The HTC Bolt runs Android 7.0 with HTC's Sense software on top of it. HTC has been talking about cutting back on redundant software by discontinuing its own apps like HTC Internet or HTC's Sense gallery in favor of Google's offerings. However, the amount of pre-installed bloatware on the Bolt is no joke. There are even shortcuts on the home screen that don't have a corresponding app, these are shortcuts to more bloat.
More apps install themselves automatically as you set up the Bolt, and you can't stop it from finishing. The best you can do is trim the fat by uninstalling unwanted apps like:
There was even a popup that asked us to choose four more 'free' apps.
Once that's out of the way, the UI is similar to the HTC 10's Sense UI on Android Marshmallow. Nougat brings the new quick settings panel with the first six toggles that always show up when viewing notifications. The update also brought improved battery life with the refined Doze feature, a proper Night mode for reducing eye fatigue, and Android's split-screen feature. You access split-screen by pressing and holding the app-switcher key.
Blinkfeed is also here. Just swipe right from the left-most home screen.
Wallpapers and themes are here as well, you can find their menus by tapping and holding an empty area on the home screen.
Other things worth mentioning: The default SMS app is Google's Messenger and the phone's default keyboard is TouchPal for HTC, just like the HTC 10.
The HTC Bolt seems like a great phone: sturdy design, IP57 water resistance, great camera, fast LTE speeds, and endorsed by the fastest man in the world.
But as things stand, it is also a phone of many contradictions. It certainly could match a demographic of people who loved the HTC 10, but wished it had a larger screen but then, HTC made it Sprint exclusive instead of launching it on several carriers or even commitment-free.
The Bolt has full water resistance, which is a welcome upgrade over what the HTC 10 has, but then, the Snapdragon 810 they've chosen to use is not only last year's chipset but it would also go down in history as Qualcomm's least successful flagship silicone.
The HTC Bolt simply lacks the spec requirements for a 2016 flagship, so perhaps they are not even trying to pass it as a flagship. If the HTC Bolt was released for last year's holiday season along, it could have done quite well.
Our initial impressions of the camera are good, but we haven't tested low-light performance on it, so we'll reserve our final judgment on the image quality until then (there's also the lack of video stabilization in 1080p non-Hi-Res audio mode). But with the Bolt's outdated CPU and gobs of pre-loaded bloatware, this HTC-Sprint exclusive phone may have a hard time luring in customers from other carriers, especially with a price of $599.