My mobile experience begins and ends with the idea of sensuality. I’m constantly tethered to my smartphone — it spends more time in my presence than anything or anyone else. An extension of my professional and personal self, it has become a proletariat expression of my wholeness, so I expect it to not only function properly, but evoke meaning, transformation, and context… to provide a constant data stream for my psyche. Since my smartphone brings the world to me (and vice-versa), it is my echo chamber, my primary link, my self-styled megaphone. So assessing the mobile landscape to untangle the complexity of choice, to keenly discover the exact combination of features and benefits I desire, to determine which device should be allowed stake a prominent place in my backpack, and confirm its ability to respond to my deepest passions is not a journey to race through — this stimulating, shiny shrine would have to permeate my defenses, break down my gadget skepticism, and drive me into a state of ecstasy… to spark a sense of sensuality, the device would have to elicit a hint of aesthetic escapism.

Enter the HTC Thunderbolt, the grand inheritor of the monster-sized mobile device. Not quite a tablet (yes, it has a kickstand!), but towering over the now seemingly tiny iPhone, it’s a trailblazer in form and function — saddled with a masculine design “narrative”, its style is bold, detached, and unflinchingly unapologetic. Restless in mood, the device is heavy, somewhat contrary, and radical in its performance: both good and bad! First, let’s look at the good.
The Good
Android and the device manufacturers obviously have their sights on iOS. HTC decided to pack a wealth of functionality into the Thunderbolt. From the animated lightning-bolt startup screen, to the brilliant 4.3-inch sized screen, the ‘Bolt takes a symbolic break from the current mobile ecosystem and stakes a claim to become the standard for the next-generation smartphone, battery life or size be damned.After a couple weeks with her, I firmly believe my ‘Bolt is here to fulfill all my wishes. She not only wants to serve me, she also informs me in a simple, seemingly uncontrived fashion that some things aren’t negotiable: the 4G connection is mandatory — there is no option to downgrade the speed. Akin to when Apple killed the floppy, HTC and Verizon have decided that I just need to get on board with the “speed train”. My ‘Bolt says to me that it’s time to become a voluntary refugee from the “middle-class” world of 3G — I suddenly feel like I have less in common with those suffering through AT&T’s compulsively affected network. She makes me feel like I upgraded from a Hyundai to a Mercedes. And yes, with Android 2.2.1 loaded, she is more responsive, more usable, and perfectly attuned to astonishing my iPhone-desensitized view of performance. Let me say that again: performance. The swipes, pinches, and taps are lucidly agreeable, the highlight of my device colloquy. Although “Thunderbolt” is her name, my non de plume for her is “Speedy” — her startup lag is more than made up for in her overall contribution to my day-to-day productivity.Add to the blazing-fast network speed (I’ve had consistent 4G all throughout the SF Bay Area), and the heavenly performance, there are many more simpler pleasures to be had with the ‘Bolt: yes, there’s Flash. I find Flash too often be a pointless battery suck on most mobile devices, however, it is nice when visiting a Flash-enabled site to at least see what’s intended. The 8-megapixel camera (with dual Flash and 720p video) and a front-facing lens snaps sharp photos with an easy upload to Facebook (come on Apple — can’t you give me a ‘send to Facebook’ option?). Another particularly fabulous feature is the ‘Bolt’s built-in mobile hotspot. Simply turn it on, and tether several devices to the 4G connection. I was able to call Verizon and cancel my 3G Mi-Fi right away.

The Bad
The bad? First, I implore you to consider the concept of sufficiency: that the current state of affairs is related to the occurrence of further conditions. The ‘Bolt begs you to think logically about the rhythm of usage … we all know that our mobile experiences are driven by usage (yes, it’s constant in our minds, eh?). I’ve been lucky to extract about 4 hours of usage on one battery charge. Is that sufficient? I find often it is not. I now have extra batteries, and two USB cables to tote around. I find myself constantly seeking an outlet. I strive to entail logic from the certainty that I won’t make a full day on one battery. Sure, my idle iPhone sits by, waiting, tempting, presupposing that I will need to turn to it when my ‘Bolt’s voracious appetite consumes all the stored energy available to it. This is simply the standard condition of the ‘Bolt “experience.” Embrace it, realize the maintenance of it, and define for yourself what is sufficient for you. The ‘Bolt’s oxygen is that battery, and you just have to carry extra oxygen tanks with you if you desire to be truly mobile.

The Thunderbolt next to the iPhone 4

The HTC Thunderbolt is, in a sense, a mobile channel of efficacious sensuality. It’s like “hand-porn” in that it provides power, ability, desire, and substance all in one almost pocket-sized device. The ‘Bolt experience is the result of something more than just interacting with a typical smartphone — it’s an elevated, temporal affair of the head and the heart. She is my hypothetical truth — my motion, sound, color… my envisage of all that is possible in connecting to my world. She doesn’t replace my iPhone, but she has unpacked herself next to it, and is striving to prevail as my device of choice.

Basic Specs on the Thunderbolt per Verizon: 4G LTE – customers can expect download speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps and upload speeds of 2 to 5 Mbps in 4G Mobile Broadband coverage area; 4.3” WVGA display; 8-megapixel rear facing camera and HD (720p) video recording; 1.3-megapixel front facing camera with video chatting capabilities; newest generation of the 1GHz Snapdragon processor; mobile hotspot capability – share 4G connection with up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices; pre-installed 32 GB microSD card (Actual formatted capacity will be less); built-in kickstand for easy media viewing.

The Thunderbolt is currently selling for $249.99 on Verizon Wireless with a two year contract, $569.99 without the contract.

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Brandon Carson

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