I’ve been using an Android phone, the HTC Magic, for about two weeks and I think it’s time to report back.
Build Quality: The phone feels very good, it look slick (at first you’re surprised by how quickly it picks up fingerprints but that isn’t an issue after day 1). It isn’t as solid as an iPhone, but it doesn’t feel like it’ll break easily either.
Voice Quality: Better than my Nokia E61i, better or equal to all the phones I’ve had.
Screen: The screen is nice. The same resolution as the iPhone, just smaller (because the phone is smaller). It certainly is bright enough, I usually have the brightness set to 50%. The image quality is great, better than the iPhone IMHO.
On Screen Keyboard: This is the question most of my nerd friends ask first. When you first get the phone you feel like it’s going to be hard. Coming from the full qwerty on the E61i I was struggling to get up to pace. But it gets better, a lot better. After a while your brain figures out how to thumb the right keys and the Android’s brain figures out what you meant to type. This is like predictive text on steroids… if you’re typing a word but along the way hit a few wrong keys, the phone works out what words you could have meant to type with keys near the ones you pressed. It’s hard to explain but in practice it really does feel a little like magic. So overall the on screen keyboard is actually awesome.
Signal: So far I haven’t had any situations where I’d lost signal while others had signal. The wifi is MUCH better than my E61i.
Connections: The Magic just has one port, a mini usb port. Actually it’s slightly different to mini usb since mini usb fits it but it can also accommodate HTC’s proprietary connector for the headset. I would have loved a regular headphone jack, but they’re trying to keep it minimal. You can get an adaptor. The good news is that the phone charges over usb with a standard mini-usb cable. That in itself is f-ing awesome.
Battery Life: Okay, not great. Look, lets be honest, if you get one of these phones you’re always playing with it… that sucks power. I need to charge this phone every night in order to keep it happy, sometimes more regularly. Happily I usually just plug in into whichever computer I happen to be sitting at and let it charge that way. I’m sure that future androids and future OS improvements will have much better battery life.
General Experience: This phone KILLS anything I’ve ever used before because of the general experience. When you first boot the phone it asks you for a google profile and then from that moment on your phone is perfectly synced with Google Mail, Google Talk, Google Calendars etc. Mail arrives on your phone in seconds and an “@” sign is placed on the notifications bar. From any application you can drag the notification bar down and get a preview of the email and decide whether to read it then of come back to it later. SMS’s, Calendar events, App notifications, like Twitroid saying there are new tweets, etc are all handled by the notification bar.
Evolution: The most awesome thing about this phone is its position in the software evolution. Things are changing all the time. I’m currently running release 1.5 of the Android base system. Since I have already ROM’d and ROOTed my phone I will be trying out the HERO (HTC’s latest Android Phone) ROM, which, while still Android 1.5, comes with a bunch of interface improvements from HTC. Later on this year Google will release the Android Version 2 which no doubt come with a whole whack of ui improvements, stability, batter life etc. The key to me is survival of the fittest. Because the Android development team is far more open than anything else out there, there is a constant source of feedback into the community. I have a long list of suggested improvements that I’m collecting and will publish. It’s not unrealistic to think that the Android devs will read that list and maybe even comment on it.
Openness: Android lets you replace any part of the OS with a replacement part. What that means in general terms is that if I want to phone someone I use the Android default dialer app that ships with the phone. I can replace that app with one that queries an LDAP database over wifi to get all our staff phone numbers. Even the Home application (the one you see when you press the home button) is replaceable.
My Top 11 Android Apps
- Android Market – The marketplace has all the apps. Sure you can get a lot of the files in other places, but not as easily as using market
- Skymap – Using the compas and the tilt sensor this shows you the stars where the phone is “looking”. It really is quite amazing to see in action.
- Timeriffic – A very simple app but amazingly useful. It allows me to change the phone’s volume, brightness, ringtone etc based on certain times. This means my phone automatically gets louder at 8am and softer at 11pm.
- ACast – A podcast client in your phone. Can be configured to only download over wifi.
- TaskKiller Light – Simple app, lets you kill other apps.
- GPS Status – Shows you all the info it can get from the GPS, compass and tilt/motion sensors. ie. Gradient, G forces, GPS Accuracy, How many sattelites it’s using.
- CellFinder – Nerdy app, but cool. Shows you where the GSM tower is in relation to your GPS position and shows you how far away etc.
- Transdroid – Control your Bittorrent client from your phone.
- AndFTP – FTP and SFTP (ssh) client, on your phone. Awesome for grabbing stuff of the network. (Astro is a file browser that supports SMB too)
- Twitroid – Fully featured twitter client for your phone.
- Google Maps – While it doesn’t have turn based navigation for South Africa yet, it does have all the roads now and can show you your exact location with GPS. This is very cool.
Overall, this phone is amazing, mostly because of Android… I can’t wait to see where Android world goes next.