Yesterday, we heard that yet another (unconfirmed) HTC Thunderbolt "release date" was a big dud, but today, we have some even more disappointing news for eager LTE customers: Verizon chief technology officer Tony Melone said that customers will have 4G phones in their hands "by the end of the second quarter." Yes, that would mean by the end of June - probably not anytime soon. While Melone intended to highlight their pursuit of excellence in this interview, I think most of us can already hear the collective groan from Verizon customers who have been anticipating the upcoming HTC Thunderbolt.

This from Melone:

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. I think what we’re facing is what you would expect, and that is a new technology, you are working through issues. And we anticipated that, and we are pleased at how we are working through 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.

When asked about the rumors that horrendous battery life was the reason for the long delay of the phone's release, Melone danced around the question with expertise that a politician would envy:

I would say all the issues are being worked. I’m not sure I would say there are any key issues. Again, battery life has always been a topic of folks, no different than it was with 3G. The OEMs and ourselves, between the network and the device, we’ll optimize it and provide a battery experience that we believe will be acceptable to consumers.

While we are confident that Verizon will deliver a quality product when it arrives, it appears that they are aware of the growing angst among some of their customers and are trying to put out the flames with some spin. All of the other major US carriers have released 4G-capable phones, and Verizon is noticeably lagging behind.

Would you rather see Verizon release an imperfect LTE phone and perhaps patch it with updates, or are you content with waiting? ...Or have you jumped ship and gotten yourself an EVO or Inspire? Let us know in the comments.

Source: ZDNET via Android and Me, Droid Life