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4G sticker shock? New Verizon phone for $250.

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Verizon said Tuesday that its first 4G smartphone, the HTC ThunderBolt, will be available in stores and online starting March 17 for $249.99 with a two-year contract.

It was a long awaited announcement, as the ThunderBolt will be the first phone to take advantage of Verizon's 4G LTE network -- which offers download speeds of 5 to 12Mbps and upload speeds of 2 to 5Mbps.

But the ThunderBolt's $250 price point is higher than most other smartphones, which typically debut at $199 -- including the new Verizon iPhone.

The ThunderBolt runs on Google's Android 2.2 and is powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm (QCOM, Fortune 500). It features two cameras, a kickstand for media viewing, 8GB of onboard memory and a pre-installed 32GB microSD card.

The phone can be used as a mobile hotspot to share Internet connectivity with up to eight Wi-Fi devices. Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) will include hotspot service for free through May 15. After that date, the service can be activated for $20 for 2GB of data per month.

Calling plans start at $39.99 per month, and unlimited 4G data plans cost $29.99 per month.

The ThunderBolt supports Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) mobile services including Gmail and YouTube, and it features 4G-optimized apps including EA's (ERTS, Fortune 500) Rock Band, Gameloft's Let's Golf, Tunewiki, and Bitbop.

Earlier this month, a comScore report showed the Android operating system became No. 1 in terms of market share in January, beating out Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry for the first time. Android passed Apple's iOS in November, according to comScore.

Meanwhile, it's unclear how successful the Verizon iPhone has been as of yet. It went on sale last month, but Verizon has stayed mum on sales figures. A Verizon spokesman has said the company won't release those figures until its corporate earnings report. To top of page

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