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HTC Bolt review

The HTC Bolt is a Sprint exclusive that sells for $600, and it’s simply too much for the phone. Part of its high price comes from its 5.5-inch screen size and some comes from its faster speeds on Sprint’s LTE Plus network. But at the heart of it, HTC can do better and so can you.

On paper, the Bolt looks pretty good. It’s current with Android Nougat 7.0, the camera takes raw photos if you want them and it has a pro mode if you wanna get fancy. Enhanced audio sounds great out of the included earbuds, and you can add a new profile if you use a different set of headphones. The Bolt is also water-resistant (IP57) and upload speeds are on fire. Download speeds in my area, San Francisco, ranged from the lower end of average to pretty darn fast, but that will fluctuate depending on where you live.

But there are things you should be wary of if you’re thinking about getting this phone. Like its design. It feels like an angular shingle: flat, wide and pokey. But you can always buy a case, so there’s that. The metal back heats up when the phone charges or the processor works hard — a lot of phones do this, I should add.

HTC’s Bolt: Shocking? Maybe not

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The cameras take decent photos that you’ll be able to use anywhere and everywhere, but there is a noticeable blue cast to some of them; others came out dark and some selfies have a gray sheen. HTC got rid of the awesome set of audio speakers that once upon a time graced the top and bottom of the phone face in favor of a static home button/fingerprint reader, and I miss that booming, party-starting bass.

Typing also vexed me; I made a lot of mistakes on the keyboard. The quick-charging technology isn’t the fastest it could be; and the processor — while still fast — isn’t the modern one everyone else is using on their flagship phones. It’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 rather than the 821 in the Google Pixel, and that shows in diagnostic tests. In real life, I didn’t notice lag.

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I really like the camera controls. The swipe-down menu makes picking modes super convenient.Josh Miller/CNET

One other thing to note is that HTC is following the iPhone 7-led trend of ripping out the audio jack and giving you headphones with a USB-C attachment instead. That means you won’t be able to charge your phone while also listening to a podcast, and it means you won’t be able to use your favorite non-USB-C headphones without an adapter — only HTC’s own adapter will work and you can’t buy that until December. If you use wireless headphones anyway, you probably won’t care.

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