HTC is announcing a new smartphone exclusive to Sprint’s network today, the Bolt. A 5.5-inch phone, the Bolt largely serves as a showcase for Sprint’s latest network technology, which is said to provide faster download speeds than other networks (hence the Bolt’s name). Other features include a full-metal unibody with water resistance (a first for HTC) and USB Type-C headphones that can adapt their sound to your specific hearing. The Bolt is available starting today for $600.
The Bolt looks a lot like the HTC 10 from earlier this year, and it’s clear these devices have been cut from the same cloth. It’s larger, thanks to its larger display, and is flatter than the 10, but otherwise has the same aluminum finish with large chamfers, front fingerprint scanner, and capacitive buttons for back and recent apps. The new IP57 water resistance lets the Bolt survive submersion in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Though the Bolt looks a lot like the 10, it doesn’t share the same specs. It has a 16-megapixel (non-Ultra Pixel) optically stabilized rear camera, 8-megapixel front camera, and a 5.5-inch quad HD display. Internally, it’s a bit more disappointing, as the Bolt has last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM instead of the much-more-common-for-2016 Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM. A 3,200mAh battery provides "up to a day or more of use" and supports Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 2.0 fast charging. Essentially, the Bolt shares the same basic specs as the HTC M9 and Nexus 6P from last year. HTC’s explanation for why amounted to it was easier to buy the Snapdragon 810 than the 820 and it was already certified for Sprint’s 3x20 carrier aggregation.
Also frustrating is the fact that though the Bolt is larger than the 10, it does away with the standard 3.5mm headphone jack entirely. A set of USB Type-C headphones are provided in the box (and as mentioned before, have an extra trick of tunability to your ears), but HTC says it doesn’t plan to provide an adapter for standard headphones until next year.
On the plus side, the Bolt is launching with Android 7.0 Nougat, which makes it the first HTC phone to run Google’s newest Android platform. HTC has made a couple of tweaks to the software, but it’s largely the same experience you might see on a Nexus phone, including split-screen multitasking and other new Nougat features. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, Sprint has loaded the phone up with lots of crapware, including everything from the AAA app to Lookout to its own services. Some of the apps are not actually installed, but merely shortcuts to the app store to download them, but they are annoying and egregious nonetheless.
Android 7.0 Nougat and tons of bloatware
As mentioned earlier, the Bolt’s raison d’être is to showcase Sprint’s 3x20 carrier aggregation, which provides faster download speeds over LTE. The catch, and there is always a catch, is that Sprint has only launched this feature in Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio. In my brief tests using the phone in the New York metro area, I didn’t see any remarkable speeds and nothing more than any other Sprint phone provides.
The Bolt is available in two colors: silver and gunmetal. It’s a good-looking, well-built phone that would have been totally competitive in 2015. But in 2016, it seems over-priced and under-specced, and doesn’t even compare favorably to HTC’s own 10, which is still on shelves for a similar price.