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HTC Bolt Review

A Disaster Made Entirely of Good Ideas

By Mickey FinnPublished 7 years ago 6 min read

A couple weeks ago I was out running errands when everyone’s biggest anxiety happened. I unlocked my phone screen and everything froze before going black. Rest in peace, HTC M8 Harmon-Kardon edition. We barely knew ya'. My phone had shuffled off it’s mortal Otter-Box and joined the network invisible. Luckily, I was right next to a Sprint store and popped in to see what they had. Having worked in electronics and telecom for several years, I’m a gear snob. Not just any phone or tablet will do.

I’ve had several phones, but my favorite is HTC. I have had Samsung Galaxies, which are excellent, but they are always seeking the cutting edge at the expense of getting the most out of the phone. By that, I mean lots of bloatware, widgets and gizmos that are clever, but not quite reliable enough to be anything except annoying. Why pay for extras that I’m going to disable? iPhones are too restrictive for me. There’s nothing wrong with them, but don’t tell that to the other Android owners. I just prefer as much flexibility as I can get out of my phone.

What I was looking for was a phone that met my networking, processing and photographic needs. I wanted to be able to tie my tablet and PC to the phone for automatic back up, and especially Microsoft’s mobile applications for my school work. I tend to multitask on the phone quite a bit. First thing in the morning I get myself a cup of coffee and open Duolingo to work on my Irish as the notifications come rolling in. That can ask a lot of the CPU, so I wanted one that could hold up without freezing. Finally, I dabble in photography and I wanted a top-of-the-line camera.

The clerk asked what I was looking for and I explained my loyalty to HTC, which brought a frown. He said the only phone that they had in the store was the HTC Bolt, which he didn’t know much about the model beyond what was on the little white card next to the phone. The card that bore a $675 price tag for the phone. The one thing he was able to tell me was that they had gone the same way as Apple and put a new charging/USB port, called USB-C (this was also the only headphone jack, meaning they were proprietary). I looked it up and discovered it did solve my life-long quest to put a USB plug in the right way the first time. The processor was top-notch and all of the techy factoids sounded right: 23 hour battery life, 32GB of RAM and WiFi Calling. I trusted HTC after two excellent phones that exceeded every demand that I made of them, so I decided to roll the dice and get it.

“I had a girlfriend named Faith once. She cheated on me…with a girl named Chastity.” -Burchenal, Red Planet.

Yup…regretted that before I even got home. The USB-C being reversible means that, most likely, there is a widget to read the pins and adapt to which way the plug is inserted. Which means that the $400 touch-screen stereo with MirrorLink that I had been enjoying for a whole weekend was now back to square one (I’d like to point out: Weekend…week…end. Singular). Bluetooth streaming, yes. MirrorLink, no. So, no navigation on the head unit screen and no voice-command phone calls. All I had was Bluetooth streaming, which for some reason doesn’t even share the track information on the Bolt. My previous phone, which was two years older, shared the track information. Why in the ever loving blue-eyed world they backpedaled, I can’t fathom.

Aside from which, this phone has some serious problems with notifications. It will not update new messages. After observing it, I can only assume this is some sort of answer to over-notifying. So if you want to know the second an email comes in, then you need to leave email open. Not in the background, either. You are stuck there, waiting for the pot to boil. Facebook is a complete soup-sandwich. One of those days where I was back-and-forth with someone in comments, I noticed that every time I opened the Facebook application I got notices. That seemed a bit optimistic, given my social life. Soon I realized that while open, Facebook will not update. If you force it, you can watch the loading graphic spin endlessly, or the little window in the bottom reading “Can’t connect right now” pops up. I still have my old phone, which works on WiFi, and updated the app. It ran perfectly fine, which leads me to think there is some issue between the phone getting the message that something has happened in Facebook and Facebook’s app getting the message to refresh.

Then came the “Day of Wrath”. Lying in bed the night before I thought of Motorola’s “Droid” voice-command app, and wondered if there were any good after-market apps similar to that and Siri in the Google Play Store. Turns out there were, and some even had good reviews. I downloaded Dragon Voice Command. The following day, or the Day of Wrath, I had an afternoon of errands and then a study group to get to before my Chemistry Midterm. Easy day for the basic Google Voice-Search, right? Not hardly. I said, typed and shouted the name and address of my school so much that I memorized it. The GPS turned itself off two of the four times I actually got the address typed in and another time it completely froze up and I had to restart the phone. I was only barely able to contain my rage and uninstall the app before I committed violence and harm to the HTC Bolt. To test it, I asked a buddy with an LG, with much less processing power to get the Dragon app. It worked so well, he still has it and gave her a name (lovely couple, excited for the wedding invites!)

After blowing my mind with the easiest sharing, casting and best hardware for years, HTC has completely fumbled with the HTC Bolt. Yes, I get that they haven’t had a big enough marketshare to invest the way Samsung and Apple have, but that’s their own fault as well. I laud them at every opportunity, and people give me a blank look. To quote a buddy, “Dude, I can’t even spell H-T-C.” (To be fair, he normally puts those letters in a different order). They hardly ever advertise! You can make the best phone in the world, and it won’t make you money if no one knows about it. This has been an issue with HTC for years. I wonder if they started with such a strong product they thought it would sell itself? If that theory held water we wouldn’t have Keeping Up with the Kardashians or McDonalds. Well marketed crap will outsell un-marketed genius every time.

HTC’s marketing team might want to revisit the naming of the Bolt. The USB-C is a nice touch, but there was no forethought into how that might affect sharing data with more passive systems like a stereo application. It might be forgivable, until you stumble into the rest of the problems. It’s painfully obvious that this company just realized that they are behind the curve and put a lot of things together in slap-dash fashion. The result is a disaster made entirely out of good ideas. The notification problem is on every single application except for texting and calling. When you think about the portion of time social media takes up on mobile devices, this is a huge oversight. A more apt name might be the HTC Brick. Although that implies that you could build a house to keep Big Bad Wolves from eating you. Maybe the HTC Snake-Mittens.

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