there, and a pair of games are pre-loaded as well (Corby and Dungeon Defenders). The games show off the XOOM’s dual-core processor’s abilities and are cool to watch, too. While new titles are being added daily, any early adopters expecting to have access to a wide assortment of tablet-specific apps are going to be sorely disappointed.
Considering the size of its ow-screen keyboard and of the screen in general, it is no real surprise that the Motorola XOOM is a pretty good messaging platform. There is no support for text or picture messaging, though. There is also no built-in support for social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, but there is no shortage of free third party applications available to fill that void. The only instant messaging client loaded on the XOOM is Gtalk, which can be used not only for instant messaging but also for video chatting using the forward-facing camera. The quality, even over Wi-Fi, isn’t fantastic, but it is acceptable.
There are two pre-installed email applications on the XOOM. The first, Gmail, is a new multi-pane version of the popular and fully featured Gmail application seen on Android smartphones. Users are presented with nice views of the folders, message lists, and messages in a very organized and intuitive manner. On top of that, the Gmail client offers the features like Priority Inbox and threaded conversation views that users have come to expect from Gmail. The regular email app offers the same paned view as Gmail, and is equally nice to use, though it lacks some of the Gmail specific features I mentioned. Both offer full HTML email support with multi-touch zooming, which is a handy feature when you are working with a large, high-res display.
The web browser that ships with Android Honeycomb is quite different from the browser we find in Android smartphones. For starters, it offers true tabbed browsing, just as you would find on Google Chrome on the desktop. The Honeycomb browser even supports Chrome’s Incognito mode (for leaving no cookies or history of your browsing sessions) and will synchronize with Chrome’s bookmarks – even supporting bookmark folders. The new features are quite nice.
The browsing itself is generally quite fast and very accurate, but there are some glitches from time to time. Nothing huge, just some visual quirks during panning or zooming occasionally that clear themselves up. In the Labs section of the browsers settings you can enable an advanced UI mode that lets you drag browser controls onto the screen by swiping from the display’s edge – it’s pretty slick. The only real issue with the browser is that there is no Adobe Flash support yet. Adobe has said that we can expect proper Adobe Flash 10.2 support in a few weeks, though.
As mentioned in the ‘Display’ section, the XOOM’s widescreen display makes using the software keyboard a hell of a lot easier. But that’s not the only reason typing is such a pleasant experience on the tablet; Honeycomb’s keyboard is excellent in and of itself.
It provides squarish keys that closely mimic the ones on a physical keyboard, and you can long press any of them to bring up additional options like accented letters. The whole thing has a blue, Tron-ish theme that I quite appreciated, and I think even non-techie consumers will like it.
Of course, all the good looks in the world won’t help you if the keyboard isn’t easy to use, but I’m happy to report that Google’s really done a nice job here and made it very usable – in landscape mode, that is.
In portrait mode, typing is a nearly impossible task – it literally requires the slow and antiquated hunt-and-peck technique. Suffice to say, serious typists will either end up using the XOOM in landscape mode all the time or downloading a third-party keyboard from the Market.
Google has also made significant improvements on the cut-and-paste front. To bring up the menu seen in the photo above, simply double tap on some text. From there, you can drag the markers around to select the specific sentence, word, or paragraph you wish to cut / copy.
To paste, tap once in a text field, then tap on the marker that appears. This should bring up a ‘Paste’ button. Alternatively, you could follow the method for copying text, and if you already have something in the clipboard, you can simply tap the ‘Paste’ button next to ‘Copy.’
One other nice touch is that if you select text in the browser, you also have the option to share it, search the web for it, or find other uses of the word(s) on the page.
It’s all very well done, and I especially like how while selecting text, you can use multitouch to move both markers simultaneously.
Android 3.0 Honeycomb offers users an all-new music application. Navigation can be a little non-obvious at first, as is the case with many new tablet apps, but once you mess around with it for a short while, you understand what is going on. The app offers a very cool looking 3D rendered scrolling flow of album covers in the New and Recent section of the device, which I love, but offers nothing similarly interesting for the album, artist, playlist and other views that it offers. I don’t see why the cool interface should be restricted to that one section, especially one that I really have no use for.
At least the audio quality that the app and the XOOM put out is good. Good as long as you are using a decent pair of headphones, that is. The rear facing stereo speakers do an inadequate job of pushing out music to a room, as they sound very tinny and are facing the wrong way. Plugging the XOOM into the HDMI-capable speaker dock accessory changes the situation quite a bit for the better, though. I also want to mention that it is pretty easy to build playlists directly on the XOOM, and tracks can be rearranged with a simple drag of the finger.
