HTC Thunderbolt - The Honeymoon? Definitely Over.

First, let me begin by saying that I have been an Apple fan for a long time. In addition to using their computers, I was a first generation adopter of both the iPod and the iPhone.  I've gone through the original iPhone, the 3G and the 4. What I like about the iPhone can be summed up by saying that it represents exemplary engineering on top of a ghastly deployment.

After all those years of being an iPhone user with AT&T, I could no longer justify paying for AT&T's sub-standard cellular services.  The times I could complete a conversation on my iPhone without dropping the call, or losing call quality was an extremely rare event.  (And I live in the Bay area, home to AT&T which is touted as one of their major coverage areas....)

AT&T's cellular service is simply pathetic.  As a matter of fact, I deemed it justifiable to pay the contract cancellation penalty with AT&T to come to Verizon.  I never realized how bad AT&T service was, however, until switched to Verizon.   Within my first week of using my Thunderbolt, I experienced NO dropped calls, NO poor signals, NO service interruptions of any kind.  (Unless I was connected to an AT&T cellular customer...)

And, while Apple is, in my opinion, the best hardware engineer in the business, the other factor in my decision to move phone platforms was that Apple never quite got the whole synchronization thing down. (Pre-iCloud)  I really don't need seven different listings for my veterinarian in my address book.  Syncing services with Google have been working for me perfectly - and I don't have to pay them $99 per year to screw up my address book contents or my calendar.

So I dropped .me and my iPhone for a Google phone living in a Google world.  Since the Android requires a Google account, (Hey! I have one of those!), setting up my phone required that I only provide it with my account information and everything from that point was auto-magically configured for me.  Insta-integration with all my Google-based services.  Plus really cool stuff like Google Voice for messaging.


It's now been six months with the Android. Apple has just released their iPhone 4S...and, within a day, I find myself browsing the provider's pages looking/comparing contracts and service offerings.  What the hell am I doing?!?

The shine on this Android HTC Thunderbolt phone is definitely gone.  While I like most of the Verizon services, specifically the quality of the cellular coverage, I am really dissatisfied with some of their processes and, as far as the phone is concerned, the HTC Thunderbolt is a complete a total piece of crap.  I will NEVER, EVER buy another phone from HTC every again.

Problems with Verizon and the HTC Thunderbolt Nobody Talks About:

1. Crapware

I rooted my Android within a week of getting it.  Verizon pre-loaded the Thunderbolt with an amazing amount of crapware that they don't allow you to delete off their phone.  Seriously bad software.  That does nothing except eat tons of space in my memory store.  Once I rooted the phone (similar to the jail-breaking process for the iPhone), I was able to delete that bloatware and regain my lost storage for other applications.

2. Say My Name, Bitch!

Of course there's a problem with rooting your phone -- and that's dealing with Verizon's never-ending attempts to force software updates down your throat and to your phone.  Should you make the tragic mistake of leaving your phone "on" (which I do when sitting at my desk with the phone plugged into the charger) then Verizon assumes control of your phone by forcing your phone to accept updates over the network.

Since you've rooted your phone, said updates (which are image zip files stored to your cache) will not install after the download completes and the phone reboots itself.  All without any confirmation or interaction from your part.  Special, no?

When your phone reboots, you're presented with the broken-android symbol and you have to go into your root-tools menu to delete the cached files from your phone.  This removes the forced-download and allows you to reboot your phone into it's previously rooted state.  Of course, leave your phone on for too long and here it comes again!

There's no "off" switch to disable the forced downloads.  Verizon's attitude, gleaned from the forums, is that: "It's our network.  Suffer, bitch."

3. Random Reboots and Disappearing Apps

My co-workers claim that my phone re-booting itself (without an "upgrade" being pushed down) is because I rooted my phone.  After reading the complaints about the HTC Thunderbolt out on the etherstream - I beg to differ.  I think the HTC/Verizon mash-up operating system is just so crappy it crashes and forces a reboot.  I've noticed that this happens when the network flips around a lot.  I've also noticed it booting for no apparent reason.

What's also special is that apps just disappear off your phone following a reboot.  Once your phone restarts, you have to give it several moments of 4G time to restore whatever apps it randomly deleted.  Totally weird behavior.  It's almost like using a Windows operating system.

4. I've Lost My Network and I Can't Get Up

Several times with this Thunderbolt I've noticed that I'm stuck in 1G mode.  I try toggling the mobile network connection off/on to reset it, but it always comes back to the 1G network.  This occasionally happens when it gets stuckin 3G mode as well.  (Funny, I've never seen 2G...)

The only way I've found to fix this problem is to force a restart.  When the phone regains consciousness, it happily joins the 4G network.

5. Sucks like a Starving Vampire

Granted, the Gingerbread update is supposed to fix a lot of the issues with the HTC Thunderbolt's ability to drain your battery faster than a starving vampire in a blood bank.  I even upgraded, spending about $50, for a uber-battery, doubling the phone's weight and thickness.  It's worth it, though, having a battery that can last me on the train ride between San Jose and San Francisco.

There's entire web pages devoted to tricks and tips to prolonging the battery life on this phone all of which basically involve crippling, or at least diminishing, all of the features that justified the purchase of your phone in the first place.

I'm really hoping Gingerbread offers better battery life as, since I don't live in a winter-zone anymore, it's a shame to waste the hand-warming features of a rapidly depleting battery.


So...I un-rooted my phone so that I could get the Gingerbread update, replacing Froyo on this phone.  I have no idea why it takes Verizon so long to roll-out these updates.  Perhaps their visual basic programmers are having a hard time with all the Android unixey stuff.  Who knows?  I mean, you have to make sure that the user can't delete the fucking golf demo, right?

When Gingerbread was finally available for the Thunderbolt, the update lasted all of a day, if that, before Verizon yanked the update from the download stream.  It was as if they were like: QA testing?  We've heard of that...  The update was so bug-ridden that it was disabling or severely-impairing phone functionality.

Now, as of yesterday, they're starting to push the Gingerbread update back out to the users.  At a time when Google is announcing the Ice Cream Sandwich update (the successor to Gingerbread), Verizon, after one false-start, is now only 1 release behind on the operating system.

Tell me -- why am I paying premium rates for a phone Verizon and HTC can't keep current?

So, as soon as I come into a little cash, I think I will call Verizon customer services (snicker) and complain to them about this phone and their inability to provide a stable (or current) operating system platform.  I'd like to negotiate them into a new Motorola Android phone...Verizon seems ti play better with Motorola -- timely updates, better hardware, non thermo-radioactive battery, etc.

I want to stay in the Google universe because everything works there.  The iPhone is looking sexy -- but it's still not 4G...not yet...