When Mobile World Congress happened last month everyone who was there was keeping an eye out for all of the Google Android phones that were predicted to be announced. Most people were disappointed to find that there weren’t a whole lot of announcements after all. However, there was one key announcement from HTC about a brand-new Android-based phone that was set to follow shortly on the heels of their first phone, the G1. Originally designed under the name HTC Sapphire, the HTC Magic phone offers many of the same cool features of the G1 with some changes in design and a few other updates. The phone is about to hit the market in Europe and is catching some attention from those who believe that this is a step forward in the right direction for those Google Android phones we’re all waiting to see.
Overview of HTC Magic
The HTC Magic is the newest phone designed on the Google Android platform. Many of the features offered on this phone are the same as those offered on the G1 because of the fact that the unique Android software is such a key feature of any Android-based phone. Those people interested in Android phones because of their built-in software and the availability of great application downloads will find that those are things offered with both the HTC Magic and the G1.
However, the HTC Magic is not just another G1. Instead, it’s a new phone with a completely different handset design that could be far more appealing to people than the bulky design of the G1. The advanced design of the phone as well as updates to the firmware and increasing options for software downloads make this phone of interest to a wider market than may have initially taken interest in the G1.
It is believed that the HTC Magic could have the potential to appeal to a broader market than the G1 because of the fact that it doesn’t have the novelty of being the first of the Google phones to hit the market. The first phone was mostly of interest to cutting-edge phone users and Google-lovers but this new HTC Magic has the potential to truly reach a wider base of average touchscreen smartphone users. With an anticipated price somewhere between 99 and 199 Euros, it is designed to target the average smartphone user looking for a new phone today rather than just the Google-loving geek that was targeted for initial Android phone releases.
The phone is planned for release through Vodafone and will initially only be available in those markets serviced by that network. This means that it’s intended for select European customers only at this point. However there are rumors that there will be a HTC Magic designed for T-Mobile in the future (currently being dubbed the G2) which would be available to a U.S. market.
Understanding HTC Magic Software
The major reason that people are interested in Google Android phones is because of the software available with these handsets. This includes two types of software. First there is the software that comes pre-installed on the phone and is ready for use as soon as the phone has been activated. Second there is the software that can be downloaded for use on the HTC Magic. In addition to this, there are some notable changes to the firmware for the phone.
Pre-installed software for HTC Magic
The software that we find on the HTC Magic is that which comes pre-installed on any of the new Google Android phones released or planned for release this year. That pre-installed software includes:
- Gmail. All phones based on the Google Android platform are designed to provide easy access to almost all of Google’s many services. The key service that most HTC Magic users will use on a daily basis will be Gmail which comes pre-installed on the device. However the phone is set up so that it can also easily access other types of web-based email such as Yahoo mail.
- Google Maps. People seeking to use their HTC Magic phone to get around in an unfamiliar area will have no problem doing so since the handset comes with pre-loaded software for accessing Google Maps including full Street View on that program.
- Google Talk. Smartphones these days are designed to allow the user to have many different options for types of communication available on the phone. We aren’t just limited to voice calls and text messages these days. If you’re interested in using the HTC Magic to chat through IM systems then you’ll be happy to see that there is software that is pre-loaded on to the phone to make it easy to use Google Talk for chatting.
- YouTube. It is possible to access many different video clips through the web when using the HTC Magic but the main video site that everyone uses these days – and one which comes pre-loaded onto the phone to make it easy to use – is YouTube.
Download software for HTC Magic
People wouldn’t be interested in Google Android phones if it were just for the pre-installed software they come with since those Google programs can be easily accessed from most phones using the mobile web. Instead it is the availability of truly unique software through the Android Marketplace that makes people particularly interested in the possibilities for these phones. Someone who purchases the new HTC Magic will be able to access the Android Marketplace in order to download software for entertainment as well as productivity. There are currently over 800 application download options in this marketplace with more being created on a regular basis.
Advanced Firmware for HTC Magic
There have been some important changes made to the firmware of the HTC Magic in comparison with the G1. These changes are based on suggestions of users of the G1. The firmware is called Cupcake and includes improvements related to features such as MMS, video, Bluetooth and the on-screen keyboard.
Understanding HTC Magic Hardware
So far most of what we have seen with the HTC Magic is very similar to that which we saw with the G1 and that which we will see on all other Android-based phones. This is because the operating platform itself provides much of the user’s experience in terms of the software side of the phone. What makes each phone different from the other, then, is really the hardware that makes up the handset. Let’s take a closer look at the hardware for the HTC Magic. Features of this handset include:
- Touchscreen. The main feature of note with the HTC Magic is the touchscreen. The G1 also had a touchscreen but it is a slider phone that offers a full QWERTY keyboard as well. That’s not the case with the HTC Magic. This phone, instead, places full emphasis on the efficiency of using the touchscreen. The screen has been designed in such a way so as to stand out as a key benefit of using this phone. It is easy to navigate and up-to-date in terms of touchscreen technology.
