You get a solid performer and a stylish smartphone in the HTC Bolt with the latest software. But with a couple odd decisions and its aging spec offerings, it costs just a little too much to consider adopting “Sprint’s fastest smartphone ever.”
- This is Stylish, aluminum build is IP57 rated
- It runs Android 7.0 Nougat right out of the box
- This is Capable set of camera specs
- You will have to spend time undoing Sprint’s tweaks to the interface
- There is no dongle, nor there is a headphone jack
- The processor is too old for this price-point
I’m not starting this review with any puns related to lightning bolts. Nor am I going to delve into the history of HTC’s gradual disappearance from the smartphone players marquee. Instead, I would like to launch off the simple fact that the HTC Bolt is a great smartphone.
It was difficult for me to feel that way at first admittedly. That is partly Sprint’s fault. The Bolt is a Sprint-exclusive release. On concord, its sole purpose appears to be to help raise awareness of the carrier’s 3x CA (carrier aggregation) LTE network. Hence, the tagline is “Sprint’s fastest smartphone ever.” That doesn’t seem fair for HTC. Considering it had to make hardware decisions to fit that marketing narrative. On concord, the Taiwan-based company doesn’t have much choice at this point. It needs the visibility boost in the U.S.
For HTC, the Bolt likely won’t be a heavy player. It should be considered a glimpse at if anything, at what’s to come. Besides propagating Sprint’s LTE Advanced network. It’s sole existence. It appears to be to test what works in the market. If the Bolt is ant indication of where HTC is headed in terms of making smartphones. It may finally turn things around.
About this review
After spending six days with it on Sprint’s network in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m reviewing the HTC Bolt. This runs the Android 7.0 Nougat under HTC’s Sense UI. During my testing period, it didn’t receive software updates. The mobile was provided to Android Central for review by HTC.
HTC Bolt Hardware
I like the aluminum-bodied smartphones, the Bolt, and trend of matte in particular sports a futuristic coolness about it that you don’t typically see with a glossy. It is the glass-covered device such as the Galaxy S7, or even the Pixel. I’m also digging the Bolt’s minimalist design. I like that the back panel isn’t crowded by giant camera lenses and LED flash bulbs. However, remember that matte doesn’t necessarily mean scuff-free. The metal that covers most of the surface held up well. On concord, there’s still vulnerable glass on the front. After a week it was already sporting nicks on the display from being inside my purse.
The Bolt is pretty large. The size is similar to Pixel XL. But it’s actually wider and what makes it particularly hefty is its overall density. I got tired of holding it one-handed. So I found myself curling up with it a bit more and using two hands just to navigate the interface. The one time I didn’t want to be holding it at all was when it’s charging. The Bolt gets really warm when it’s charging almost too warm to hold.
Probably, you are thinking that the Bolt’s propensity for being a hot potato is not directly correlated to the Snapdragon 810 powering it. Despite its reputation for overheating.
The giant metal frame dissipates not just the processors but all sorts of heat. In late 2016, this processor’s only folly is that it’s too old for a smartphone offered at this price point. Actually, no issues while I was using it, and the Bolt benchmarked like the Nexus 6P in PCMark. This is all moot because HTC had to stick with the nearly two-year-old processor. Since it’s one of the few chips that supports Sprint’s new LTE network.
The Bolt’s battery life seemed impressive at first. I left the phone off the charger for about three days and on the morning of the fourth day, I found it hanging on at one percent. I thought to myself, “Man, that last few minutes of usage could really come in handy.” I thought it was a good sign that the Bolt could manage to hold on like that.
I performed my battery benchmark. The Bolt did not perform on par with the other smartphones I’ve tested with the combination of QuadHD display and same battery size. It managed only five hours and 24 minutes of on-screen usage in the PCMark battery rundown test, and that’s with Nougat’s renovated Doze mode. What’s even more annoying is that when you’re ready to charge it up. You’ll have to wait around for a bit. The Bolt is only compatible with QuickCharge 2.0. It takes more than an hour and a half to fully replenish the Bolt’s 3200mAh battery.
