Often referred to on the Internet as the G2, HTC has teamed up with Vodafone in the UK to announce the HTC Magic, an Android-based handset that ditches the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. But has this move worked? Is this the must-have handset to look forward to? Pocket-lint was at the global launch in Barcelona to have a First Look.

The crux of the Magic is the large 3.2-inch QVGA touchscreen that dominates the design. I say dominates as it does a good job of being the main focus of the phone, however there are still shortcut buttons beneath it before you get to the "chin", supposedly a design statement and nothing more.

Those buttons, which are being re-worked and improved as HTC aren't happy with the performance, will offer shortcuts to things like home, menu, back, hang-up and call and search, all centred around a scroll ball interface similar to that found on the BlackBerry Bold, Curve and Pearl. We saw two variants of the device at the launch with different button configurations: it's clear there is still work to be done.

Elsewhere on the outside there is a 3.2-megapixel camera on the back, without flash, and you'll have to remove the casing to reveal the microSD card slot inside. For music fans there is no 3.5mm headphone jack, with HTC instead opting, as with previous devices, for connection via a dedicated plug.

Inside and the tech specs continue with HSDPA and Wi-Fi, GPS so you can use Google Maps, and an accelerometer. On the storage front it will have 512MB of ROM, 192MB of RAM and a microSD card slot. It will be powered by a Qualcomm MSM7210a, 528MHz processor.

With a considerably thinner design (about half the thickness of the T-Mobile G1) the phone has to rely on the onscreen keyboard. Users will be able to view the QWERTY keyboard either landscape or portrait, however you won't be able to opt for a 20-key keypad like the BlackBerry Storm. Pressing a key pops-up the character so you can see what you are pressing, very much like the iPhone. In our brief go with the keyboard we found that the smaller screen made for cramped conditions: this isn't going to be the device to use if you are hoping to do a lot of typing.

Aside from the onscreen keyboard, there is little change to the Android interface over the G1: it is still clean, fast and easy to use. It certainly has potential, but compared to the iPhone, Windows 6.5, WebOS, Symbian S60, BlackBerry (damn there are so many) it still looks very young in its development.

Price when reviewed:

First Impressions

The HTC Magic, or "G2", will be available in the UK, Spain, France and Germany exclusively on Vodafone and from multiple operators in Italy in April. The handset, which will sit alongside the BlackBerry Storm, is yet another alternative to the iPhone, giving those keen to sign-up to the Android OS a chance to have a handset that isn't the size of a brick in their pocket.

Compared to the first HTC G1 outing, from what we've seen with multiple plays over the 3 days of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the launch, a photo session and then a video session, it's a vast improvement. It's thinner, it now got an onscreen keyboard, but it still keeps most of the features like the connectivity.

It's not all praise, however. We aren't sure about the gloss finish, it felt very cheap compared to the metal casings of so many of its competitors; there isn't a flash meaning you're probably not going to get great images in a dark and dingy pub with your mates; no dedicated 3.5mm jack; and that onscreen keyboard looks fiddly in portrait mode.

This is only the second commercially available Android handset out there, and therefore still very early days, so the hope is that the best is yet to come. We got the impression from talking to other journalists we quizzed at MWC that it doesn’t have the same anticipation as the newly announced Palm Pre.

A full review might, however, change our minds. The verdict is still out...