HTC ThunderBolt Release: More Confusion, Months Away?

The HTC ThunderBolt release saga continues to confound us. We’ve written so many stories on this now and know how many of our readers are frustrated and annoyed about the ongoing delays. Now we have heard that contrary to most recent rumors about March 16 being the release date, (to avoid the release of the iPad 2 on March 11), the handset may in fact be months away from release.

We recently wrote a release delay roundup to give people the background to this story and even since then have seen yet more promotions, a plea from Verizon for patience, the news that in fact the phone was ready to go and then one lucky guy’s hands-on experience. News today though seems to imply that the release could still be months away, yet at the same time we hear that a Verizon flyer has been seen with the HTC ThunderBolt clearly marked as “Now Available.” Confused? We are!

Kellex from Droid-Life brings us the news of the Verizon Flyer being distributed to customer’s homes, with the ThunderBolt 4G phone showing as available. Many of the rumors of release so far had emanated from Best Buy leaked screenshots and ads but this one is from Verizon, and if nothing else clearly shows that the Big Red were expecting it to be available by now.

It’s fair to say that Verizon has never actually confirmed a release date and so some have asked how can it be late when a date has never been given. The usual pattern though is that tech sites gain access to various leaks and come up with a pretty good idea of a date, but this time around that just hasn’t worked. Also the fact that ads have now been released and pulled several times hasn’t helped and has just added to the confusion, and now it just all appears to many customers like one big tease.

The confusion has now been confounded further by news that Verizon’s CTO, Tony Melone, has spoken to investors and when asked why LTE phones had not arrive yet, stressed that 4G LTE phones will be launched on Verizon before the second half of 2011. Melone said, “I guess our expectations change, but we had said first half of this year at CES, quite frankly, we think that exceeded people’s expectations. A year ago, people didn’t believe that there would be LTE smartphones in 2011. First half of the year is what we promised, first half of the year is still on track. So we don’t believe there are any new or surprising issues…And as I said, you are going to see LTE smartphones on the network as promised, before the first half — before the second half of the year, by the end of the second quarter.” This news comes to us from Larry Dignan over on ZDNet. If you look at what Melone says then, it look possible that the ThunderBolt’s release could still be months away, possibly as far away as June in fact.

Certainly we feel that consumer’s can’t be blamed for becoming increasingly upset with the way this situation has been handled and know from previous comments that some have been put off buying this handset at all, which is a shame for such a promising device that so many were looking forward to. We shall, of course, continue to keep you updated when we hear more. What are your thoughts on the ThunderBolt release saga? Let us know with your comments.