New HTC Bolt all-metal smartphone eliminates headphone jack

The newest Android phone from HTC debuted today as part of a Sprint exclusive. It features new earphones, and, surprisingly, last year's processor.


The Bolt, seen here in gunmetal, is the newest HTC smartphone.

Image: HTC

The newest HTC smartphone, the Bolt, debuted today as part of an exclusive with Sprint. The advertisements focus on the phone's download speeds, hence the Bolt name, and tie-in with Olympic athlete Usain Bolt, aka the world's fastest man.

The phone looks good, with a 5.5" display of Corning Gorilla Glass 5 and a solid metal body. When my 15-year-old stepson spotted the phone on my desk, he commented that he liked the look. That's high praise from a teenager.

The Android phone looks similar to the HTC 10 that came out earlier this year. But the Bolt's launch price is $600, compared to $699 for the HTC 10.

But is the functionality any good?

First, know that the phone is exclusive to the Sprint LTE Plus network. Sprint is the nation's fourth-place wireless carrier, and it had HTC make the phone specifically for its network. As a result, it has cellular speeds of 250 mbps, which is five to 10 times faster than a regular LTE connection. If you live in the right area that supports superfast speeds, you're set with this phone.

The water-resistant aluminum unibody comes in gunmetal or glacier silver. There are several curved edges on the phone, so a case would be ideal, since otherwise it feels a bit awkward to hold due to all the edges.

The 16MP rear camera has optical image stabilization, and 4K video capabilities. For selfie takers, the front-facing 8MP camera has a super-wide panorama mode. You can take photos in regular or professional mode.

SEE: Is the HTC Bolt a Sprint exclusive you actually care about? (CNET)

With last year's Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor from 2015, the Bolt is not considered a replacement for the HTC 10, which uses the newer Snapdragon 820. But it's not all about the processor. The Snapdragon 810 is a known entity, and since the Bolt was designed for Sprint with a short turnaround time, having solid performance capability in the bag is essential.

It runs Android 7.0 Nougat and includes split-screen view for faster multi-tasking, unlimited photo storage with Google Photos, and Google Duo video calling preloaded.

It's important to note that the phone has no 3.5mm headphone jack, taking a page from Apple's book with the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The HTC BoomSound Adaptive Audio earphones plug into the phone with a USB-C connector, the same as the charging cable. And as for that long name--BoomSound Adaptive Audio--it means that the earphones scan your ears and adjust the audio output to suit your own hearing capabilities. When you first plug in the earphones, it gives you the option to set up a personal audio profile and adjust how you hear audio through the phone. The difference in my profile versus the standard one revealed a distinct difference, with the customized profile's bass and treble sounds much clearer than the standard setting. Be forewarned: If you're listening to Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling," the sound will be so clear you might start dancing in your seat.

SEE: Video: The top 5 reasons you won't miss the headphone jack

The fingerprint sensor works well. It recognized my fingerprint on my first attempt. My own iPhone 6 Plus sensor still needs multiple tries to recognize my fingerprint, and often requires a passcode instead. When you're in the drive-through line at Chick-fil-A and trying to reload funds onto the app, seconds matter.

The battery life on the Bolt is solid, with the 3,200mAh battery holding enough charge for a normal day's usage. The Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 technology allows for fast charging when necessary.

As for storage, the Bolt comes with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage space, with optional SD cards to expand up to 2 TB as needed.

If this sounds appealing, the phone is available at Sprint for $600, or $25 a month over 24 months.

Tech specs:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
  • Display: 5.5 inch 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution, Super LCD 4 with curved-edge Gorilla Glass 5
  • Operating system: Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Water and dust resistant: IP57
  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB internal with microSD expansion memory cards for up to 2 TB
  • Cameras: 16MP rear camera and 8MP front camera
  • Sound: HTC BoomSound Adaptive Audio earphones
  • Battery: 3,200 mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 fast charging
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0 Type-C

The top 3 takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. HTC partnered with Sprint to produce the Bolt, which debuted on Nov. 11, 2016.
  2. The Bolt provides up to 250 mbps cellular data speed when using Sprint's superfast network where available.
  3. The phone has no headphone jack and uses HTC BoomSound Adaptive Audio earphones.

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