HTC Magic with Google smartphone

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

The second Google Android smartphone to be released in Australia, the HTC Magic with Google will be launched on the Vodafone network. Significantly improving on the HTC Dream, the Magic benefits from Android's Cupcake software update and a better design.

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

Along with the finger-operated touch screen, the HTC Magic has a BlackBerry-style trackball for navigation and 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 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.

The HTC Magic with Google also allows over-the-air firmware updates and has the ability to geotag photos using GPS coordinates. It doesn’t support Microsoft Exchange or have a document/PDF viewer out of the box, but both these functions can be added by downloading free applications from the Android Market (the HTC Magic's application portal). All applications on the Android Market are currently free — this means premium applications from established companies are yet to appear.

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 emails 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 as a compass that allows you to see the street in 360 degrees as you rotate and move the phone.

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.

Vodafone offers the HTC Magic for free on a $69 per month, 24-month contract which will include $400 worth of calls and texts and 1GB of data. The Magic is also available on $79, $99 and $114 per month cap plans — all on either consumer or business caps.

Vodafone will also offer a 24-month warranty at no extra cost, but will not sell the Magic outright. Australian online store MobiCity offers the HTC Magic with Google outright and unlocked for $949 with a one-year warranty.

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