The Thunderbolt ships with Android 2.2 (Froyo) installed. At the time of this writing, no official release date for an update to Android 2.3, otherwise known as Gingerbread, had been announced, though we expect the phone to receive the update at some point. In addition to Android 2.2, HTC includes its own custom user interface known as HTC Sense.
HTC Sense provides a number of handy features, such as the ability to flip the phone over while it's ringing to silence it. Another cool feature of HTC Sense is the seven-screen 'Leap' thumbnail view, which makes is easy to switch from one of the home screens to another very quickly and easily. You can access the thumbnail view by pressing the Home button twice. If you press and hold the Home button, you'll see a list of eight most recently used applications. You can also view a list of recent applications by pulling down the notification bar.
There are a number of apps and links to apps preloaded on the Thunderbolt including Bitbop, Blockbuster, Friend Stream, Kindle, Lets Golf 2, Rhapsody, Rock Band, Slacker, and more. Of course, there are also a few Verizon Wireless apps such as V CAST Apps, V CAST Media, and VZ Navigator.
Bitbop is a subscription service that provides access to TV shows directly on the phone. Friend Stream consolidates status updates and other information from your various social networks into a single place. There's also an FM radio tuner and corresponding app on the phone, though you'll need a headset to use it. Lets Golf 2 is a trial version of the game. The Rock Band icon from the app screen will lead you to a download for the trial version of Rock Band.
The onscreen keyboard that comes with the Thunderbolt does the job, but we still prefer some of the third-party keyboards that are available such as SWYPE or SwiftKey.
The Thunderbolt offers a Mobile Hotspot feature, which will let you share your 4G connection with up to eight Wi-Fi enabled devices. The service is free through May 15. After that, the Mobile Hotspot service will cost you $20 for 2 GB of data per month.