HTC Magic Android mobile phone

HTC's Magic -- the company's second Android smartphone -- improves on the earlier HTC Dream

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HTC Magic
  • HTC Magic
  • HTC Magic
  • HTC Magic

Pros

  • Stylish design, responsive touch screen, Android platform, notifications and status bar, excellent integration with Google services, Android Market app store, polished Web browser, Microsoft Exchange and PDF/document viewer out of the box

Cons

  • No 3.5mm headphone jack, mediocre non-Gmail e-mail support, no over-the-air updates, no geotagging

Bottom Line

HTC's Magic, available on 3 Mobile, has corrected many faults of the previous Dream, making it an excellent smartphone on the whole. The lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack is disappointing and the Android Market is still in its infancy with no paid apps available, but the Android OS has massive potential.

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The second Google Android smartphone to be released in Australia, HTC's Magic will be launched on the 3 Mobile network in Australia. A significant improvement over the HTC Dream, the Magic benefits from Android's Cupcake software update and a far more pleasant design.

A slightly different version of the HTC Magic will also be launched on the Vodafone network.

The biggest improvement the Magic offers over the Dream is its design. The Dream was chunky and quite bland, but the Magic is slim, glossy and stylish. It features rounded edges and a curve below the screen. It weighs less than the Dream despite retaining the same 3.2in screen size. Unfortunately, the glossy finish means the Magic is highly prone to fingerprints and is almost impossible to keep clean.

Aside from the finger-operated touch screen, the HTC Magic utilises a BlackBerry-style trackball for navigation, along with a number of physical keys below the display. The trackball is responsive, but we weren’t too fond of the depression surrounding it, as it easily collects dust. We did like the Magic's dedicated navigation buttons (home, menu, back and search) despite the fact that they are a little small. The keys' backlighting adds a touch of class and makes them easier to use at night. The answer/end call keys are a bit too cramped, though, making it easy to accidentally press one of the shortcut keys when trying to answer or end calls.

Another big improvement is the HTC Magic's display: it's brighter and sharper than the Dream's and possesses better viewing angles. The interface still doesn't support multi-touch. The improved display helps with data entry, as the Magic lacks a physical keyboard. While this may be a negative for some, we found the Magic's on-screen keyboard to be excellent. We were able to type quickly and accurately in both portrait and landscape modes, despite the keyboard looking cramped. Its auto-correction and spell check features are very effective. The Magic's accelerometer does lag a little when rotating the keyboard, and fixing typos isn't as effective as it is when using the iPhone 3G.

The main attraction is obviously Google's Android platform, and the Magic's interface functions almost identically to the Dream's. The home screen is split into three pages, allowing you to add any icon from the main menu onto the home screen simply by pressing and dragging it. Once again, the best part of the interface is the notification and status bar: dragging it downwards reveals a full screen of your latest notifications; they remain on-screen with the full details until you clear them. This drop-down screen is available wherever you see the status bar.

The HTC Magic has received Android's 1.5 Cupcake software update, adding functions that were missing from the Dream. In addition to the afore-mentioned on-screen keyboard, the Magic adds integrated universal search, video recording and playback capabilities, a better Web browser with flash support and A2DP Bluetooth — all features that were missing from the Dream.

Unfortunately, unlike Vodafone's HTC Magic with Google the HTC Magic on 3 doesn't allow over-the-air firmware updates; you'll need to perform these manually by plugging the phone into your PC via the included USB cable. This version of the HTC Magic also lacks the ability to geotag photos, but unlike the Vodafone version it supports Microsoft Exchange and displaying PDFs and other documents out of the box. It also has what 3 calls a "smart dialler". The smart dialler allows you to quickly filter contacts when you begin to dial a number or type the name of a contact.

The HTC Magic's integration with Google services is excellent. Android automatically synchronises your Google calendar, mail and contacts over the air. When you add a new contact or calendar event on your PC, it will automatically appear on your phone and vice versa. If you don't have a Google account, you can create one on the HTC Dream itself and you can then easily import a contact list from Microsoft Outlook or even Apple's address book. Support for Microsoft Exchange is on offer, though this requires a download from the Android Market.

Unfortunately, the regular mail client (a completely separate application from Gmail) remains mediocre. There is no way to delete multiple e-mails, no way to mark all e-mails as read and you can't download or view attachments. We also had an issue with our test Yahoo account: each time we opened the mail app our e-mails all showed up as unread, even if we had read them.

Google Maps and Street View remain, and the compass mode when using the latter is impressive: the built-in accelerometer and GPS act like a compass that allows you to see the street in 360 degrees as you rotate and move the handset.

As a multimedia device, the Magic fares slightly better than the Dream thanks to the ability to record and play videos, and the presence of A2DP Bluetooth. However, the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack is a real let-down.

Battery life is slightly better than the Dream, though we were still forced to charge our HTC Magic every night. With Wi-Fi turned on, regular phone calls and messages, and the occasional e-mail, the Magic can be a battery hog.

3 has confirmed the handset will be available in mid-June on a range of plans, the cheapest of which will cost you $69 per month — $29 per month for 3's 29 Cap plan, $24 per month for handset repayments and $10 per month for 1GB of X-Series mobile data.

3 offers the HTC Magic for free on its $99+ caps; combined with the cheapest $10 data pack (1GB), it will cost you at least $109 per month. 3 offers the X-Series data bundles with the HTC Magic at half their regular price: 1GB for $10, 2GB for $15 and the maximum 3GB for $20 per month.

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