Less is more in the new Android phone from HTC: Magic drops the keyboard.
Magic is HTC's second Google phone outing, running the open source
Android operating system rather than Windows Mobile, which is found on most other
HTC phones. The Magic follows on from the world's first Android phone, the
HTC Dream (also dubbed the T-Mobile G1).
The Magic, also known
as the G2, lacks the slide out QWERTY keyboard of the original Dream, instead featuring an onscreen virtual keyboard, courtesy of the
pre-installed Android 1.5 "Cupcake" software update. The virtual
keyboard is one of the best we've used on a smartphone and is certainly
on par with the iPhone.
Hold the Magic in your hand and you're
immediately impressed by the responsiveness of both the touchscreen and
the trackball compared to most other smartphones. The menus are also
responsive thanks to the lack of fancy eye candy.
As for the
onscreen keyboard, the Magic's virtual keys are roughly the same size
as those on the iPhone but there's less spacing between them - due to
the fact the Magic features a 3.2 inch touchscreen display compared to
3.5 inches on Apple's wunderphone (both offering 320x480 resolution).
Thankfully, as with the iPhone, you're assisted by excellent auto
correction which allows you to type quite quickly on the Magic without
worrying too much about hitting the correct key (unlike phones such as
the LG Arena which force you to stop and accept every correction). A
slight vibration offers physical feedback as you press each virtual key.
the keyboard gives the Magic a slim and attractive look compared to the
The sleek Magic would be equally at home in a boardroom
or a cafe, being 7 mm narrower than the iPhone and weighing 17g less, which helps it sit better in your hand.
Under your thumb is a
Blackberry-esque trackball, as with the Dream, but the Magic adds a
dedicated search button to sit amongst the Call, End, Back, Home and
Menu buttons. The search button generally calls up a Google search box,
but also searches within applications such as contacts, email, Google
Maps and Android Market.
You'll still find volume buttons on the left
edge of the phone, but the dedicated camera button on the right has
been lost in favour of pressing the trackball in order to capture a
shot - which is still preferable to tapping the screen.
Magic's onscreen keyboard makes it much more user-friendly than the
Dream, because you no longer have to go through the motions of turning
the phone and sliding out the keyboard every time you want to enter the
tiniest bit of text. The virtual keyboard will also switch to landscape
mode if you turn the phone on its side. Of course the 1.5 "Cupcake"
update is coming to the Dream as well, which will then offer the best
of both worlds -- except for its chunky form factor.
Keyboard aside, the Magic's hardware specs are
almost identical to the Dream. You've got the same processor, the same
screen and the same 3.2 megapixel auto-focus camera. You need to remove
the back of the phone to get at the microSD card slot, but thankfully
it's not underneath the battery. HTC has still stuck with its lame USB audio out rather than a 3.5mm audio jack, which means you're forced USB-to-headphone adaptor. At the Australian HTC Magic launch, journalists were assured that
a 3.5mm jack is coming on future devices.
When it comes to
connectivity, the Magic boasts 802.11b/g wifi, Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR and
GPS for using with applications such as Google Maps. Unfortunately the
Magic still only offers 7.2 Mbps HSDPA on the 900 and 2100 MHz bands -
which is acceptable considering it's available from Vodafone and Three, but
this is useless for Telstra's 850MHz network. If you switch to
Telstra, you'll be stuck on 100 kbps-ish 2G EDGE speeds, and you won't benefit from the vast coverage of Next G. On the other hand, if you switch to Optus in the future, you'll get their expanded regional 3G reception, which is claimed to cover 97% of the Australian population now.
Criticism over the Dream's poor battery life has been addressed by
boosting the Magic's battery capacity by almost 20 percent to 1340 mAh, and the
Cupcake software update also slurps less power, thus offering improved battery life.
Just to confuse things, there are slight differences between the
Magic with Google" available from Vodafone and the "HTC Magic"
available from Three. Only the the Vodafone model is designed to receive
over-the-air software updates, while the Three model must be updated via a
PC. Meanwhile the Three model features more RAM (288MB compared to 192MB)
and A2DP Bluetooth stereo, as well as a pre-installed Exchange email
client and smart dialler. Such applications can be added to the
Vodafone model via the Android Market apps store. Access to an apps
store means you can customise the phone to meet your needs.
combination of Android 1.5, Android Market and the Magic's large,
touchscreen offers a worthy successor to the Dream. It also offers a
tempting alternative for those who crave the iPhone's useability but are
put off by Apple's heavy-handed restrictions on features.