HTC Magic

Parts of the phone are as the name suggests, magic, but the absence of outstanding multimedia jeopardises the success of this latest Android.


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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Damn you HTC and your product titles that cry out for corny gags! It was bad enough with the HTC Dream, the company's first Android-powered handset, but the Magic is 10 times worse. How are we supposed to review this phone without referring to Harry Potter, Houdini or Siegfried and Roy?

Design

Those interested in the differences between the HTC Dream and the HTC Magic will find the most outstanding changes in its physical design. Gone is the Dream's bulky size, and with it, its full-size QWERTY keyboard. Instead, the Magic makes use of a 3.2-inch HVGA (480x320) touchscreen display with a built-in software keyboard. This omission means the Magic is impressively slimmer, and we also find it to be much sleeker and sexier too. Our review unit is a glossy black number with small silver navigation keys under the screen and a 3-megapixel camera lens on the back.

We really like the size and shape of the Magic; a colleague in the US referred to it as being slim with a chin. The chin is a small, curved lip around the base of the phone, visible from side-on, which really helps to hold the phone comfortably in your palm. This shape appears to assist with single-handed operation, with most common tasks being simple to complete with just one hand, and thanks as well to a jogwheel tucked away beneath the Magic's display.

Android

To discuss more about the physical aspects of the phone, the interface and navigation, is to talk about the latest incarnation of Google's Android. This operating platform is now version 1.5, codenamed "cupcake", and is quite similar to the original version of Android launched with the HTC Dream, with a few tweaks and additions.

Navigation is identical to the previous phone, the touchscreen gestures are intuitive and the Magic responds to these well. From the home screen, dragging a finger left or right will show extra space for customised shortcuts; dragging from the top will draw down the notifications panel, showing new messages and missed calls; and dragging up from the bottom opens the applications window.

One of the major enhancements is the inclusion of an on-screen keyboard, with a landscape mode for when the phone is tipped to the side. At first glance this keyboard may seem too small to use accurately, but what Google has achieved is one of the best predictive text experiences we've come across. We've found the best way to type a message is to type as fast as possible, making sure we strike keys in the vicinity of the correct letter each time and the software does the rest, auto-correcting mistakes with astounding accuracy.

Market

The growing Android Market is also worth a mention in this review. Though its 3500 applications seem small compared to the whopping 35,000 apps of the Apple App Store, we are consistently impressed with the quality on display. Cupcake also adds widget functionality to the Android, so expect to see the Market swell with various widgets for the home screen very soon.

As with the iPhone, most of the software shortcomings of the Magic are redeemable with Android Market downloads. The lack of Microsoft Exchange support, the simplicity of the camera and the absence of Java app support are all addressed by one or several of the apps on the store. Check out our Android starter kit for suggestions about which apps to download first. A little warning though — some of the apps can be a bit buggy, more than we've experienced using the Apple App Store. Become familiar with how to remove apps using the Settings menu so you can ditch those apps that need more work.

Multimedia and the web

To buy an HTC Magic is to have made a tough decision. Do you value internet access over multimedia? If you're looking for a multimedia-capable phone then the Magic isn't for you. It is capable of playing a small selection of media file types; MP4 and 3GP video plus a range of audio including MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and OGG, but it's a long way from seeming like a competent media companion. During our tests, video files all but refused to play — the phone complaining about bitrates and screen sizes without the ability to downscale a file before playback. Music playback is fine, but the Magic lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack and HTC does not include an adapter in the box. Instead you are stuck using the bundled hands-free kit and this is far from ideal. An excellent YouTube app makes up for this somewhat, especially if you love "keyboard cat" videos.

Luckily, the Magic is much better at surfing the web. Its Webkit browser is fantastic, with fast load times, decent navigation and a full desktop-like viewing experience. Cupcake also adds a Google search bar at the top of the home screen, so you are always one-click away from finding an answer to just about any question. Additional pre-installed Google services; Maps, Calendar, GMail and GoogleTalk are all excellent. Internet connections are made by using HSDPA network functionality (900/2100MHz UMTS) or Wi-Fi. We have found the connectivity to be finicky at times, with web-enabled applications struggling to make a connection even while the phone displays 3G connectivity or an established Wi-Fi connection.