Motorola doesn’t list the mAh rating for the battery in the XOOM, instead only offering that it is a 24.5 Watt-hour battery. Assuming that it uses the same voltage as Android smartphones (3.7v), then we can guess that the battery offers just over 6600mAh of power. In any case, Motorola claims the XOOM’s battery should be good for up to 9 hours of 3G web browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi web browsing, 3.3 days of music playback, 10 hours of video playback, or about 14 days of standby time.
In my experience, I can get a couple of days out of a full charge with my normal use, which involves mostly email and web browsing, but also some gaming. That’s good eough for me.
Alas, the XOOM and Android 3.0 still contain plenty of untapped potential, and until said potential is utilized, I can’t see an average consumer walking into a store and spending $799 for Moto’s tablet when he / she could pick up an equivalent iPad for $70 less. And honestly, I can’t see myself doing that either, as I’m confident that the XOOM’s price will soon drop (or other manufacturers will produce more affordable Honeycomb tablets), and it’s hard to find a compelling reason to spend $800 on a product purely because of its potential.
That said, Honeycomb is a great platform, and I can’t wait to see what developers will have done with it in a few months. Because in the long run, open always wins the race… even if it has a bit of a slow start.
Since we first heard about the HTC Pyramid smartphone, a 4G dual-core processor phone, rumored to be coming to T-Mobile, we’ve been getting quite excited. This sounds like a great phone but one of the things we’d heard that was rather baffling to us was that it would be running on Android 3.0 Honeycomb.
This sounded rather unlikely to us and we felt it was more likely to have Android 2.3 Gingerbread with HTC Sense, as Honeycomb was an operating system specifically designed for tablets. We recently supplied you with more specs and then some pictures of this handset and also speculated about how much you’d be willing to pay for the Pyramid. Now we’ve heard a little more news about the operating system.
According to Adam Mills over on GottaBeMobile, sourced from TMO, the HTC Pyramid will be running on Android 2.4. Hang on though, that OS is not actually out yet. We previously heard the likely release date for the HTC Pyramid was May although GottaBeMobile are saying it could be June and by that time of course, Android 2.4 could be available. (We were expecting to see Android 2.4 announced at Google I/O on May 10 & 11. It’s possible then, that the HTC Pyramid could be the first to feature Android 2.4, which we previously speculated could be dubbed Ice Cream.
Apparently the HTC Pyramid is sleeker and lighter than the Thunderbolt on Verizon. We’ve already heard about the 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 4.3-inch qHD display, 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera so the fact that it looks as though it will have Android 2.4 as well makes it one that will be at the top of many people’s lists. The fact that TMO states the information comes from a “solid source” sounds promising so for now we’re prepared to hope it could be accurate.
GSM Arena also reports on the HTC Pyramid running on Android 2.4 and although of course this could be merely a minor update to 2.3 Gingerbread it could be a completely updated operating system. It could even be a mixture of Gingerbread and Honeycomb as previously hinted. You may also be interested in our look at the Motorola Droid Bionic vs. the HTC Pyramid. What are your thoughts on the HTC Pyramid and the likelihood of it being shipped running on Android 2.4? Let us know with your comments
When we first learned in 2007 that Verizon was going to be updating its network to 4G LTE, we’ve been wondering which smartphone would be the first to utilize it. Now it’s here: the HTC ThunderBolt. Without a doubt, the ThunderBolt is being advertized as the must-have device, with fast internet data speeds, a 4.3” display, and a 1GHz processor. Verizon is counting on early-adopters at this point; people not wanting to wait around for other 4G smartphones, such as the dual-core Motorola DROID BIONIC, LG Revolution, or the (un-named) Samsung 4G LTE smartphone with Super AMOLED Plus display. But there are already a few 4G devices out from other carriers, so let’s see if the ThunderBolt was worth the wait, as we dive into it.
Included in the retail box is the HTC ThunderBolt ADR6400 phone, 1400mAh battery, SanDisk 32GB Class 4 microSDHC memory card preinstalled, wall charger with detachable microUSB cable, and user guides.
