HTC Magic

So the G2, or HTC Magic as it is now called, has landed in the UK on Vodafone rather than T-Mobile. But does it bring with it the dawning of a new operating system and a must have phone? We got dialling to find out.

Considerably slimmer than the G1 with its slide-out keyboard, the HTC Magic is a thin, light and glossy affair. The sliding keyboard has gone, the bulky design refined and that “chin” - supposedly the trademark of the handsets - reduced but still kept.

For those interested it is 113 x 55.56 x 13.65mm (4.45 x 2.19 x 0.54in) and weights 116g with battery - slightly lighter than that other smartphone you are probably thinking of.

The 3.2-inch haptic enabled HVGA touchscreen dominates the front of the unit with an array of buttons underneath for those not too sure. Since its first appearance at Mobile World Congress in February, the button layout has been changed slightly. You now get a home, menu, back and search buttons, alongside a call, hang up/power and a trackball that acts and responds just like the pearl found on a BlackBerry. Other buttons - yes there are more - include the volume controls on the side.

The 3.2-megapixel camera is hidden around the back behind the casing, the lens peeping through a hole and the lack of flash will no doubt disappoint those who like to take pictures in the pub rather than a bright sunny day outside. The camera application is responsive using a combination of on-screen and button controls, but the camera shouldn’t be seen as one of the phone's key assets.

Likewise music fans will find themselves moaning about the lack of a 3.5mm jack to plug in their headphones. Instead you’ll have to use the rather disappointing offering in the box. While Sony Ericsson don’t offer a 3.5mm jack either, at least they offer you a dongle: here you get nothing.

Still at least you get a microSD card slot on which to store your pictures and music on aside from the 512MB of internal memory. The card isn’t hot swappable (you have to remove the case) however you can access it without having to remove the battery.

Get inside and the tech specs read how you would expect them to: HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS meaning this is a fully-fledged smartphone. For those craving more detail it is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7200A 528MHz chip with 288MB of RAM which, considering it runs Android rather than Windows Mobile or the BlackBerry OS, means it’s pretty nippy. We’ve yet to see any hesitation in its operation, No spinning beachballs, no clocks that are constantly turning, something we can’t say for our much loved BlackBerry Storm or BlackBerry Bold.

So that’s the specs, what about the OS? Well as we’ve already said it runs the Google/Open Handset Alliance operating system Android. It’s open source, it’s nippy, it’s quirky, it’s fun. This might sound strange but it doesn’t have the matureness of the BlackBerry or iPhone OS giving it a fairly fresh feel.

The touchscreen is incredibly responsive, while keeping the trackball means those not ready to venture into touching the screen don’t have to. We found that coming from a BlackBerry we automatically used the trackball for navigating menus, when in reality all we had to do was touch the screen.

One of the more exciting elements for Android users is the promise of the "cupcake" update. Here you get a host of new features not previously seen like an on-screen keyboard, Google Street View in Google Maps, cut and paste functionality in the browser, stereo Bluetooth support so you can wear one of those wrap around headsets, video recording mode for the camera, plus numerous bug fixes.

As for the on-screen keyboard, it’s an iPhone style approach – i.e., jabbing with your fingers and the smaller screen size does mean you’ve got to be precise. Like the iPhone, keeping your finger on the character brings up a larger character icon so you can see what you are doing and like the iPhone keeping your finger on the screen is a surefire way to make less mistakes.

Learning perhaps from the mistakes of the first two software versions of the iPhone, a landscape keyboard option is included and automatically sets when you rotate the phone horizontally thanks to the built-in accelerometer.

Whether you use the keyboard horizontally or vertically a series of suggestions appears below the text and above the keyboard allowing you to quickly choose longer words without typing in the whole thing and all in all it's all fairly pleasant, but don’t expect to use your thumbs. We can’t say this enough, this isn’t a two thumb typing device whatever keyboard you use.

Verdict

The HTC Magic is a very enjoyable and fun handset to use. It’s quick, nimble and has the potential to be so much more thanks to the addition of Market – Android's app store.

In fact, apart from a rather gloss white plastic design that looks like it is unlikely to last your contract and the lack of a 3.5mm jack this handset leaves you not wanting much.

So should you run out and buy it? G1 fans fed up with the bulky lump will love the slim design, the new OS updates and the fact, well, that they can finally get it in a pocket.

As for BlackBerry users, the Gmail integration makes this a good alternative and a chance to ditch the email device you’ve probably become addicted to. But you would be fooling yourself if you believe that you’ll get the same level of email offering. Gmail is good, but it’s not that good, yet.

Finally, and it goes without saying, how does it compare to the iPhone? Well your contract in the UK won’t have to be as long or as expensive, but then no matter how hard I’ve tried I can’t help feeling that the HTC Magic is like the iPhone’s little sister (or brother).

A good phone and one that will do well, just don’t expect to feel grown up owning it.



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