Performance

If there's one good reason to buy an Android phone, it's the performance of this platform. Both the Dream and Magic share the same zippy performance, with the transitions from home screen to applications windows and the execution of applications being completely seamless and with almost no visible lagging or stuttering pauses. What impresses us most is the way the phone continues to perform so well with multiple background tasks being performed simultaneously. We downloaded a Microsoft Exchange mail client from the Android Market called RoadSync and ran it in the background alongside numerous other frequently updating processes, like a weather widget, and the Magic continued to chug along without a hiccup.

Battery life was a major concern with the HTC Dream, and while we can't say the Magic significantly improves on this problem, it is better. In our experience, we managed to get through at least a day and a half between charges with push notifications on in the background, or about 12 hours with heavy downloads over Wi-Fi. This should be sufficient for most people in a standard working day.

Overall

We like the Magic, maybe even love it a little bit, but we can't deny being disappointed at the parts of this phone that are missing. The Magic is perfect for young, hip, tech-savvy types for whom the lack of decent multimedia will be a major turn off, especially when compared with the iPhone's excellent iPod capabilities. This wouldn't be such a huge problem if it shipped with an iTunes-like syncing and conversion software, but it doesn't.

Confusingly, the Magic will be released in Australia in two variants; one offered by Vodafone with a couple of consumer-focused additions like geotagging, and the other offered by 3 Mobile with baked in Microsoft ActicSync compatibility. Pricing also differs greatly, with 3 offering a "free" phone for AU$99 and Voda for AU$69. Vodafone also bundles data with the plan while 3 customers will need to add a data plan at an extra cost — a significant consideration for a phone that surfs the web so beautifully.

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karl_eller posted a comment   

I'm looking at getting one of these on the Vodafone network. Does anyone know if I'll be able to upgrade Android to the latest version (2.0 or 2.1, or whatever it is)? Is it something the user can do, or is it an update that'll have to be pushed out by Vodafone?

 

mog posted a reply   

i have one of these and it recently got updated by vodafone over the air to 2.2.1 which is one of the newest software releases for google. hope this helps

Jake
9
Rating
 

Jake posted a review   

The Good:Android, touch screen, gmail/contacts/calendar integration

The Bad:camera, lack of Vodafone support for HTC Sense UI

Had the phone for 2 weeks now and it is very impressive, especially since I got in for $0 on a $29 plan with 3 months free.

The android app store is fantastic. I've found adecent app for everything I've serched for so far. Some of the most useful are: Net Counter, Wifi buddy, Apps Organizer, Car Mode, and Quick Settings. The Australian apps are small in number, but I'm sure that will change quickly given how android is taking off.

The inclusion of an 8gb micro SD was nice, but the support for the phone from Vodafone isn't so good. They pushed android 1.6 (donut) over the air which was a great improvement over the stock 1.5 (cupcake). But I would love to try out the HTC Sense UI, but that isn't supported on the Vodafone branded HTC Magics. But overall I'm very impressed with the phone. As good as an iphone at half the price.

Ricky
9
Rating
 

Ricky posted a review   

The Good:Performance, basic functionality out of the box, accessories

The Bad:half baked bluetooth support, RAM and inability to store apps/widgets on the SD card

I just got this phone for free via Voda on a $29 cap contract and I should say I am very impressed with the phone. People have mentioned in previous posts re:lack of headphone jack, bigger SD card etc, I got an 8GB card pre-installed in the phone, a genuine HTC headphone adapter with built-in microphone to answer calls on the go, carry pouch and the rest of the standard stuff. I have been using a Symbian OS sony ericsson for a few years now and I am glad I made the switch to Andriod. I am impressed with the speed and the fluid transitions between windows, multi-tasking ability etc. Glad Andriod also lets you send emails/SMS/Call just by touching and holding down on a contact - instead of going to extra steps of creating an email or SMS and then add contacts.