HTC Thunderbolt Specifications:
- Dimensions: 4.8 x 2.6 x 0.52 inches (122 x 66 x 13.2 mm)
- Weight: 5.78 oz (164 g)
- Display: 4.3 inch WVGA TFT capacitive touchscreen display, 480 x 800 pixels
- Memory: 8 GB + 32 GB MicroSD
- OS: Android OS 2.2
- Processor: 1GHz MSM8655 Snapdragon
- Camera: 8 megapixel camera, 720p video recording, front facing 1.3 megapixel camera
- Connectivity: CDMA Dual Band (800/1900 Mhz)
- Data: 1xEV-DO rev.A, LTE
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 2.1, Stereo Bluetooth
- GPS: GPS with A-GPS
- Battery: Li-Ion 1400 mAh
- 4G speeds are unbelievably fast – LTE is a game changer
- Big, beautiful SLCD display
- Outstanding build quality
- 40GB of storage out of the box (8GB internal storage + 32GB microSD card)
- Snappy performance all around
- Single-core processor that will likely be rendered obsolete very quickly
- Rather chunky design
- No fewer than 11 non-removable bloatware apps
- Costs a rather pricey $250 upfront
- Still running Froyo
Design and Display
For those familiar with the HTC Desire HD, the HTC Thunderbolt should look very familiar. In fact, it’d be safe to say that the HTC Thunderbolt is designed almost exactly like the HTC Desire HD. The biggest difference being that the HTC Thunderbolt can access Verizon’s new 4G LTE network.
Starting off the HTC Thunderbolt has a 4.3 inch WVGA TFT capacitive touchscreen display covering the front of the phone. Below the display are the usual set of Android shortcuts for menu, home, back and search. Up above is a small 1.3 inch megapixel front facing camera used for video chatting. Placed on the right is the volume rocker, opposite resides the microUSB, and on top the 3.5 mm headphone jack and power / lock button. The HTC Thunderbolt is rounded out on the back with an 8 megapixel camera and dual LED flash. Underneath, the camera on the back, is a small kickstand that can be lifted up from the back. It’s nicely designed and adds functionality to the HTC Thunderbolt.
The 4.3 inch display is decent and the viewing angle is fairly wide, however, compared to the likes of the Samsung Continuum on Verizon’s network, which utilizes Super AMOLED technology, it is a bit lacking. Also, with the likes of the iPhone and the soon to be released Motorola Droid Bionic on Verizon’s network, one has to wonder how well the HTC Thunderbolt will take off.
The Thunderbolt doesn’t buck the trend of packaging high-end phones in high-end boxes — put simply, it’s an elegant, sturdy, matte black cube encased in a black sleeve. Lots of black here, actually, which means you can’t see the name of the phone… but you can feel it. It’s embossed! Nice touch, the kind of thing that’ll make you want to put the packaging away in a closet or drawer somewhere rather than throwing it away. The black theme is broken in rather spectacular fashion when you crack open the box – which is split down the middle – to reveal gobs of bright Verizon red and your shiny, new purchase square in the middle. Underneath, you’ll find some literature, a slim, glossy black USB wall charger, and a micro-USB cable – sorry, no trashy earbuds here. As we’ve said in the past, that’s just fine by us; odds are good that if you’re spending $250 on a phone, you’re going to be spending a few bucks on a decent headset, anyway – the units that are bundled with phones are almost universally awful, which ends up unfairly tinting your opinion of the phone’s audio quality. In our review unit, both the battery and 32GB microSD card came pre-installed.
Pulling the phone out of its cardboard cradle, you instantly recognize that this thing is a beast – it’s just big and heavy. There’s no other way to put it. If you’re acquainted and comfortable with the EVO 4G, you’ll feel right at home – the EVO’s actually a few grams heavier, which took us by surprise when we looked it up – but if you’re coming from pretty much anything else, you’ll probably mouth the word "whoa" the first time you take it into your hand. For comparison’s sake, it’s right around 20 percent heavier than an iPhone 4. We’re not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing; in general, phones have a tendency to feel higher-quality when they’re more substantial and they’ve got a little more junk in the trunk, and that’s certainly the case with the Thunderbolt – but it’s still something to consider. We’re fairly certain there will be at least a few potential buyers who are off-put by the weight, so you should swing into a store and spend a little quality time with it before pulling the trigger.
Once you get past the heft, you start to notice the details of the design. It’s typical HTC through and through, though we suspect they started working on it alongside Verizon quite some time ago because the design language feels somewhat last-gen – more of a remixed EVO than anything else. The most direct, concrete proof of this might be AT&T’s Inspire 4G – also a 4.3-inch HTC device – which shares a newer "unibody" metal design with the Desire HD. It’s thinner, less plasticky, and more solid-feeling (which is really saying something) than the Thunderbolt, and it better represents where HTC has been going with its handset designs in the past six months. Obviously, as one of the first commercial LTE smartphones in the world, HTC has probably had this one baking in the oven for a good, long while.
