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(Pocket-lint) - HTC's phone division isn't doing too well at the moment - it sold a huge chunk of talent to Google and has now resorted to producing phones via third-party manufacturers

HTC was there at the beginning, producing some of the first Android handsets, the first Nexus handset, and launching the first handset that really added refinement to Google's new mobile operating system.

It's a company that's known for two things: design and its Sense user interface that is layered over the top of Android. The company hit it big, moving from making phones for other people into a global mobile brand. 

That meteoric rise was followed by fall, bringing us to today's position where HTC stands as a warning to ambitious rising stars: the tide can turn quickly and when it does, the fall will be a hard one.

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But along the way, HTC has delivered some outstanding handsets. Let's check them out!

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HTC Magic

Having made the first Android handset in 2008 - the T-Mobile G1 - it wasn't until the HTC Magic appeared in 2009 that HTC had its logo on the back. It took second place to Vodafone on the front and "with Google" on the back, but this is where HTC's identity as a power in Android really started.

The HTC Magic launched on Android 1.5 Cupcake, while many of us were still trying to get to grips with the sweet treat names, and saw its unveiling at Mobile World Congress 2009. It offered a 3.2-inch display and had a 3.2-megapixel camera. Many of its rival devices weren't smartphones and those that were mostly offered physical keyboards.

It was a raw Android experience, a slightly bumpy introduction to a full touch world for the Google OS.

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HTC Hero

With the Magic out in the wild, HTC made its big move, launching the most significant handset for both HTC and Android. The HTC Hero took the raw Android experience and added HTC Sense over the top. HTC Sense was loosely derived from much of the work that HTC had been putting into its Windows Phone experience, but in Android it found a natural home.

Sense introduced things like customisation and personality, adding polish to Android that was missing from an OS that still felt rough and experimental. The HTC Hero also reinforced HTC's passion for design, with a pronounced chin and tactile back, resulting in a lovely handset.

The Hero was essentially just a repackaged HTC Magic, but bumped the camera to 5-megapixels. The HTC Hero launched in London in a fashion that revealed that HTC knew how to have fun. 

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Google Nexus One

With the calendar rolling forward to 2010, Google made a significant move: it launched the Nexus programme. The Nexus One was built by HTC and it saw Google creating a handset to run on stock Android where all other manufacturers were skinning its operating system.

HTC managed to keep its logo on the back however, and there was a lot of HTC design in the Nexus One. The trackball was lifted from the Hero and the design shows hallmarks of HTC phones that followed, particularly the metal band reaching around the rear, reflected later in the Sensation.

The Nexus One launched on Android 2.1 Eclair and had a 3.7-inch display, and featured capacitive controls rather than physical buttons for navigation. There was a 5-megapixel camera and it came with a microSD card slot.

The Nexus One caught the eye of Philip K Dick's estate who claimed the name infringed on its intellectual property, while Apple also took HTC to court over the design. Something of a hot potato, but important both for HTC and Android.

HTC worked with Google again on the Nexus 9 tablet, but the Nexus One remains HTC's only Nexus smartphone. Fittingly, it was followed by the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, as Samsung began its mighty Android rise. 

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HTC Desire

While HTC was enjoying the Nexus limelight, it trumped the Google phone with the launch of the HTC Desire. This swapped the trackball for an optical system instead, leading to a sleeker phone. 

The HTC Desire was the flagship at launch, but also saw HTC fragmenting its smartphones into many different lines and models. It was launched alongside the HTC Legend (and next in our gallery), but there was already a hint that HTC was launching too many phones.

Arriving with Android 2.1 Eclair with Sense over the top, the HTC Desire offered power and refinement, with a 3.7-inch display and 5-megapixel camera. It borrowed from the Nexus One design in some areas, but returned to physical navigation keys underneath the display.

The HTC Desire HD followed later in the year, with a larger 4.3-inch display, as well as the Desire Z, which offered a slide-out physical keyboard. The Desire name still survives today as a mid-range category of devices.

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