The lack of a hinged PKB contributes of course to the Magic’s light simple and shiny unibody shape and feel. The merest hint remains of the endearingly grotesque ‘chin’ that angled out from the lower section of its ancestor, the G1. My model, as you can see, is white and is branded Vodafone. Only the volume rockers and miniUSB port break up the purity of the wraparound – there is a place for microSD cards but that is safely tucked away under the easily removable lid where the (replaceable) battery and SIM card also live.
The inbuilt GPS wireless, which is demanding on the battery, seems to respond much, much quicker than it did on the G1 and the addition of a compass means that true turn-by-turn satnav is a real possibility, and I note that one or two (rather ungenerously user-reviewed) navigation apps are starting to hit the Market. HTC’s trademark haptic vibration allows a pleasurably tactile feedback which I really like and which would benefit the iPhone enormously.
The camera on the reverse side offers a 3.2 MP flashless sensor which delivers perfectly adequate pictures in a good light, but which – as does the iPhone – struggles in murkier conditions. These days we routinely hand our phones to a friend, waiter or passer-by so that we can be in the photo ourselves. On the iPhone that helpful passer-by will often press the home button instead of the picture button, causing one to have to come round and give a lesson, which is all very vexing and time-consuming. The happy-snap mood will have been dispelled and the moment gone. This isn’t a problem on the Magic, where the photo button to touch is clear and unambiguous. Once taken, there is an intuitive row of buttons which offer sharing and saving options – straight to Twitter, Picasa (not Flickr – this is a Google phone, remember), wallpaper, email, messaging or home gallery. Unless I’m being very stupid there is no way to switch between still and video modes for the camera without quitting, returning to the home screen and choosing the dedicated videocamera app, which seems a little silly. The quality of video is not going to threaten even the old Flip style devices, let alone the new generation of HD recorders, but it’s fine for rough and ready use and footage can (naturally) be uploaded straight to YouTube.
For anyone used to the iPhone 3GS (where “S” stands for Speed) the Magic seems slow. General functions, application opening and accelerometer screen orientation are all a little laggardly, the price paid for using last year’s chipset, I suppose.
Otherwise everything one might expect is present: I ought to point out that this phone is really of no use to anyone who doesn’t have a Google account. Yes the mail client can deal with non Gmail accounts, yes, some form of Outlook synchronisation is possible and yes too, you can download a variety of chat clients from the Apps Market, but the straight-out-of-the-box preference is for Google Calendars, Contacts, Mail and Talk. It may be technically a Vodafone badged HTC Magic, but to all intents and purposes it’s G2, Le Googlephone Deux.
Final judgment. Better than the G1, the very light, slim Magic is an excellent 3G device for the money (free) but still with annoying niggles. It’s packed with the GPS, compass, bluetooth, wi-fi and all you’d expect from a classy modern touchscreen smartphone. The interface is customisable but not daunting, simple yet powerful. It comes with a Vodafone contract that will keep you locked in for 18 months, by which time many better phones will have come and gone, so make sure there’s a free or very affordable hardware upgrade path available to you from Vodafone during the term of your deal.
Which brings us to the Hero, our second Android 1.5 Cupcake Google phone from those Taiwanese wonders, HTC. At first glance you might think it a reversion, for it looks a little closer to the G1 than the Magic, having almost as prominent a chin and a more matte finish. But look closer, there are changes, and they are all for the better. The screen has that oleophobic, fingerprint-repelling coating first encountered on the iPhone 3GS. The body (in the white version at least) is teflon coated. And whoopy-doo! – do my eyes deceive me? – a standard audio jack for attaching proper headphones! And wowzerooni! – a 5.0 Mp f2.8 autofocus camera. They’ve been listening. So, what about activating that grease-resistant screen and seeing what awaits within….