That being said, "last-gen design" doesn’t mean "bad design" – far from it. There are many ways you could screw up the details of a phone this chunky, but the Thunderbolt is a legitimately handsome device. Unlike the EVO, the Thunderbolt’s soft touch back cover only extends about three-quarters of the way down from the top, leaving the integrated brushed-metal kickstand permanently attached to the surface of the phone chassis (which is smooth plastic in this bottom area) rather than poking through the cover. Underneath the kickstand (which has "with Google" engraved on it, by the way), you’ll find a metal grating that conceals the Thunderbolt’s loudspeaker – which is, in fact, quite loud. The only real problem here is that it’s a bit muffled with the kickstand retracted, but we suppose HTC’s logic is that you’re going to want maximum volume in kickstand-deployed video mode.
The Thunderbolt’s thickness and design details save it from a problem both the EVO and Inspire suffer from: the camera’s rim is essentially flush with the back and the lens is actually recessed, meaning you’re not going to scuff up your 8 megapixel shooter simply by setting the phone rear-down on a few too many hard surfaces. The dual-LED flash is arranged exactly as you find it on HTC’s other 4.3-inch devices, and it suffers from an unusual (but now familiar) quirk: you can’t use it when the Mobile Hotspot feature is enabled. Presumably, it’s just too much simultaneous power draw between the giant display, the beefy processor, and the LTE, CDMA, and WiFi radios to add a pair of ultra-bright LEDs into the mix, though it’s interesting that Mobile Hotspot uses no more components than you would in normal phone use – we suppose the WiFi power output might be at a higher level.
It’s a good thing that the 32GB microSD card comes pre-installed, because the battery cover is nigh impossible to get off. Actually, that’s not fair – it’s nowhere near as difficult as the side-mounted cover on the Desire HD and Inspire 4G, but it’s up there. It’s difficult enough so that you’re thinking "man, I hope I don’t break or gouge something" as you’re prying, red-faced, at the top-mounted notch. Underneath, you’ll find a relatively measly 1400mAh battery (more on that later), the microSD slot underneath (which, again, thanks to the 32GB that comes with the phone, you’ll probably never need to touch), an LTE SIM card tray, and an array of gold contacts that have us intrigued. At the top are four connection points in two locations that hook up to matching connections on the cover, which suggest that the cover probably plays an active role in signal reception. What had us more intrigued, though, were four pins near the camera lens that aren’t hooked up to the cover, which had us wondering whether there might be NFC capability in the Thunderbolt’s future – or whether it was in the works and got spiked along the way. Hard to tell, but it’s a thought.
The edges of the Thunderbolt are clean and simple; notably missing, of course, is an HDMI-out – a big deal for some and a complete non-issue for others. The power button is perfect: correct location and correct level of flushness with the surface of the phone. The volume rocker is also perfectly shaped, sized, and in the best possible location along the right edge, but for some reason, it feels really mushy. Not only that, but it feels mushy in distinctly different ways on the top and bottom – it’s just poorly engineered or assembled, as far as we can tell. While you’re on a call, it can be difficult to tell whether you’re actuating the rocker without proper detents.
As for the display, it’s pretty fantastic – definitely an upgrade from the EVO’s component thanks to a superior viewing angle that never washes out or inverts. Admittedly, WVGA starts to look just a tad pixellated once you get past 4 inches into the 4.3-inch category, but we’re spoiled these days – and if they Pyramid rumors are true, HTC is hard at work on qHD solutions for its next-gen devices anyway. One characteristic that we’ve noticed on a number of other phones in the past year that we miss here is the gapless display, a display so close to the glass that it appears to be on the surface of the phone itself (in fact, it’s so cool that Sony Ericsson actively markets it as a feature of the Xperia Arc). Well, there’s definitely a noticeable gap on the Thunderbolt, but it’s a purely aesthetic complaint – there’s zero effect on capability or usability whatsoever – it’s just fun to hold your phone at an angle once in a while and say, "wow."
Audio quality ranges from "good" to "great," with two caveats: one, the aforementioned problem with loudspeaker muffling when the kickstand is closed (not severe, but something to take note of), and two, the earpiece could use another level or two of volume. It’s plenty clear, but in noisy environments, we found ourselves wishing we could eke a little more out of it on a couple occasions. Callers told us we sounded a little "staticky" but were still totally audible – we were never asked to speak up or repeat something we’d said.
In the amount of time since we received the Thunderbolt, we’ve only had time to run one proper battery test, which consisted of roughly 50 minutes of voice calls and two hours, 25 minutes of heavy LTE data / screen usage (a live Ustream feed). That test yielded five hours, 47 minutes of run time from full to automatic shutdown – certainly not enough to make it through a full day, but then again, we’re talking about some pretty extreme data consumption. Standby seems fine; we let the phone sit for about fourteen hours with a loss of around 20 percent of the battery.
