First LTE phone, HTC Thunderbolt, coming to Verizon Thursday

Wirefly taking pre-orders starting Tuesday

HTC's ThunderBolt, the first smartphone to operate on Verizon Wireless's LTE network, will launch this Thursday, according to a document from Verizon received by the online retailer Wirefly.

Verizon officials did not respond to a request to confirm the March 17 sales date, which has been the rumored launch date since last week.

Wirefly is lending weight to the Thursday launch date, saying it will begin to take online pre-orders for the device at 3 a.m. ET tomorrow. Shipments of the device are set to begin on Thursday, Wirefly says.

Wirefly's special price, still unannounced, will be available when sales begin, a Wirefly spokesman said. The retailer has posted the full specs and other information on its site.

The spokesman said he had received a document from Verizon sent Monday that said, "The wireless devices group introduces the HTC ThunderBolt to the product line-up! The HTC ThunderBolt will launch on March 17, 2011!" The spokesman would not share a copy of the document, however.

The Thunderbolt has been teased in repeated national TV commercials for several weeks, almost back to the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, when Verizon first named it as one of 10 LTE-capable devices, including three other smartphones, that it will introduce by the middle of 2011.

The HTC ThunderBolt will be the first Verizon LTE phone, ahead of the other three planned LTE smartphones, including the LG Revolution, the Droid Bionic 4G and the Samsung 4G LTE. All have 4.3-in. screens and run Android.

LTE is advertised by Verizon as providing up to 10 times the speed of 3G speeds on Verizon provide, and LTE will average 6 Mbit/sec downloads. When 4G is not available, it will convert to 3G speeds.

Verizon officials have also said they will reveal more about upcoming data caps with the launch of the HTC Thunderbolt.

Wirefly's specs page notes the ThunderBolt's features, including two cameras -- an 8 megapixel primary camera, and a 1.3 megapixel secondary camera designed for video calls.

The Android 2.2 ThunderBolt will run a 1GHz processor and includes a 32GB Micro SD card pre-installed.

In addition to Wi-Fi, and hot spot capabilities it includes an FM radio.

Wirefly calls attention to the fact that as Verizon's first LTE smartphone, it will be the first to simultaneously support both voice and data, something not possible on Verizon's 3G network, notably missing from the iPhone 4.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

This story, "First LTE phone, HTC Thunderbolt, coming to Verizon Thursday" was originally published by Computerworld.

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