Is a LTE smartphone without working WiFi hotspot worth keeping?

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?
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

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.

Editorial standards