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Why does a $600 phone have last year’s processor? The many follies of HTC’s Bolt

dont buy htc bolt camera
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
HTC needs a new hit. Its last flagship, the HTC 10, was released in May and was a critical success — but AT&T recused itself from selling it, and T-Mobile pulled the device from its website about two months later. To bring some spark to its mobile division, HTC announced the Bolt.

Here’s why you shouldn’t buy one.

Where are the flagship specs?

The Bolt is equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810. That’s last year’s processor, which is fine if the phone wasn’t priced at $600. That’s right: The HTC Bolt costs $50 less than Google’s Pixel and Apple’s iPhone 7, phones with superior specs and software optimization.

The Bolt is the first phone to support Sprint’s next-gen LTE Plus network.

It supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 (we’re now on Quick Charge 3.0), but what’s worse is Qualcomm only supports its chips for two years — that means support for the 810 chip will end next year. How will that affect you? The Bolt may get upgraded to the next Android version, but that’s it. Goodbye, Android P.

In its news release, the Taiwanese company says, “We took everything that was so great about the HTC 10 and made it even better.” We’re still struggling to see how this is true. The HTC 10 has 4GB of RAM, the Bolt has 3GB. The HTC 10 has 32GB and 64GB options for internal storage, whereas the Bolt only offers 32GB.

A next-gen network that’s not ready yet

The 5.5-inch HTC Bolt is also a Sprint exclusive, which means it won’t play nice on other carrier’s networks. It’s a feature the company is touting. The Bolt is the first phone to support Sprint’s next-gen LTE Plus network. Sprint says download speeds can deliver up to 450mbps, but HTC advised more moderate speeds of 250mbps.

HTC Bolt
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Those speeds are great — with HTC’s numbers, it could mean downloading a 3GB movie in about a minute and a half. Unfortunately, Sprint has only started deploying the network in eight cities. It will see a wider rollout in 2017, but it means that even if you buy the HTC Bolt, you may have to wait a while to experience these faster speeds.

No headphone jack

Did I mention there’s no headphone jack? HTC is following Motorola, Apple, and a handful of manufacturers in removing the 3.5mm jack, but it doesn’t have the courtesy of offering an adapter. You’ll have to opt for your own Bluetooth earbuds, or the USB Type-C headphones packaged in the box. HTC is calling the tech inside its earbuds BoomSound Adaptive Audio — it uses sonar to build a profile of your ear to provide personal equalization. It’s decent, according to Digital Trends’ Kyle Wiggers, who reviewed the device, but it’s not great. It also doesn’t seem to work with other Type-C smartphones.

There are some positive notes for the Bolt, though. It will certainly have a fast connection once Sprint’s next-gen network rolls out; it’s 16-megapixel rear camera is good in low-light and competitive with other flagships; and it has a decent-sized 3,200mAh battery. It also has a Quad HD 5.5-inch display, and it’s one of the few phones in the market running Android 7.0 Nougat

But for $600, we expect a whole lot more in a smartphone. The OnePlus 3 and the ZTE Axon 7 have this year’s flagship processor, the Snapdragon 820, and they only cost $400. We’re not sure what HTC is thinking, but the Bolt is not a good deal.

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