Checked out the Android Market - there are a lot of usefull apps and widgets there but tonnes of useless ones too (lots of duplicates that do the same job).

I was so disappointed when I could not send all the contacts on my SonyE phone to the Magic via bluetooth! Then I found out I cant! Whats the point of having a bluetooth if its just for headphones/sets?? I would have to check out an app for this as the others mentioned earlier.

Download speeds via 3G is impressive - to me it appeared to be faster than when I was downloading via WiFi at home (Bigpond ADSL2+)! Its good that the phone uses WiFi when available instead of 3G without having to tell it.

Firmware - HTC released a new firmware for the Magic to include HTC Sense - alas not available for the vodafone version - only for the Three version - the only reason I can think of is the Three version has about 90MB more RAM than the Voda Magic? Why cant they both have the same RAM after all they are the same phones?

Camera is a bit useless if you want to use the phone to take photos primarily - there is a slight lag from when you touch the capture button to when the shot is actually captured. So hold the phone still until the photo is captured otherwise you will end up with blurry shots.

Battery life - charged fully as soon as I took it out of the box. Lots of downloads via 3G, a few emails, lots of playing around the settings, 2hrs of phone calls, WiFi downloads of apps etc and at the end of the day, I still have 36% remaining! Am sure I can get about 3 days out of it on normal use - a couple of phone calls, the odd email and SMSs a day. Talking abuot SMS, love the threaded messaging - so all txts to and from a contact stay in one place!

When I imported contacts from a SIM card, it only imported names - who is going to import the numbers?? I did that manually! Software issue or SIM card issue? I dont know...but was a bit frustrating.

Apart from the minor quirks (which hopefully there are apps to overcome), this is a great phone and ofcourse if you are not a Gmail user, you would find the phone annoying as you may have to manually set up everything else - as a Gmail user, all I had to do was give it my username and password when I first turned it on! everything is auto-sync'd.

Tim
9
Rating
 

Tim posted a review   

The Good:touch screen, android

The Bad:no divx, xvid playback, trackball

it is an awesome phone.
when it get divx, and xvid playback it will be 9.5
and it would get .5 more.
i hardly ever use the track ball, its sh*t for games where you use left right up down keys

Aranciata Oz
8
Rating
 

Aranciata Oz posted a review   

The Good:Wifi sensitivity, offline Gmail, size & weight, browsing.

The Bad:Battery life, video, needs (easily available) apps to simplify stuff like bluetooth, wifi, car speaker, takes 60secs to start up.

Bought this phone on Vodafone Australia's $59 plan. Took it to Europe with me for 7 weeks backpacking.

Service wise - the phone's bluetooth does not support file transfer thanks to Vodafone locking the feature out. There are Android free apps that get around this.

Phone wise - the size is excellent, noticeably lighter and smaller than the iphone, which is important if carrying it (gently) in pocket, especially when backpacking.

This phone is perfect for Gmail users, firstly because it automatically syncs all your Contacts as you update them anywhere in the world. Secondly, it allows you to write Gmail emails offline, which I did plenty of when on trains and in motels / hostels. It was then just a matter of looking for a wifi spot to connect to the Gmail server and let it refresh everything. Totally invaluable for me while I was in Europe, where wifi spots were generally plentiful (except Venice and Rome!). I surprisingly did not miss carrying my laptop, because emails and occasional browsing is I need to do while I'm travelling.

Browsing is so-so, with changing screens a bit cumbersome. But the touch screen scroll (like the iphone) is excellent. Wifi sensitivity is good too.

If you're not a Gmail user, I think the disadvantages of this phone will annoy you a lot - the battery life is terrible, lasting perhaps 1.5 maybe 2 days, before it needs a charge. Thankfully, a USB connection is all you need for charging. The lack of a headphone socket is also annoying, but not a problem if you don't use its multimedia functions much, which I don't.

The touchscreen function when answering calls in car (stopped of course) is also terrible, with a few presses needed to turn on the car speaker, in the event one has forgotten to hook up the bluetooth earpiece. Speaking of bluetooth, it doesn't always hook up well, even if the screen says so. I hope there is a free Android app that can fix this (haven't looked yet).