Interestingly – unlike the EVO – we weren’t able to find a way to disable the Thunderbolt’s 4G radio and stay on on CDMA / EV-DO alone in an effort to conserve the battery. The phone seems to be doing some intelligent radio management, automatically switching between the two when necessary (and, presumably, staying pegged on LTE whenever it can find an LTE signal). From a pure consumer-friendliness perspective, that makes sense… but from a power-user perspective, it’s annoying at best. When using this as a primary device, we’d probably consider carrying a portable battery-powered micro-USB charger or a spare internal battery for peace of mind.
HTC has a spotty track record of delivering fantastic picture and video quality – but as 8 megapixel models go, we’re happy to report that the Thunderbolt is markedly improved from the EVO 4G. It’s unclear whether the changes are in software alone or if HTC has moved to a different combination of sensor and optics, but whatever they’re doing, they’ve moved in the right direction. That said, the system isn’t without its flaws. The touch-to-focus works quickly and consistently, though we were a bit disappointed at the lack of a macro mode. It really shows, too – we couldn’t focus extreme closeups at all. We also noticed some problems with light metering – it seems that HTC has elected to go with a permanent full-frame metering mode, which makes it extremely difficult to get the proper exposure on certain backlit shots (see the gallery below). And of course, we always prefer a physical shutter key – something the Thunderbolt lacks.
The 720p video was remarkably free of artifacts or distortion – it doesn’t do continuous autofocus, but you can refocus on the fly with a tap on the screen. Likewise, sound quality was quite good; we were surprised at how clearly our voice cut through the ambient noise when narrating.
The Thunderbolt is, of course, running HTC Sense. In this case, it’s on top of Android 2.2.1, but it’s a bit of a hybrid – it lacks support for the cloud features introduced with the launch of the Desire HD / Desire Z and HTCSense.com last year, but does include support for HTC’s unusual "Fast Boot" option (which was introduced at the same time). It comes disabled by default, but can be found in the Power menu in Settings with the ominous warning, "Turn off to use some Market apps." Which ones? Well, that’s for you to guess, and HTC to know, apparently. The feature basically puts the phone into an ultra-low power mode (akin to standby or sleep on a laptop) rather than turning it off altogether, and we’ll admit, the results speak for themselves: with Fast Boot on, we were seeing boot times of roughly 9 seconds, as opposed to 58 seconds with it off. If you frequently turn your phone off (say, on airplanes, when they tell you to power down your gadgets rather than simply using airplane mode), that’s a notable difference.
From a UI perspective, Sense looks exactly the same here as it has on any other Sense device from the past year or so: same colorful menus, custom soft keyboard, home screen elements, and so on, so we won’t spend much time talking about it. We’re not huge fans – we prefer almost everything about the stock experience – but we know that it’s largely a matter of personal opinion (and Sense certainly has its share of fans). So instead, let’s take a look at the non-standard apps that HTC and Verizon have included, along with descriptions of the less-obvious ones:
- Adobe Reader
- Bitbop: A subscription service that offers a variety of movies and television shows streamed to your phone, along the lines of Hulu Plus.
- City ID: A service that displays the city and state of incoming calls – handy, admittedly, but probably not for the $1.99 they charge after your 15-day free trial expires. Too bad you can’t uninstall it if you don’t want to subscribe!
- FM Radio: Yes, that’s right – the Thunderbolt’s got an FM radio tuner. Nothing fancy in the app, which – like most phones – requires a headset be plugged in to use (it doubles as the antenna).
- Let’s Golf 2: A trial of a 3D golf game with a silly name. $4.99 to buy the full version.
- Quickoffice: Many Android phones have one version or another of Quickoffice in ROM, but the Thunderbolt’s got full Word and Excel editing capabilities at no extra charge – a nice touch.
- Rock Band: This is actually nothing more than a shortcut to download a trial version of Rock Band from EA. That’s already uncool, but what’s even more uncool is that when we tried, it just went to a black screen and hung. The only thing worse than crapware is broken crapware.
- V CAST Apps
- V CAST Media
- VZ Navigator
Interestingly, as far as we can tell, none of these can be uninstalled, which is an unfortunate decision on Verizon’s part – especially considering the fact that we found most of the crapware on AT&T’s Atrix 4G can be removed without any hacking or trickery. Sure, some of these – Reader, Kindle, and Slacker, for example – are Android staples that you’ll probably want installed anyway, but it should always be your choice, not Verizon’s.
