A Sprint exclusive, the HTC Bolt is being promoted by the infamous speedster Usain Bolt, and rightfully so. That is because the HTC Bolt is one of the most affordable ways to get access to Sprint’s new LTE Plus network with 3x carrier aggregation — the phone can connect to multiple Sprint bands, prioritizing things like streaming by using the fastest possible bands they have. Sprint’s LTE Plus network is currently available in only seven cities, but it’s expanding. Sprint LTE Plus offers uploads speeds of up to 50 Mbps and download speeds of up to 450 Mbps. That said, HTC told us that users should expect to see 250 Mbps on average, but that’s nothing to sneeze at.
The HTC Bolt sports a similar aluminum body design to the HTC 10, with a 45-degree chamfered edge that carries around to the back. But, there are some distinct differences. Namely, it’s got a flat back side as opposed to the HTC 10’s rounded back. It’s got a thinner profile, too, while packing in a larger 5.5″ display. And like the HTC 10, the Bolt’s design is attractive but hardly daring. That said, we actually prefer the HTC Bolt’s looks to the HTC 10. The Bolt is also HTC’s first aluminum phone to be IP57 certified, meaning that it’s water, splash and dust resistant.
HTC has focused on audio for years now, and the HTC Bolt exemplifies that by not only featuring HTC BoomSound, but also HTC’s custom-designed BoomSound Adaptive Audio headphones. That said, HTC really had to include a premium pair of headphones in the box because the phone lacks a 3.5 mm port. These headphones use sonar-like technology to attune themselves to your ears and create personal profiles that also adapt to the current of level ambient noise in your surroundings. HTC BoomSound with adaptive audio really does improve the audio experience and with BoomSound turned on — there is a very noticeable improvement in audio quality. Audio has more body, depth, and dimension than with it turned off. Really, you won’t want to use the headphones with it turned off because then music sounds dull and weak. The headphones also offer a nice amount of noise isolation and are very comfortable to wear. All in all, we don’t think these headphones will satisfy an audiophile, but typical users will appreciate the extra punch it offers without having to purchase an additional pair of headphones for the phone.
The 5.5″ 2560 x 1440 534 ppi display on the HTC Bolt is protected by tough Gorilla Glass 5. This display is very good and sharp, but not quite as vivid and vibrant as the displays we’ve seen on similarly priced flagship phones. Also, its viewing angles are narrower than what we’re used to from a flagship display.
The 16 MP camera on the HTC Bolt is very good and a big improvement over previous HTC phones. To that effect, the camera app launches quickly and is quick to focus on objects and snap photos. In general, photos came out sharp with accurate colors, and even performs well in low-light conditions. The camera isn’t nearly as good as what you’ll find on the likes of the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7 Edge, but it’s a solid effort. You can check out some sample photos here. The front-facing camera is also top notch and does a great job of taking selfies.
HTC Sense has come a long way. Personally, we’ve always liked HTC Sense, but many have complained about it in the past. Fortunately, nowadays HTC Sense is cleaner than ever and operates as a non-clunky compliment to Android 7.0, with welcome additions like multi-window support and HTC themes. On the other hand, Sprint has bombarded the HTC Bolt with lots of bloatware apps, and we mean lots. There’s everything from Sprint branded apps, to other apps like Walgreens, Texture, eBay, EA games, a slew of Amazon branded apps and others. Having this much bloatware preloaded is borderline obnoxious, especially at this price.
Under the hood, the HTC Bolt is powered by a Snapdragon 810 SoC and 3 GB of RAM. It’s a bit surprising that HTC didn’t opt for the newer 821 chipset, but performance is still good. The phone earned a score of 43164 in AnTuTu, 8895 in Quadrant, and a 1343 multi-core score in Geekbench 4. Overall, performance is solid but slower than what you’ll find on today’s typical flagship phones – even more inexpensive ones. Unfortunately the phone does heat up a little bit, which is known issue with the 810 processor.
The 3,200 mAh battery inside of the HTC Bolt is kind of average but fortunately, it translates to true all-day (24 hours) of battery life with moderate use. The phone also has a power-saving mode to help squeeze out additional phone use when you’re in a pinch.