Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

Summary: The ThunderBolt is the first LTE smartphone to hit the market, but I cannot get the WiFi hotspot to work consistently so this aspect is a complete failure. Are there widespread issues with this and if so, what is the solution?

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As I stated in my ThunderBolt first impressions article one of the primary reasons I decided to stick with this device was the ability to tether it via LTE. I figured I would use it extensively until 15 May, which is the date when the Verizon free tethering option reportedly ends. You generally get what you pay for and this free tethering offer has been a complete failure for me on the ThunderBolt (Engadget also mentioned this failure a month ago) and I have to admit I am starting to regret this purchase and have come up with a few options that I am considering to address the problem.

I used the WiFi hotspot feature for four days or so before I had travel to Alaska where I was in a 3G only area and during that four days tethering seemed to work fine. I then returned from my business trip and tried using the WiFi hotspot to record a couple of MobileTechRoundup podcasts via my MacBook Pro. The ThunderBolt kept dropping the network, in an area where I have very strong 3G and LTE coverage, and giving me no data connection errors. I tried resetting the ThunderBolt and even switching to 3G only mode, but that hasn't solved the problem. I did a bit of research and read in some other reviews and in the various Android forums, such as Android Central, that this problem seems to be affecting quite a few people with the ThunderBolt and no solution has yet been released.

I am now past my return period so I am stuck with the ThunderBolt and failed hotspot functionality. The ThunderBolt is a great Android device with fast response, nice display, and everything else that goes along with a solid HTC Android smartphone. However, the inability to tether via the fast LTE network when I need it to get work done is unacceptable.

A bit of reading through the vast number of comments reveals this could be related to other factors, but none have been confirmed as the real issue and I am still testing out some theories. I do have security on and have primarily been trying to connect via a 2010 MacBook Pro. I also tried with the PlayBook streaming Slacker Radio and it did lose the connection to the network too.

I figure these are my available options:

  1. Keep the ThunderBolt and forget about WiFi tethering with the hope that Verizon and/or HTC resolves the issue.
  2. Try to get Verizon to take back the ThunderBolt and switch me to a 4G hotspot account. James put together a nice comparison between the two Verizon options.
  3. Cancel my Verizon plan and pay the $350 ETF and then sell the ThunderBolt to someone with no contract necessary. I get solid WiFi tethering with Sprint and T-Mobile so could go to one of them for a device for my tethering needs.
  4. Root the ThunderBolt and install a custom ROM to see if that fixes the problem.

Have any of you ThunderBolt owners had a solid WiFi hotspot experience? What would you do in this situation? I am not pleased at all with the failure in this functionality, but don't know if it is HTC or Verizon to blame here.

Topics: HTC, Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Smartphones, Verizon, Wi-Fi

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30 comments
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  • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

    Root. Tethering options a-plenty.
    Droid101
    • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

      @Droid101 So one has to root (aka jailbreak) an Android device to get something that should be basic functionality? And the Thunderbolt gets a free pass on this from you why?

      Cue the Double Standards.
      athynz
      • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

        @athynz
        Right on.
        Ram U
      • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

        @athynz

        difference i see is that Apple/AT&T didn't allow tethering at all when jailbreaking to get tethering was being recommended. here it is a failure of some kind and rooting the unit may only be a troubleshooting technique.

        granted, it is advertised to work, and so should work without any troubleshooting needed. however, i highly doubt anyone in the Android community is going to recommend criminal charges for rooting a phone whereas Apple did try to say jailbreaking was a criminal offence

        either way, i'm still pissed that Verizon/AT&T think tethering should be a separately chargeable feature, and wonder what will happen to T-Mobile subscribers with free tethering if no gov't agency blocks AT&T's acquisition
        erik.soderquist
      • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

        @athynz You don't need to root it to do it... FFS all you need to do is enable USB debugging and download azilink. But then again if we knew how to use google, we could avoid looking like fools on zdnet ;).
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

        @athynz

        No. One doesn't need to root an ANDROID device. One must root a VERIZON device. It's not complicated. Keep it straight. The Eastern Roman Empire(AT&T) and the Western Roman Empire(Verizon) are both tyrannical regimes. You can exchange Roman and AT&T freely there. As long as you're dealing with them freedom will be hard won and probably involve people occasionally getting crucified. The software is not relevant to that aspect.
        tkejlboom
      • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

        @athynz I also found it laughable that rooting was the first suggestion when all the Fandroids bashed the iPhone for having to be jailbroken to get tethering because AT&T (not Apple) did not allow it.
        non-biased
    • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

      @Droid101 Dude, you don't even need to root it to do it. Azilink bro.
      snoop0x7b
  • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

    I have been having a ton of radio issues with my Thunderbolt. Strange behavior after setting it in airplane mode (unable to connect to the cell or wifi networks after coming out of airplane mode without a hard reboot), similar behavior when coming out of areas with no signal, in some areas where it shows cell connectivity having no data connectivity (mainly in my house), etc. Not sure if this is a hardware of software issue at this time. May looking into rooting it to get to the bottom.
    ploco@...
    • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

      @ploco@...

      Probably software. When you come out of airplane mode, try switching the radio on and off. Try going into testmode dial *#*#info#*#* -> phone info scroll down to turn radio off. Then, switch it back on.
      tkejlboom
  • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

    Mr. Miller:

    I think something was overlooked in your proofing:

    "and I have to admit I am starting to regret this purchase just a few options to resolve the problem."

    This is found at the end of the first paragraph.
    DannyO_0x98
  • Message has been deleted.

    xiaojiekgf
  • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

    I wonder if this is an issue with the hardware or is this an issue with the carrier? Or more to the point the carrier provisioning the Thunderbolt while the WiFi hotspot is free to use?

    I also wonder how many Android fanboys will give this a free pass...
    athynz
    • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

      @athynz
      One definitely comes to mind, Peter Perry. :D. He was touting it like anything.
      Ram U
    • Read the 1st post

      @athynz nt
      wackoae
      • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

        @wackoae

        Oh do share with us how wonderful the 4G tethering experience is with the iPhone on Verizon's network is!

        Android has bugs. Is this phone even running 2.3.3, though? If everyone keeps blaming the devices for poor service from their carriers the carriers are NEVER going to change.
        tkejlboom
      • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

        @tkejlboom [i]Oh do share with us how wonderful the 4G tethering experience is with the iPhone on Verizon's network is![/i]
        Apparently it's just as good as it is on the Thunderbolt and the iPhone doesn't even have 4G ;-)
        non-biased
  • RE: Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

    I would ETF and sell it on ebay without any second thoughts.
    Ram U
  • Does this happen even in strong LTE coverage areas?

    If coverage is strong it should not want to tune away and look for evdo. Then again, these lte chipsets are new and I have already seen 2 different chip makers implement 2 different things with respect to parameters used to control searching for other services.
    otaddy
  • My guess is Verizon

    Same issues here with a Droid X.... It can be very frustrating but luckily I don't use it much (only turn it on when we need it and cancel it shortly after).

    However, it is something that needs to be fixed. Period. End of story.
    itguy08