Notably absent, though, are Skype and Netflix. Skype video calling on Android was introduced by Verizon at CES (alongside the Thunderbolt) to great fanfare, but recent rumors prior to the Thunderbolt’s release had suggested that the carrier elected late in the game to pull the app from ROM. What we don’t know, though, is why that happened; we’ve heard rumors that Skype’s partnership with Verizon is souring (there have been AT&T talks, after all), but it could just be a bout of last-minute bugs that Verizon didn’t want to hold up the phone’s release. Video calling aside, you’d think Verizon would’ve at least put its standard Skype build on here that allows calling outside WiFi networks, but no dice – you’re stuck with the standard Android app in the Market that locks you out on 3G.
Netflix was more of a wildcard, but we thought it might be loaded – it’s got a Qualcomm processor that can handle Netflix’s DRM scheme, after all, and that 4.3-inch display and kickstand would be a solid way to get the Watch Instantly functionality off on the right foot. Alas, we gave the leaked APK a whirl, and it wasn’t working, either. That’s not to say it definitely won’t work by the time it’s released, but it’s a no-go so far.
The HTC ThunderBolt will be an amazing device, and it’s going to be a noticeable improvement over models that Verizon released last year, like the Motorola Droid X or HTC Droid Incredible.
If it has a flaw, it’s a lack of innovation. This is essentially going to be an enhanced version of Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G a smartphone that was released last year. Still, sometimes it’s best to not mess with a good thing.
Verizon hasn’t said yet when the ThunderBolt is going to be released, aside from the fact that it’s going to be after march but before the end of June.
The carrier has also kept mum about pricing, but I’m willing to guess it’s going to be in the neighborhood of $200 with a two-year wireless contract.
HTC EVO View 4G is Sprint’s first 4G Android tablet shipping with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and not 3.0 Honeycomb. Nonetheless the 7 inch 1024 x 600 touchscreen display tablet packs 1.5GHz processor, 5.0 megapixel auto-focus camera with HD-capable video camcorder and a forward-facing 1.3 megapixel camera. HTC introduces HTC Scribe with pen (sold separately) for next level note taking on the tab. It also acts as mobile 3G/4G Hotspot for up to eight devices. HTC EVO View 4G will be available this summer (2011) and pricing still to be announced.
Key Features of HTC EVO View 4G:
- Android 2.3 operating system
- HTC Scribe Technology enabling enhanced voice-synchronized note taking with the HTC Scribe digital pen using Timemark to capture the audio of a meeting at the same time as written notes
- Google mobile services such as Google Search™, Gmail™, Google Maps™ with Navigation, Voice Actions and YouTube™
- Corporate email (Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync), personal (POP & IMAP) email and instant messaging
- 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot capability, supporting up to eight Wi-Fi enabled devices simultaneously
- Android Market™ for access to more than 150,000 useful applications, widgets and games available for download to customize the experience
- 4G data speeds (WiMAX) – peak download speeds of more than 10 Mbps; peak upload speeds of 1 Mbps; average download speeds of 3-6 Mbps
- 3G data speeds (EVDO Rev A.) – peak download speeds of up to 3.1 Mbps; peak upload speeds of 1.8 Mbps; average download speeds of 600 kbps-1.4 Mbps
- Wi-Fi® (802.11 b/g/n)
- Integrated GPS
- 4000mAh battery
At CTIA Wireless 2011, I ran into a HTC employee who choose to divulge some interesting details about the company’s planned software update timeline. I learned that Android 2.3 Gingerbread would definitely head to the HTC EVO 4G very soon. The update is not just limited to that phone either, other HTC “legacy devices” which currently run on Android 2.2 Froyo will apparently also get the update.
The catch? HTC does not intend to push out the update until at least one flagship smart phone sporting Google’s new OS reaches store shelves. This is to ensure that customers do not hold back from purchasing newly announced devices. Once at least one Gingerbread smart phone reaches consumers, HTC will release the upgrade for their older Android models.
When asked about the company’s first Android 2.3 device, the employee was careful not to say too much more. There is a very good chance that it might be the Sprint HTC EVO 3D, which BGR just leaked. This means existing Android 2.2 Froyo devices might get the new update sometime after this week’s announced products hit the market.
I was even told that updated “legacy devices” would also come with the newest version of HTC Sense. This means an even more polished interface, smoother transitions, fancy animations, access to a set of new widgets, DLNA streaming integration, new out-of-the-box skins, and much more.
While other companies have abandoned support for older Android devices as new ones steal the spotlight, it is great to see HTC make a commitment to existing customers. The EVO 4G already received an upgrade to Android Froyo 2.2 after launching on Android 2.1 Eclair and another update would add even more value to the handset.