- Wi-Fi. The HTC Magic has built-in Wi-Fi which makes it possible to access the Internet from anywhere that there is access to a wireless connection.
- GPS. The HTC Magic also has built-in GPS which means that it can be used as an advanced smartphone in conjunction with different geolocation service programs. For example, it would be possible to download applications that allow for tagging and sharing of pictures by location since the built-in GPS would know where you were when the photo was taken with the phone.
- Camera. There is a built-in camera on the HTC Magic. It is a 3.2 megapixel camera which is considered a decent camera for a camera phone that is not intended to be specifically purchased for its advanced camera capabilities. This camera is comparable to the built-in camera of the G1 although it doesn’t include a built-in flash. It does, however, have auto-focus features.
- Bluetooth. Bluetooth users can sigh with relief because the HTC Magic does have Bluetooth capabilities.
Design Of the HTC Magic
One of the key differences between the HTC Magic and the G1 is the design of the phone. There were many complaints that the G1 was too bulky and uncomfortable to handle so a primary focus in designing the HTC Magic was to make a thinner and more comfortable handset with a sleeker style suited to the European market the phone is targeted to reach. To date, the HTC Magic is the thinnest Android-based phone to be created. It weighs just over four ounces and measures 113 x 55 x 13.65 mm.
Despite its thin size, the HTC Magic has a 3.2 inch touchscreen which means that it’s great for viewing videos and pictures as well as for reading documents and websites. The screen has a resolution of 320×480. A trackball navigator makes it easy to get to where you want to be on the phone.
The HTC Magic will be available in either black or white depending on where you get yours. For UK, Spain and France customers the phone will be released in white. For Germany the phone will be black. And if you happen to be in Italy then you have your choice between the two colors.
HTC Magic vs. G1
The HTC Magic is the second Android-based HTC handset. The first was the G1. For the most part, these two phones are comparable. However, there are some differences which are notable. The major differences are the design of the phone, the advances in the phone’s firmware, the enhanced memory capabilities and the availability of the phone worldwide. Here’s a closer look at those differences.
- Differences in Design. The design of the HTC Magic is much cleaner, up-to-date and smaller than the design of the G1. This is primarily considered to be a benefit of the HTC Magic over the G1. However it should be noted that to reduce the bulkiness of the HTC Magic, the handset designers had to get rid of the cool slider keyboard as well as the camera flash that are both good features on the G1.
- Firmware Update. The phone’s firmware has been updated in comparison with the G1. These updates were based specifically on firmware complaints by G1 users so the new firmware is widely considered to be better on the HTC Magic than what a G1 user has. However it is rumored that G1 users may be able to update their phones to this new firmware in the near future.
- Reduced Memory Capabilities. Although the firmware for the phone has been improved, some things have been taken away with the new phone. One of the outstanding features of the G1 is the fact that it has a whopping 16 GB of memory. The onboard 16GB has been ditched but replaced by a MicroSD slot to expand storage along with the ever increasing size of flash cards on the market. The HTC Magic comes with only 192 MB of RAM and 512 MB of ROM.
- Carrier / Network Differences. The final primary difference is that the HTC Magic is carried only by Vodafone and the G1 is a T-mobile phone. This means that the HTC Magic is currently not planned for release in the United States. However, there are rumors floating around that there will be a version of the HTC Magic created for T-mobile in the future.
The ”Other side” of the HTC Magic
The HTC Magic doesn’t have a lot of drawbacks that are considered significant. However, it should be noted that the Android platform is still young in the market. Those people who are disinterested in the latest software and handsets may be wary of new phones such as the HTC Magic. There is also the drawback that the phone will currently only be released in Europe to a relatively small market. Combined with new developments in Android phone technology, this could mean that the longevity of the HTC Magic in the market is at risk.
HTC Magic Release Date and Information
The HTC Magic is expected to be released to the market in April 2009. The phone will be released through Vodafone only in the markets serviced by that provider. This means that the initial release of the HTC Magic next month will only reach customers in certain parts of Europe. However, it is believed that the HTC Magic may be designed for launch through T-Mobile and will then become more widely available throughout the world (including in U.S. markets). Moreover, it is a fairly priced phone in comparison to other touchscreen phones in the market and therefore could have the potential to reach a broader customer base than existing phones have reached thus far.
Summary and Future of HTC Magic
Overall, the HTC Magic is a solid phone which offers great options for application downloads and a sleek European-style design. How it will do in the market depends on the future development of other Android-based phones as much as on the quality of the phone itself. The HTC Magic is in a unique position as one of the first Android-based phones but not the very first. On the one hand, this means that the initial users who purchased the G1 probably won’t be making the switch to a new Android phone just yet. On the other hand, it means that those smartphone users who wanted to hold out for new Android platform developments may now take an interest in an Android phone and so could seek to purchase the HTC Magic. It’s considered to be a strong phone and should do well among Vodafone customers when first released but only time will tell how it fares in the market overall.