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HTC Magic Review

Many aspects of the HTC Magic (3G) are definitely ‘magical’. The Magic’s design, touch-screen and internet capabilities are all top-notch.
11/02/2010

Many aspects of the HTC Magic (3G) are definitely ‘magical’. The Magic’s design, touch-screen and internet capabilities are all top-notch. However, this Android phone fails to find perfection, as it is let down by a lack of high quality multimedia functions.

In terms of the phone’s design, the HTC Dream and the HTC Magic are differentiated mainly in the area of physical construct. Unlike the Dream's bulky shape caused by its full-size QWERTY keyboard, the Magic has a 3.2-inch HVGA (480x320) touch-screen display with built-in software keyboard. This means the Magic is way slimmer, sleeker and more attractive to the eye. One option is a glossy black handset with small silver navigation keys beneath the screen, plus a 3-megapixel camera on the back.

The Magic has been described as being ‘slim with a chin’. The ‘chin’ is a small curved edge along the base of the phone, visible from the side, which proves to make the handset sit comfortably in your palm. The shape essentially provides one-handed operation for most common tasks, with the jog-wheel nicely situated out of harm’s way beneath the screen.

As far as interface and navigation go, the HTC Magic has the newest form of Google’s Android system, Version 1.5. With the exception of a few small tweaks and additions, it is much the same as the original Android that came with the HTC Dream. Actually, navigation is identical. The Magic is great for intuitive touch-screen gestures. For example, on the home screen, if you drag your finger to the left or right you’ll see extra space for customised shortcuts, whilst dragging from the top pulls down the notifications panel, showing new messages and missed calls. Drag up from the bottom to automatically open the applications window.

A real advancement from the HTC Dream to the HTC Magic is the new on-screen keyboard, which comes with a landscape mode for when the phone is placed on its side. You may think this keyboard looks small, but using the excellent Google predictive text mechanism, there aren’t any issues. By typing as quickly as you can and hitting the keys in the vicinity of the right letter, this ‘magical’ software will auto-correct all mistakes with incredible accuracy.

The Android Market is growing. When compared with Apple’s App Store, it’s got many less applications available, but the quality of the Android’s are very good, plus you can also get widgets for the Android’s home screen. Like the iPhone, many software weaknesses on the HTC Magic can be fixed via Android Market downloads. Microsoft Exchange and Java app support can be added from the App store, as well as applications to improve the quality of the basic camera. A few applications do have bugs, so you’ll need to be aware of how to remove them with the Settings menu.
With the HTC Magic, you have to make the tough decision on whether you value the internet over multimedia. The Magic is not a good multimedia device. It can play a couple of media file types: MP4 and 3GP video plus a range of audio including MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and OGG, but it falls way behind other multimedia-enabled smartphones.

On the plus side, the HTC Magic is wonderful at surfing the web. The Webkit browser works great, with quick load-up times, good navigation and a full desktop-style view. There’s a Google search bar at the top of the home screen, so the ability to search for information is always right at your fingertips. There are other pre-installed Google services available too, like Maps, Calendar, GMail and GoogleTalk, which all work really well. Your internet connections are made by accessing the HSDPA network or by Wi-Fi. Sometimes connectivity can be less than perfect where web-enabled applications have trouble making a connection, even though the phone says it’s connected to 3G or Wi-Fi.

The best reason to buy an Android phone is because of its performance on this platform. Like the Dream, the Magic is also super-quick, with shifts from home screen to application windows and the execution of applications being totally seamless. There’s virtually no visible lag time whatsoever, even with background tasks being asked to work simultaneously.

Back to multimedia: You will have a lot of trouble playing video files on the Magic, with the phone consistently showing error messages about bitrates and screen sizes. It doesn’t seem to have the ability to downscale a file before playback. Although listening to music is possible, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack or adapter included. You will have to use the hands-free kit, which is not fun. However, you can download an awesome YouTube application that partly makes up for these shortfalls.

As far as battery life goes, the HTC Magic is better than the Dream, but still needs work when compared with its competitors. You should be able use the phone for a day and a half between charges with push notifications on in the background, or about 12 hours if you’re doing heavy downloads via Wi-Fi. For the average working person this will be suitable.

The Magic is a ‘magical’ smartphone, but there are certain aspects missing which would have made it perfect. Cool, young, technically minded people will be upset at the lack of multimedia options, especially with phones like the iPhone and its inherent iPod on the shelf. You’ll wish it came with an iTunes-style syncing and conversion software, but sadly it does not.
Vodafone sells the HTC Magic with a few customer-focused bonuses like geotagging included, while 3 Mobile provides Microsoft ActicSync compatibility. Take into consideration that Vodafone bundles data with your plan, but 3 Mobile forces you to pay an extra fee. This is important to think about as the HTC Magic surfs the web so ‘magically’.

Pros:
•    Excellent touch-screen
•    Sleek design
•    Great web browser
•    Access to Android application store
•    Cool switch mode option

Cons:
•    Poor multimedia options
•    No 3.5mm headphone socket or adapter
•    GPS is not included

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