North American mobile operator Sprint, as part of its program to expand the portfolio of mobile terminals that support its 4G network, introduced another model of Android smartphone – Nexus S 4G, manufactured by Samsung.
In addition to supporting work in 4G mobile networks, Sprint (WiMAX), the new Nexus S 4G running platform Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), 1 GHz processor and a built-in 3D graphics accelerator, which also enables the processing of HD-video content .
Among other specifications Nexus S 4G, which differ little from the original Nexus S, indicates the following:
- Support networks: 3G (EVDO Rev A.); Sprint 4G (WiMAX)
- Dimensions: 124h63h11, 2 mm
- Weight: 131 gr.
- Display: 4-inch, Super AMOLED with support for multitouch, a resolution of 480×800 pixels
- Main camera: 5 megapixel with LED flash
- Front camera: VGA
- Platform: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
- Memory: 16 GB (ROM) / 512 MB (RAM)
- Communications: GPS, Wi-Fi (802.11 b / g / n), Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, NFC
- Battery: 1500 mAh, Li-Ion
Today is finally the day. The Thunderbolt has arrived and you have your shiny new toys in your hands. You just might be enjoying data speeds that some Wi-Fi connections would envy. We went poking around a little and found some impressive results floating around the web already (and we also want to know what kinds of speeds you are getting).
First, one big thing to keep in mind with all that you have heard about Thunderbolt LTE speeds is that the Speedtest.net app, commonly the first way to easily test data speeds, isn’t working properly with the Thunderbolt. Download speeds seem to record accurately, but upload speeds are way off (leading some to believe that they are actually getting 40 Mbps uploads – this is incorrect).
One of the most thorough tests we have seen on the web was by Noah Kravitz of Techno Buffalo. He compared the upload and download speeds of his HTC Inspire on AT&T’s HSPA network and his new Thunderbolt on Verizon’s LTE. Catching on early that the speedtest app had issues, he cleverly tethered the phones to his laptop. Oh boy, did we see a spanking there. His findings in his own words:
"My median speed on AT&T’s HSPA+ network was 2.16 Mbps down / 0.16 up / 171ms Latency (WiFi Hotspot mode)."
"My median speed on Verizon’s LTE network was 8.85 Mbps down / 3.68 up / 54ms Latency (WiFi Hotspot mode)."
The folks over at PhoneArena did some testing with the Thunderbolt and found they were getting around 5-7 Mbps downloads. Abelavista reported a range of download speeds between 4 Mbps and 13 Mbps. The folks over at Phandroid grabbed downloads ranging from 11.71 Mbps all the way up to 24.46 Mbps.
Some of these speeds appear to be in the same ballpark as WiMax, while some are clocking in much higher – but one thing that has been consistent is that the latency of LTE appears to be the lowest of any "4G" network in the nation. Also LTE reportedly handles a smooth hand-off between 4G and 3G when LTE drops out (as opposed to the hand-off on Sprint’s WiMax, which I can attest can leave you without any service at all for an annoying length of time when switching back to 3G).
If you are one of the lucky early adopters, do a little speed testing for us, will you? You can let us know in the comments or (if you really want to eliminate any doubts) link to a Speed Test image in the comments. The best way to record said test would probably be to tether your T-bolt to a laptop or desktop. Then go to speedtest.net in a browser, put it through the paces and grab a screenshot. Then you can upload it to imgur.com (or any image hosting for that matter) and link to it in the comments. If you use the Android speedtest.net app, please only share your download speeds. Also please note what method you used to record the speeds, as well as your location (LTE users only please).
AT&T recently began the big push to start promoting their 4G network and phones. Their company website boasts, “With 4G from AT&T, you can do more, see more, and enjoy more on what is already the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network.”
It sounds wonderful, but make sure you read the fine print.
Buried at the bottom of their site it reads, “4G speeds require a 4G device and are delivered when HSPA+ technology is combined with enhanced backhaul. 4G speeds available in limited areas with availability increasing with ongoing backhaul deployment.”
Earlier this year AT&T announced they had deployed HSPA+ to virtually 100% of their mobile broadband network, but only a handful of cities have the advanced backhaul to deliver 4G speeds. It appears that around a dozen markets have 4G speeds according to AT&T’s network map.
Current areas with 4G coverage include:
- Northern California
- Bay Area, CA
- Greater Los Angeles, CA
- Greater Dallas, TX
- Houston, TX
- Chicago, IL
- Charolette, NC
- Baltimore, MD
- Buffalo, NY
- Boston, MA
- Providence, RI
- Puerto Rico
We don’t know when 4G speeds will be coming to other markets, but AT&T says they hope to have 2/3 of their mobile traffic be delivered over their enhanced backhaul by the end of 2011.