HTC Bolt Cameras
The HTC Bolt’s 16-megapixel rear-facing camera shoots at an aperture of f/2.0. It comes equipped with optical image stabilization. Normally, I’d complain about how much smaller the aperture is compared to its flagship. The HTC 10 which shoots with an aperture of f/1.8, but the inclusion of the RAW and manual shooting mode makes that less of a limitation to fret about.
You can use that mode to keep the shutter open for up to 16-seconds If you want. The low-light limitation only becomes an issue when you’re using a third-party camera app, such as Snapchat, in an attempt to make the next social media masterpiece.
I was impressed by the Bolt’s imaging capabilities. I liked the way the photos were composed in ample lighting.
I liked that the post-processing engine didn’t blow out or overly contrast the end result. Overall, the camera resolution is fine for a second-tier smartphone.
On concord, I hope we see more of the HTC 10’s camera sensor in the next flagship.
My favorite thing about HTC phones is the native camera app. It used to be one of the easiest camera apps to use, years before Samsung and LG simplified their feature-heavy menus. The Bolt is well-equipped with its own library of camera features. But the options aren’t all crowding the screen when you tap into that particular menu mode.
You can simply scroll through the various options available to you. All of which are self-explanatory. It’s the least overwhelming camera app, sans the stock Google camera app, and I like that you can even change the camera resolution without tapping into another Settings menu.
HTC Bolt Software
The Bolt runs HTC Sense on top of Android 7.0 Nougat. This is one of the better versions of Android as translated by a manufacturer floating around out there. If you don’t like the color scheme, and a notifications shade that’s similar to what you’ll find on the Pixel, it includes a theming engine. The BlinkFeed is still a thing too. On concord, you can disable it if the News Republic and all the sources you’ve selected become too much for you. BlinkFeed feels too noisy sometimes.
HTC optimized the software on the Bolt so that even though this is Android 7.0 running on subpar specifications. You’ll hardly notice it with day-to-day usage. Even Snapchat ran without a hitch. I have issues with the app even when using it with the latest hardware. While HTC left Nougat relatively unscathed by redundant apps, Sprint went rampant bundling on its own.
The Bolt is not only preloaded with about 20 apps, but you can only delete about half of them. The interface also comes pre-skinned in Sprint’s themed icon pack, which is as gaudy as it sounds, and a Sprint wallpaper, which is the default background for the app drawer. Thankfully, the Android interface is customizable as long as you’re willing to put in the time.
HTC Bolt Odds and Ends
They keep taking away our headphone jacks to make smartphones thinner. On concord, that’s what’s in style now, and it looks such as we may have to accept the inevitable. It appears HTC is attempting something with the one-port-to-rule-them-all motif before its flagship next year. It included a pair of USB Type-C earphones that work with the Bolt. Take advantage of its adaptive audio capabilities. It adjusts to ambient noise and your ears to offer the best sound. But there’s no included dongle for any other old school earbuds and headphones you might have around the house.
The Bolt is HTC’s first water resistant phone and has almost the same dust and water resistance standard as Samsung’s latest phone. The Bolt’s IP57 rating will keep the device safe in three feet of water for up to half an hour. But you’re better off just keeping the phone away from large bodies of liquid in any case.
HTC Bolt The bottom line
The Bolt would have been a better device if it weren’t beholden to another company. I assume that in exchange for exclusivity and front-and-center marketing mojo. HTC compromises on the Bolt’s performance so that its hardware could accommodate Sprint’s LTE network. It’s to compromise to make for the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S. But finally, having any sort of career backing is better than not having any presence at all which the HTC 10 does not.
The Bolt is a definite look at what HTC has in store for us next year. I’m expecting a super cool aluminum smartphone with top-of-the-line hardware. And also a rear-facing camera that can better capture low light. Consider the Bolt a mere test run that shows off Sprint’s network and one that isn’t likely worth $600 to you.
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