Review: Android Powered HTC Magic Smart Phone

For years there was a rumour that Google was going to release their own mobile phone but when the full truth came out reality was a little different. Instead of a Google Phone they had actually developed a mobile phone operating system called Android. The HTC Magic which has just launched in Australia uses this Android operating system.

HTC MagicMobile phones are similiar to personal computers and they have an operating system that provides the phones with their core functionality and that runs on specific hardware and you can install software to your phone. Again in a very similiar way to computers,  the mobile phone hardware manufacturers are often different from the makers of the operating system.

Apple is the standout exception to this rule as in both their computers and their mobile phone they manufacture both the hardware and the operating system.

It is only natural to compare the Magic to the Apple iPhone but that is not as easy as it first seems because there are three different hardware versions of the phone with only the last two officially offered offered in Australia. With the latest iPhone 3Gs only just released it now comes with a greatly updated operating system which fixes many of previous issues and introduces new features that bring it much closer to the HTC Magic.

Of course the iPhone community has been going for a lot longer and there are more than 10 times the available add on applications  and many websites have developed iPhone specific websites.

What is Android?

android-logo

This review is as much about the Android Operating System as it is about the HTC Magic handset.

Android is a Linux based operating system for mobile phones and mobile devices. Reports are coming out with media players, GPS units, photo frames and even desk phones that use Android. Whilst Google originally developed the Android operating system it has handed over the continuing development of the OS to the Open Handset Alliance which is a collection of 50 companies that are now responsible for its development.

On top of Google the list of those involved with Android  includes mobile phone heavyweights HTC, Motorola, Samsung, LG and Sony Erricson and and major players from the computer and allied industries including Intel, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Garmin, Asustek, Acer and Nvidia.

This pulls together a huge amount of the mobile phone market on one project and apart from Apple the obvious industry stand out missing from this list is Nokia. If Google can pull it off they can do for the mobile phone operating system what Microsoft did for the PC. the difference is that Google built android up to what we see today after buying the original company who developed it, and then handed it over to the industry for the greater good releasing most of the code as open source so the alliance could develop it further.

The next 12 months will see an explosion in the number of android based handsets as manufacturers release new models. I have read somewhere that there are 19 different versions due for release prior to the end of the year.

The HTC Magic Handset

vodafone-htc-magicThe HTC Magic is available through Vodaphone and Three. I am not going to get into the finer specifications of the phone but if you want them they are available on the HTC website. Opening up the package I was pleasently surprised with what I can only call a sleek black handset. I always felt the iPhone was just too big and heavy but the Magic seems a good comprise. It is only just smaller than the iPhone in size but it it fits my hand size perfectly.

The screen quality is simply amazing and it has the same resolution as the iPhone although in an ever so slightly smaller screen size. There is nothing worse than clicking away on a mobile phone and you have to wait till the phone catches up. The responsiveness of the Android operating system to commands is the best I have used and can probably only be matched by the very latest iPhone model which I have yet to have the pleasure of playing with.

Smartphones traditionally are a bit kludgy to operate and the first two iPhones suffered a little with this. . What I mean by that is if you click on a button there is that pause before something happens and sometimes it seems like an eternity. The Magic on the other hand feels and reacts quickly, very quickly.The latest iPhone version adds an “s” to the model to denote the extra “speed” in this new version to differentiate this new model from its slower predecessors.

Most of the commands are done on the touch screen but there are key buttons at the bottom for specific functions, namely Home, Menu, Back, Search, Answer and Hangup. The magic also provides a tiny trackball which gets occassional use acting as a small mouse on the screen when your fingers are just too big for the finder adjustments.

Because the operating system was designed by Google its integration with the Internet, Google programs and websites in particular, is amazing. When you start up the phone you have to enter your Google Account information or create one on the fly.

Whilst the camera on the phone is a fairly decent 3.2 megapixels, you wont be buying this or any mobile phone for its photography skills. Leave that to a dedicated camera, but for outdoor emergency shots at least, the HTC Magic is going to give you a reasonable photo.

Like all smartphones battery life is going to be a challenge. When you are running quite a powerful mobile computer with bluetooth, wireless and gps functioning it sucks power and the HTC magic is no different. Forget any talk time statistics that you read on the web, because that is with all the connectivity features turned off and if that’s really what you want to do then why are you buying a smartphone. Expect to be charging the phone at least at the end of every day and putting it on charge at your desk or in the car if you need to throughout the day to keep it topped up.

The Good

The android market operates very similar to Apple’s  and allows you to add any one of thousands of features to your phone in seconds. What is addictive is looking through all the available programs to make sure your not missing out on anything outstanding. At the moment there is under 4000 options but before long it will be approaching the huge numbers available to the iPhone users.

I got the Three version of the Magic primarily because of the higher onboard RAM. The onboard Microsoft Exchange sync that it also features can be added to the Vodaphone version through the market.

