Good day to you all and welcome to my first full article in this series. Sadly it’s not the Satio article you’re hoping for, that’s been delayed because my girlfriend has gone away for a few days and taken the phone along with her, anyone would think I bought it for her….well I did actually but still, how dare she, it’s just inconsiderate!
Don’t worry though I have the HTC Magic and my new little green robot friend to talk about instead. Incidentally I do mean Android and not some sort of new hi-tech, eco-friendly mechanical helper….sadly.
Let Me Hold It:
Device boxes are often uninteresting and this is no exception aside from the fact that it’s surprisingly small. The device is presented to you on removing the lid, as is the fashion these days, while the headset (which I’ll come back to), charger, leather pouch and boring printed things lie beneath.
The Magic’s predecessor, the HTC Dream/G1, was irretrievably ugly and really not suitable for anyone with eyes so thankfully new designers appear to have been employed to make an Android device you wouldn’t be embarrassed to hold. They’ve done a good job and the Magic, in white, is a good looking device, just avoid the highly questionable MyTouch 3G version in merlot from T-Mobile! The dimensions are good and materials feel solid but not quite as weighty as an iPhone. Also unlike the iPhone, it isn’t as wide as a broadsheet newspaper and as a result is pleasant to hold for either one or two handed operation. The 3.2” capacitive touchscreen is bright and responsive while the Android related hardware buttons reside beneath. The trackball works ok but it largely redundant beyond moving around individual letters in text.
Let Me Use It:
As you’d expect the device runs through some setup screens upon first use, though you’ll be wanting a Google account to make full use of this. From here on in it’s a standard Android experience and there’s Donut in store depending where you live or if you take the sensible option of getting rooted and install the latest Cyanogen ROM.
With Android you’ll immediately notice the simplicity and user friendliness. Flicking between the various horizontally arranged home screens is enjoyable, particularly when you see that the wallpaper moves along with it. Perhaps the most compelling thing is to drag up the application drawer from the tab at the bottom of any home screen. It’s pleasing to use and can be smoothly dragged back and forth or simply thrown open or closed with a quick swipe. The drawer gives you a grid of icons and if you need telling what to do from there I suggest you turn off your computer, give all your electronics to the charity shop and move away somewhere to drink out of coconuts!
Less apparent at first but equally, if not more useful is the notification bar. This appears at the top of the screen showing the usual standby details as well as notifications of new events, active downloads, application updates etc. It behaves similarly to the drawer being dragged down smoothly to show you notification info which can then be dismissed or used as a shortcut to the relevant content. The usefulness of this became apparent when I received an SMS while in the middle of something else. Upon receipt, the SMS text is scrolled once across the notification bar like a news ticker, if you miss it just drag the bar down to read it again all without leaving what you’re doing. Never again do you need to quit something just to read “wuu2” from that friend you’d really rather just ignore.
Customisation is at the forefront of any Android experience because who wants to stare at screen after screen of icons on a black background? Well apparently quite a lot of people do but iDon’t (thanks for the pun Verizon) and it’s as easy as a long press on the home screen to mix things up. Long press an empty area to see a menu of shortcuts, folders and widgets you can add there. Long press an existing home screen item to move or dispose of it. Things got even easier once I realised application shortcuts could be dragged straight from the drawer to the home screen using the same long press method. The danger is in the widgets, they’re addictive and I soon found myself downloading as many as possible to try them all…..and then deleting the vast majority again! Apps are plentiful too via the Android Market, thankfully the majority are free and there are some really great pieces of work.
So it’s all plain sailing for the Magic then? Well, not quite. Media capabilities are good but nothing new, the camera is really not that great, especially in low light, and music playback is certainly nothing special not least because of the supplied headset. Headsets are a frequent HTC failing and this one is inexcusable unless they’re perhaps targeting the Ferengi market. The earphones are too big, not comfortable to wear and seem to manage not to block out any background noise…perhaps to distract from the lacking audio quality. What’s worse is the lack of a 3.5mm jack so you’ll be looking towards Bluetooth for a better experience.
Finally I can’t help but feel that this device is in infancy. Android is moving along fast and improving all the time but the internal hardware here is still first generation. The 528MHz Qualcomm processor is outdated and my particular Magic is short on RAM being a Google branded (32B) device. This results in performance hits when trying to get clever with the phone. It can multi-task but the price is a bit of lag which can be annoying at times.
Let Me Keep It:
Overall the HTC Magic is a great phone, I’m happy to use it every day and Android is definitely here to stay. The hardware can just about cut it for now but it will be blown away when the imminent 800MHz and 1GHz Snapdragon devices land along with Android 2.0. To that end I say this device is a good introduction to Android and a better experience than most other touch screen phones (let’s all laugh at WinMo) but not as speedy as an iPhone.
Definitely happy to keep it.