HTC Magic: Vodafone’s Google Phone

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Magic challenges the iPhone on its home ground. Vodafone thinks it’s not a business device, but we’re not so sure

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Despite the success of its first Android phone, the G1 (available from T-Mobile in the UK), HTC has done a full re-think for its second device, based on the Cupcake version of the Android OS. The HTC Magic is available from Vodafone in Britain – but is not locked so it can be bought and used on any mobile network (according to Expansys).

We review Cupcake separately. There are some gaps still, particularly in handling email attachments.

Vodafone sent the HTC Magic to me with an apology: “Please note that this device is unashamedly consumer-focused and is not positioned as a business device.” Basically, this means it doesn’t do Exchange email.

In fact, as Engadget found, the device itself is quite capable of Exchange support, but is ruled out by Vodafone’s deal to get the Google logo on the back of the phone.

And in any case, there are plenty of people who do business with Google email – for them, this could quite easily be a business device.

A smart package

The big surprise in the Magic is the lack of a keyboard. There’s been a common assumption, from the Palm Pre to the Nokia N97 and the Sony Ericsson Satio, that – despite the iPhone’s lack of a keyboard – any phone that wants to beat it has to have one. We now have reviews of the Nokia N97 and the Palm Pre.

HTC’s G1 phone had a swing-out keyboard which users love, but HTC’s long experience of PDAs and phones (in particular the XDA series) gave it the confidence to ditch the keyboard, rely on the touchscreen, and achieve a slim design. After all, the iPhone has shot to the top of online usage, and its users manage all right for email, so it’s clear that people can adapt to on-screen soft keyboards.

The phone weighs 119g, is 14mm thick, 113mm long and 55mm wide. That makes it 20g lighter than an iPhone, and 1mm thicker, but overall slightly more “compact” feeling. The curved ends and the white surround give it a feel like a PDA, and despite being plastic, it felt solid – more solid in fact than the Nokia N97 which arrived at the same time.

It comes in a small-ish box with no CD and a tiny manual, about 3.5 in square – which does cover all I needed – so it must be up there with Sony Ericsson’s Satio in the environmental impact stakes.

The 3.2in screen is smaller than the iPhone’s 3.5in display, but with the same 480 x 320 resolution. It converts easily between landscape and portrait when the phone is turned – sometimes a bit slowly, but never taking more than a couple of seconds.

The home screen (which can slide sideways one position each way) holds frequently used apps, and everything else is on a tab you can pull up. And the capacitive touch screen is well capable of the same sort of flicks and swipes as the iPhone (though with no multi-touch).

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