REVIEW: HTC Velocity 4G

The Velocity 4G is like a speedway hot rod - smoking 4G data transfer rates are addictive, but the battery charge depletes quickly and you could be in for bill shock.

The HTC Velocity 4G launched last week by Telstra is the first LTE/4G mobile phone available in Australia. Until now the only device able to use Telstra’s new mobile network has been a 4G USB laptop modem that we tested in late 2011.

When used in Telstra 4G coverage areas the new HTC Velocity 4G smartphone promises theoretical peak speeds of 2-40Mbps down & 1-10Mbps up, with some important caveats.

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Besides it’s flagship 4G speed the HTC Velocity 4G features a 4.5” 540x960 screen, speedy 1.5 GHz dual core CPU, 16GB storage onboard expandable with 32GB microSD, 8MP/1.3MP back/front cameras, HD voice support and swappable battery.

Telstra plans to release four 4G phones this year and one tablet so there will not be much 4G mobile handset choice for customers. It is not known whether one of these four phones will be a 4G iPhone.

Optus isn’t launching its 4G network until Q2 2012 and Vodafone has not announced a date yet for its launch.

We tested the Velocity 4G in the Sydney CBD 4G coverage area as well as a 3G coverage area in Sydney’s western suburbs. Potential buyers should be aware of issues that affect all first generation 4G phones – short battery life and patchy coverage.

The Velocity 4G is like a speedway hot rod in that the payoff for smoking 4G data transfer rates means the battery charge depletes very quickly, as soon as 5 hours if used a lot.

The 4.5” screen also uses up the battery faster than a smaller phone so it’s a shame that HTC has equipped the Velocity 4G with an undersized 1620mAh capacity battery as a “fuel tank”.

Telstra 4G coverage is available within 5km of the GPO in each of the 8 capital cities as well as about 80 regional towns and cities.

As well as being Australia’s first 4G phone the Velocity 4G’s less well known capability is that it’s the first Australian phone that’s capable of dual channel (double the standard) 3G data transfer speed when outside 4G zones.

Telstra’s new 4G data network currently has far fewer customers using it than their 3G network so it’s like flying along an empty motorway at 110km/hr. We will judge how it handles a heavier load of users as more customers start using 4G during 2012.

So is the HTC Velocity 4G worth purchasing? This phone can definitely help your mobile workers increase their productivity if they spend a significant amount of time conducting business activities within 4G coverage areas and keep a second charged battery with them.

For business customers the key selling point in our eyes is the huge time saving speed difference (up to 10 times faster in our tests) between 4G and 3G when uploading large files, such as reports or presentations, to email or cloud storage.

Hopefully Telstra’s tendency to take quite some time to test updates is given a kick along so the Velocity 4G’s Android 2.3.7 phone operating system will be updated to Android 4.0 well before the end of Q1 2012.

The HTC Velocity 4G is initially available outright for $876 or to individual customers for free on a $79 plan and business customers on a $90 plan. Both require 24 month contracts that include 2GB of data/month. Extra supplementary data packs can be purchased if required.

It is highly advisable to keep a close eye on how quickly this 2GB gets used as faster 3G/4G speeds mean the amount of data transfers included in your plan will get used in much less time than before. With 4G speeds it’s easy to burn through several 100MB of downloads in the blink of an eye.

Be careful to avoid bill shock because Telstra's business mobile plans do not throttle/shape data usage after it goes over the included quota. Nor is there an opt-in for throttling/shaping - a Telstra spokesperson told us “business doesn’t want to be slowed down”.

Telstra's data usage meter theoretically lags one hour behind reality but call centre staff told us it’s best to assume the figure is 12 hours behind. They suggested customers SMS the word “use” (without quotes) to the number 176 for free to receive an instant SMS back with current data usage.

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