Bottomline - this phone is a no-brainer if you're a Gmail user (especially if you use Gmail to hold all your contacts), but possibly annoying if you're not a Gmail user. On the other hand, because the Android market is excellent, many free apps will probably make this a great phone for many people, because its portability and weight is fantastic. Just make sure you have a charger handy!

Unhappy
3
Rating
 

Unhappy posted a review   

The Good:Small size, good screen, trackball, runs background apps

The Bad:Lacks basic functionality!

Bought this phone about a month ago and so far I am disappointed in it. Firstly, it was $18 more a month on the $49 contract, while the iPhone 3GS was $5 more (3 Australia). For so much more money, it should be better than the iPhone, right? No. It only has 200+ MB internal memory. The iPhone comes with 16GB. The Magic has a 2GB microSD card and is compatible up to 32GB, but IT CANNOT INSTALL OR RUN APPS OFF THE SD CARD.
More on lacking basic functionality. My previous phone was a Nokia 6120. I used it as a bluetooth modem with my laptop (tethering). This phone has no such feature. In fact, ITS ONLY BLUETOOTH SERVICES ARE HEADSET AND HEADPHONES. You can't even transfer files with other phones. What kind of smart phone is this? I know you can add these features by downloading apps, but this is no excuse for HTC or Google to release a phone that is half made. So far, I have been unable to find a BT tethering app on the Market.
Ok maybe BT is too much to ask for a $1000+ phone. This phone DOES NOT EVEN HAVE CALL METERS. Out of the box, it will not tell you how long you have talked for or how much data you have used. Hmm I think phones had this since their screens were black and white? Again, you can download apps to do this, but, would you pay top dollar for a car without a stereo? This phone is not cheap and Android just leaves it to the developers to plug their holes.
There are no programs to manage files on the SD card or end running tasks. I strongly recommend to get TasKiller to end unnecessary tasks. This saves battery life and increases performance.

There are a few redeeming features. Since there are going to be so many Android phones, perhaps the Android Market will eventually have more apps than the iPhone. But it's got a long way to catch up to. The keyboard has very good prediction, as people say. Unlike the iPhone, it can run processes in the background (like to count how much data you've used, or a pedometer). The trackball is useful when editing text or selecting small links on webpages.

If Google wants to compete with the iPhone, it's got to make a better product, not a mediocre copy.

 

devanne0418 posted a comment   

The Good:Design and quality

The Bad:battery life and video playback

got this phone last july 09...Its a Magic which is more pleasurable than Iphone... Simple and Elegant Phone

Jimmy
9
Rating
 

Jimmy posted a review   

The Good:Android, internet, keyboard, call quality and design

The Bad:video playback

This phone is great. I have the white one and love the sleek design. The video playback is not a let down for me, considering i already have a PMP. This also gets me wondering why the iPhone is so much better over this phone just because of the good video playback, as alot of iPhone owners probably already own a video compatible iPod.-It's silly really, having two devices that do the exact same thing.

Smurf
8
Rating
 

Smurf posted a review   

The Good:functionality, speed of internet, predictive text

The Bad:Battery life

Great phone. The keyboard is quite quick to get used to and it looks and feels great to use. it's also really instinctive to use but feels great when actually using it as a phone too!

The multimedia stuff is a bit disapointing but as i was more interested in the internet connectivity it hasn't let me down at all.


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User Reviews / Comments  HTC Magic

  • karl_eller

    karl_eller

    "I'm looking at getting one of these on the Vodafone network. Does anyone know if I'll be able to upgrade Android to the latest version (2.0 or 2.1, or whatever it is)? Is it something the user can ..."

  • Jake

    Jake

    Rating9

    "Had the phone for 2 weeks now and it is very impressive, especially since I got in for $0 on a $29 plan with 3 months free.

    The android app store is fantastic. I've found adecent app..."

  • Ricky

    Ricky

    Rating9

    "I just got this phone for free via Voda on a $29 cap contract and I should say I am very impressed with the phone. People have mentioned in previous posts re:lack of headphone jack, bigger SD card..."

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