When Verizon launched the HTC ThunderBolt, I was first in line at my local corporate store. Okay, I may have been the only person in line. And I was the only customer the representatives didn’t want to help. I wasn’t there to upgrade a line, just to purchase new hardware at retail value. After some convincing, I walked out less roughly $670 and one of the first consumers in the nation to put Verizon’s brand new LTE network to the test.

My mind was immediately blown at how fast the speeds were. I had been used to only 3G speeds on Verizon, where speed tests would max out around 3Mbps down and 0.5Mbps up … on a very unlikely good day. Twitter feeds would take 10 seconds or more to refresh, applications would take minutes to download, and streaming HD videos was like pulling teeth.

With the ThunderBolt and LTE, everything changed. Between logging into my Google account just before walking out of the store and clicking the seat belt in my car, the application restore process had finished by the time I left the parking lot – no more than five minutes after purchasing the phone.

It was like being on an expressway in a lane to yourself while everyone else was stuck in a traffic jam.

The mind-blowing uplink speeds on the HTC ThunderBolt turned out to be a fluke.

I remember heading to class after picking up the phone and testing out some speeds in Uptown Charlotte. Hitting between six and 8Mbps on a downlink, I couldn’t be more happy. And the uplink was unbelievable – between 30 and 87Mbps. Unfortunately, I later learned that the Speedtest.net application had not been updated with support for LTE speeds, and the uplink tests were a fluke.

I’ve been using LTE off and on for over two years now, and my perspective has completely changed.

Having to revert to anything slower than HSPA+ is a headache waiting to happen. For several of the reviews I’ve done for Pocketnow, I’ve had to live with EDGE and 3G speeds for weeks at a time. It makes you appreciate faster speeds, as does working with international devices all the time.

Currently, I do not own a smartphone capable of LTE speeds on AT&T. I have a global Galaxy Note II, a Nexus 4, a global Galaxy S III, and a host of old phones that probably don’t work anymore. I do, however, have a couple devices with Verizon LTE: the iPad mini and iPhone 5. And when I need to expedite a download or just have a hankering for some extra speed, I turn to my LTE devices.

Believe me, life with LTE is simply sweeter. Wait times are practically nonexistent, HD video streaming is great, and the overall experience is more in tune with high caliber smartphones that come with multiple cores and high clock speeds.

To date, I’ve probably ran a few thousand network speed tests from my personal devices, review units and friends’ devices. And I’ve seen LTE-capable smartphones with both great and poor speeds.

There’s nothing worse than opening up the Speedtest app and pressing the Begin Test button to only see your phone clock a few megabits higher than old 3G speeds. The worst LTE speeds I’ve seen have been in the ballpark of 4Mbps down and 6Mbps up on the fringe of Verizon’s LTE network reach.

Some of the fastest LTE speeds I’ve ever seen were clocked with the HTC First.

Luckily, some of the best speeds have put my home Internet connection to shame.

You would imagine some of the most recent flagships would be the phones delivering some of the breakneck speeds, right? Wrong. Michael’s run with various Galaxy S 4 models averaged about 10Mbps down and 4 to 5Mbps up in Boston. His time with the Sprint HTC One yielded an average of 8.92Mbps down and 5.35Mbps up. And my average speeds with the AT&T Galaxy S 4 in the Charlotte metro area were 14.17Mbps down and 8.8Mbps up.

None of those speeds were bad, so to speak, but they were hardly the fastest I’ve ever seen. In fact, they were mediocre, at best. The highest average LTE throughput I’ve clocked in a phone to date was with the HTC First, believe it or not. The average downlink was 38.54Mbps and the uplink average was 16.64Mbps. And the max speeds hit an impressive 56.63Mbps down and 20.74Mbps up.

That’s the fastest downlink I’ve clocked … ever, with any device (Yeah, yeah, I don’t want to hear about your 100Mb connection, or any of you with Google Fiber.) But the fastest uplink I’ve seen to date exceeded 40Mbps, which was done with the AT&T Galaxy Note II, if my memory hasn’t failed me.

Tell me, readers. What are the fastest speeds you’ve ever clocked with your smartphone? Do they compare with the HTC First? Blow it out of the water? Or, like many, are your LTE speeds shy of the ideal speed test?

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