Back in February, reports of the HTC Magic started doing the rounds when they unveiled the phone in Barcelona. Soon people were quick to fuel rumors of it being a possible iPhone killer. Quite frankly, it’s becoming increasingly tiresome every time someone comes up with the latest iPhone killer. Leaving aside the Palm Pre as a strong contender, we haven’t seen any phone come close. Still, that doesn’t mean manufacturers can’t make good phones. Perhaps without even any intention of competing with the fabled iPhone. The Magic is one such phone. It’s a follow up to the G1 (the first phone to run on Google’s Android OS), and runs on the new version of the OS called Cupcake. By mid May, most of the speculation congealed into fact and so here is the low-down on HTC’s latest Magic trick.
Unlike its predecessor, the Magic doesn’t have a physical keyboard, making it a full-touch smart phone. The Magic, for some reason has still retained the Blackberry-style track ball, which its older brother came with. It now seems redundant since this is a full touch phone. But that’s where the similarity ends. The Magic is much slimmer, thanks to the missing keyboard and hence slightly more stylish. The body feels tacky, according to those who have held it; because it’s a plastic shell. So the iPhone scores in that area. The phone has taken a page out of the iPhone’s books by including a capacitive display. This makes for superior touch response over traditional touchscreens. The virtual keyboard, which is an update to the old Android responds beautifully to your fingers and gives you a slight vibration as a tactile response to input. The phone is quadband, has Wi-Fi support and comes with a 3.2 MP camera. It has a built-in accelerometer that helps you switch seamlessly between landscape and portrait display when you rotate the phone from a vertical to a horizontal position.
Now for the absolute negatives. Surprisingly, the phone lacks a standard 3.5-mm head phone jack. The bundled earpiece plugs into a standard mini-USB. So you can forget about listening to music while the phone is charging or the option of going in for quality earphones for that matter. The lack of a flash will also be sorely missed.
It has three desktops as part of its home screen, which is a good innovation as a single home screen can get very crowded, very fast. You can slide left or right to navigate between these screens, and click and hold the screen to add multiple widgets to a screen. Since this is an Android system, there is obviously great integration with all Google products such as Gmail, Calendar, Maps and GTalk. The OS seems really fast and slick with various animations and effects adding just the right amount of glitz. It’s able to switch between applications extremely quickly. The OS supports A2DP for Bluetooth, so you can stream stereo audio to a wireless headset or speaker system. This is definitely a one up over the iPhone. Where it falls short is multitouch. Yes, this otherwise nifty OS does not support multitouch that we’re so used to on the iPhone. The phone also has a number of other interesting usability functions, such as:
The phone has something knows as a mashup technology that lets you take elements from one application and quickly use them in another. Assume you’re playing a song in a music player application. You can click and hold the song name or artist name and it’ll quickly bring up other options for jumping into other applications such as search. Say you’re searching for a particular location on Maps, you can quickly add it as an element to your contacts. This provides you with a much more integrated experience.
At any time, you can bring down the notification bar that’ll let you see what’s going on with your phone at the moment. So if you’ve got a new message or new voice mail you can quickly view it from here and go back to what you were doing. If you’re playing music you get play / pause options on the notification page.
A dedicated YouTube player is found on the phone’s main menu. Through this application, you can quickly search for and view clips. In the application, when you click on a thumbnail of a video, the phone automatically switches to landscape mode and expands the video.
Summing it up...
This is definitely a fast and easy-to-use smart phone. It is promising enough that comparisons to the iPhone can immediately be drawn. Together with the Palm Pre and the iPhone, it can easily form the holy trinity of smart phones. Oh and since it’s exclusively available on Vodafone, we hope to get our hands on it soon in India.