Another disappointing fact about AT&T’s 4G network is that their only two 4G handsets, the Atrix 4G and Inspire 4G, both have High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) disabled at this time. That means the upload speeds on AT&T’s 4G phones are limited to a rather slow 300 kbps, while older 3G phones like the iPhone 4 can deliver upload speeds in excess of 1.5 Mbps (5x faster).
Users who have hacked the Inspire 4G and loaded custom ROMs were able to enable HSUPA and “unlock” the device’s true 4G speeds, so we know the hardware is capable delivering what was promised.
Thankfully AT&T can turn on the “4G speeds” of their 4G devices with a simple firmware upgrade, but users will still have to be in one of the limited markets with enhanced backhaul to experience the faster performance.
For now, AT&T 4G is major disappointment.
AT&T Customers Lash out Over Capped Upload Speeds on 4G Android Phones, 5x Slower than the 3G iPhone 4
Why is a 3G phone getting faster mobile broadband speeds than a brand new 4G phone on the same network?
Concerned AT&T customers who purchased the HTC Inspire 4G or Motorola Atrix 4G have begun to notice that their upload speeds are being capped and they have started making noise to see if the carrier will address it.
This past month AT&T launched their first pair of 4G phones which operate on the carrier’s 4G HSPA+ network. Even though AT&T has upgraded their entire 3G network to HSPA+, only the markets with enhanced backhaul are experiencing the faster 4G speeds.
So just how fast is AT&T 4G? On the company website it claims 4G network speeds are up to approximately 6 Mbps, but makes no specific mention of upload speeds.
We know that AT&T customers with the iPhone 4 regularly see upload speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps, but it appears that all 4G Android phones are capped at a measly 300 kbps. Upload speeds are not critical to every user, but they do have a direct relation with the quality of video calls. AT&T touts smoother-streaming video as a reason to buy a 4G phone now, so it is troubling that Android customers are being treated different than iPhone users.
Research shows that the Inspire 4G and Atrix 4G both have modems that support High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) with speeds up to 5.7 Mbps. We don’t expect to see these full upload speeds on an actual device, but at least we know the hardware supports faster speeds than what is currently available.
I’ve done my own personal testing with an Atrix 4G all over Texas and I can confirm that upload speeds never surpassed 300 kbps. Download speeds were average (2-3 Mbps), but I’m not sure if the enhanced backhaul has been turned on in my state.
Other users who have tested the Atrix 4G and Inspire 4G against the iPhone 4 have found similar results. Alex Colon of PCMag tested the devices in six different locations and found the iPhone 4 generally reported upload speeds of over 1.5 Mbps, while the Android phones were capped at 300 kbps.
PCMag reached out to AT&T to see if they would comment on the capped upload speeds and they received an answer which hinted at updates to existing models. AT&T did not deny any of the claims and only said, “As you noticed, we have a number of HSUPA devices today and we will have more HSUPA-enabled devices in the future—new devices and updates to existing models.”
By failing to address the claims of PCMag, it appears that AT&T has silently confirmed they are capping the upload speeds on their 4G Android phones.
Upset customers have taken their concerns for the forums with some of them threatening to return their devices if AT&T does not address the issue. The complaints are beginning to grow with a nine page thread on the AT&T forums, a ten pager on the Motorola forums, and a 14 page thread on xda-developers where hackers are trying to defeat the cap.
If you want to look on the bright side, at least these capped upload speeds can be fixed with a simple over-the-air software update. AT&T could be protecting their network by limiting upload speeds until their enhanced backhaul is complete.
Unfortunately, some AT&T customers might be waiting awhile to experience true 4G speeds. The company’s answer center says that 2/3 of their mobile traffic will be delivered over their enhanced backhaul by the end of 2011. AT&T’s coverage map doesn’t exactly specify which areas have enhanced backhaul, so it’s kind of a guessing game as to what areas can access 4G speeds right now.
Thankfully AT&T doesn’t charge any extra data fees for their 4G handsets, but it still puts them in a weird position that some of their 3G phones offer faster broadband speeds than their new 4G lineup (up to 5x faster in some cases).
In your daily dose of "Nope, no release date for the HTC ThunderBolt just yet," we bring you a commercial that’s been floating around. And it’s pretty darn good, as you’d expect from HTC and/or Verizon. And, nope, there’s still no release date. [Android Central Forums]