HTC Magic – Android Review

htc-magic-vodafoneI’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.

Just a little teaser... I've subsequently installed the Hero ROM... and it is beautiful.
Just a little teaser... I've subsequently installed the Hero ROM... and it is beautiful.

My Top 11 Android Apps

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. ACast – A podcast client in your phone. Can be configured to only download over wifi.
  5. TaskKiller Light – Simple app, lets you kill other apps.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Transdroid – Control your Bittorrent client from your phone.
  9. 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)
  10. Twitroid – Fully featured twitter client for your phone.
  11. 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.


20 thoughts on “HTC Magic – Android Review

  1. Hmmm…. care to elaborate on your reasons for including task killing app on that list?

    Sounds good otherwise.

    1. @anon, At Androids core is a really clever architecture that manages applications and memory really neatly so you don’t really need to worry about it. However I’m playing with a lot of crazy development apps on my phone, some of which run as services, that I’d like to be able to kill easily. It’s also just nice to see what’s running πŸ˜‰

    1. This one which is linked from here. It’s the one labelled “07/02 v1.2” Please note that it’s experimental and I’ve had a few ‘quirks’… so don’t ROM unless you’re happy to have issues. I’ll blog about it properly once I’ve played some more.

  2. Hey, really great review, just what I was looking for in a HTC Magic review.

    I’m currently wrestling with either getting the iPhone or the Magic. I’ve always lusted over the iPhone, for its amazing interface, design, build quality, etc etc. But now that Ive seen the Magic coupled with Android (And the Hero ROM for that matter) I’m truly stumped!

    I dont think I can go wrong with the iPhone but I’m afraid I’m going to be missing out on something really cool with regards to the evolution of the Android platform – I think its going to evolve much quicker than the iPhone OS, and could surpass it very soon…

    As I say I’m stumped, lol. The iPhone is at the top of the game and I’ve wanted one from day 1, but the Magic is looking mighty juicy right now πŸ™‚

    PS. Call me ignorant but wont charging your Magic that often kill the battery performance?

    1. Hi Danish.

      Look, I have a macbook in a cupboard that I never use… It’s nice and pretty but I feel like I’m fighting with it whenever I try and do anything… Linux works with me.

      I think the iPhone *is* currently more mature than the Androids, but that lead will be wiped out in the next 6 months.

      Do whatever you wanna do πŸ™‚


  3. nice review. πŸ™‚

    i liked the iphone when it came out, but it lost its sparkle when i heard it can’t do “basic” phone things, like mms a photo. since i now have an ipod, the magic is the only logical choice (even if i didn’t have an ipod, i’d still pick the magic). from what i’ve heard so far, i feel like the iphone people are losing out. πŸ˜›

    ny question is this (it’s late and the “google it” part of my brain has knocked off for the day):

    would i be able to download and update the OS on the magic? if, as you say, android version 2 is coming out sometime soon, do you reckon they’ll make it available for all the android phones?

  4. @sir wernich, Android ROMs are, for the most part, interchangeable. For instance I was running a rooted HTC Magic ROM for a few days and then recently switched to the newly released HERO ROM. It’s a bit of a process to ROM your phone (and you void any warranties) but it’s worth it if you like to hack things.

    At the same time Android does support Over The Air (OTA) updates. Still not sure if the ROM that Vodacom is shipping on the Magics supports OTA though. Assuming it does support OTA, when the new version of Android is released by the Android dev team, your phone *could* update itself… The OTA updates are handled by either the importer or the carrier, so it’ll be up to Vodacom or Leaf to manage that process. I would love someone to confirm whether we’ll be getting OTA in SA.

  5. and another question:

    i have an ericsson m600i (yeah i know, i had to suffer for almost 2 years with it) and it drop calls when i’m on the internet. it switches between 3g and gprs often and the poor sod who phones me when it’s on 3g gets cut off as soon as it swaps to gprs.

    is this a standard thing on all phones, or only on ericsson? does the magic do it too?

    and another thing:

    does the magic have any memory cleaning issues? my mate has an omnia and he says it doesn’t clear memory often, so he had to get an app for that. my m600i often restarts to “improve performance” which annoys me terribly.


    ps: i’ll find out about the upgrading and fixing of software before i do anything, because i seem to have bad luck with phones and a warrantee is a thing i might need.

  6. @sir wernich, Dropping calls, no. That’s obviously a bug in your phone’s software. The Magic runs Android, it therefore is nothing like the Omnia.

  7. I throw my Stupid Omnia because of the stupid OS it running on, it sucks memory, processor, battery power. However I do miss Omnia 3G Video call and the screen and the camera it has.

    Magic is cool bcos of Android but it actually sucks because of bad camera, no 3G Video call, and no PAN.

  8. You say it asks for your Google profile.. hmm.. would you recommend this phone to somebody who does not use any Google services?

  9. Hi there,

    Any more comments on using the hero roms? Are they getting more stable? Any particular builds to keep an eye on?

    Thanks for the review!

  10. ok, so i finally got my phone after such a long wait… but now i have a question:

    i can’t seem to get the sodding sync software to pick up my phone. i found an update for the drivers on htc’s asia site, but that didn’t do much. i assumed it was because of vista, so i tried installing the sync software onto my work pc that i found on the phone, but it still doesn’t want to work.

    there any tips you have for this situation?

  11. @ sir wernich

    I’m using the Windows Vista as well and downloaded the HTC Sync software off the Asia website.

    There are times that my PC doesn’t pick up my phone immediately. If that happens, I will open up the “Phone Monitor” and pick up my phone from there.

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