The HTC Thunderbolt is Verizon’s flagship 4G LTE Android smartphone and has been one of the most anticipated devices to arrive on the Verizon network, even doing battle with the iPhone. While there are upcoming devices with faster processors and higher resolution screens, I chose the Thunderbolt as my next smartphone, for at least the next year because of the great community support and hackability of the device.
Don’t get me wrong, the lovely 4.3″ display, 1GHz processor and 4G connectivity are nice, but even more important than battling back and forth over specs was the fact that in the short weeks since the HTC Thunderbolt launched, a vibrant community has already begun providing tweaks, mods and even new ROMs to extend the functionality (and the battery life) of the Thunderbolt.
The way things are going, the HTC thunderbolt may be one of the last really open devices we see on Verizon’s network for some time. The upcoming Droid Bionic will have a locked bootloader which will make it difficult if not impossible to enjoy the openness of the original Motorola Droid which I am upgrading from. The Sony Xperia Play is also looking good to have a locked bootloader. Yes, Motorola has said they will try to work something out and Sony has promised to unlock bootloaders on select Xperia devices including the Play, but only on certain versions of these devices.
Because the HTC Thunderbolt is not locked down I was able to root my phone within an hour of purchase, using the HTC Thunderbolt Easy Root Method, and by the time I went to sleep, I had installed a new ROM (an optimized version of Android) that overclocks the processor up to 1.4Ghz but uses less voltage to make battery life much longer. After a morning of relatively heavy use (3G and WiFi) I still have 2/3rds of the battery life left. With any luck I won’t need to buy that ridiculously large extended battery. It also helps that I can turn off 4G since my area is still stuck on 3G.
Thanks to the great community over at xda-developers and other groups, owners of the HTC Thunderbolt won’t be nearly as reliant on HTC and Verizon to deliver software upgrades and new functionality. Instead, the community will be able to build ROMs that include the latest and greatest Android features and deliver them without delay to users like me.
Granted, you may not care about the user community, but it’s one of the primary reasons why my phone is Android, even if my tablet is Apple. The ability to keep the device in my pocket up to date and to optimize it for longer battery life is incredibly important, and a bit of an addiction.
If you’ve been on the fence about what Android device to buy on Verizon, I can’t say for certain that another great Android device with an unlocked bootloader won’t come out later this year, but the Thunderbolt looks like the best Android device for power users and customizers that will arrive in the next few months.
If that’s you, I look forward to exploring the Thunderbolt together.