Internet functions are a dream and the inbuilt web browser handles everything I have thrown it so far. I can even do secure banking natively in the browser. We had our “boys day out” deep sea fishing yesterday and I authorised all bank transfers and the pays right from my phone as we moved from one fishing spot to another all while surrounded by water and with the Gold Coast in the distant.

Unlike the iPhone the Magic and Android combo handles multi-tasking beautiful. Listen to music while you browse the internet and then quickly check on a new email or sms that came in. Switching between programs is easy and natural. The iPhone on the other hand does one thing at time in a very linear and static mode. That always amazed me given Apple’s pedigree with their computers.

The lack of a physical keyboard cuts down the weight and the onboard keyboard is remarkably easy to use. After a couple of days use I only very rarely make a mistake on the keyboard now.

htc-magic-vodafoneBecause of Google’s heritage Android is not as restrictive as the iphone from a programming perspective. This allows some very unique add on solutions. The Locale application allows you to predetermine a number of the phones settings based on several criteria such as your physical location, calendar item, battery life, time of day or contact calling. You can program any of these triggers to change a range of the phones settings including wifi, bluetooth, ringtone, screen brightness, ring volume and a few other things. I have a range “situations” in my locale settings but one of them is based one when the phone detects I have arrived at work it will change my ringtone to something more acceptable within an office, it changes my wallpaper, increases my ring volume level, bumps up the brightness of the screen and turns on wireless networking if it was turned off.

I have another situation that triggers at midnight and runs till 7 am where it turns the volume of the ringer right down and drops the brightness of the screen. The ringer volume of a phone during the day can wake the whole household if it goes off at 4am and a bright screen is very hard to focus on when you just open your eyes up. The situations you can build seem endless and this features whilst technically are within the iPhones abilities are locked out because of the restrictions enforced by Apple.

Google runs its own database of wifi access points around the world and when combined with mobile phone towers it allows your phone to have a low power way of knowing fairly accuratley where it is without even firing up the GPS. Android will detect those access points and transmit the location of them back to the database ensuring it is kept up to date. Locale uses Google’s location database as well as another source which allows you to submit access points you regularly connect to or at least that your phone identifies.

The Bad

The battery, the battery, the battery. Smartphones are just mini handheld computers with a dialer built on to them so they do a lot of processing which eats battery life. All smartphones have the same problem and the HTC magic is certainly no exception. Having had a smartphone before I am use to it, but those who are use to charging only a couple of times a week on less powerful and basic phones are in for a surprise. The HTC Magic can be charged from the either the included wall charger or by plugging in to any usb port with a standard mini usb plug. The same plus that is used for digital cameras and lots of other peripherals.

Whilst Google Maps is fantastic as of today there is no actual commercial turn by turn navigation software available for Australia. The CoPilot version for the US and Europe has just been released and they have confirmed that the Australian maps are due out next month.

Whilst multi-touch capability is built into the hardware it is disabled in the operating system until the issues with Apple and their claim to an over riding patent is dealt with. Multi touch is not an Apple invention but try and tell them that! I have read different accounts as to when this feature is suppose to be officially unlocked but everyone seems to agree that it will be and sooner rather than later.  There are dubious ways to get this working, but for my mind waiting until it is official will be the way to go.

Because you are always connected to the internet and there is background data happening all the time make sure you have a good data plan on your phone.  Three provide all owners with a 50% discount on all data packages which means that a 1gb or 2gb data plan is quite reasonable and should be considered as a minimum.

HTC Magic and Android for the Real Estate Agent

The operating system is easy to use and understand and if you are in the market for a smartphone to assist with selling real estate then this has to be up for serious consideration. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is one of only a handful of contenders that are worth looking at right now and they include the iPhone, the latest Blackberry and possibly the Nokia N97 which has only just been released.

Browsing the mobile versions of  real estate websites like REA and Domain is a breeze and because of the screen size and brilliant built in browser it is still fantastic for non-mobile versions.

Google Maps integration is brilliant and Android even allows you to use the “My Maps” feature on your handset for future attention. You can even conduct voice searches for hands free searching.

Syncing emails, tasks and calendar items with your Microsoft exchange server works perfectly and you are presented with a full html version of your emails unlike Nokia’s exchange syncing which provides a cut down text only version.

vodafone-htc-magic (1)The HTC Magic and Android combo handles viewing pdf and Microsoft Excel and Word documents with the included copy of Quickoffice. The android market includes a huge array of additional software to customise your phone to your heart desires. Some of the other apps suitable for an agent include mortgage calculators, Twitter and Facebook integration, conversion tools, compass and Twilight which is a fantastic application to show the best time for twilight photography.

You can even get VNC clients to control computers in your office and a full RDP client is about to be released. There is a a number of instant messaging clients for all the major instant messaging services and there is even a Jabber client which will allow me to connect to our office’s instant messaging service.

The Google Latitude service allows you to share your location with anybody you authorise.  This allows location sharing amongst the sales team and property management team.  Before you start thinking Big Brother there are very good ways you could use this application and every person involved has full control of whether they are sharing their location with everyone else or not.  They can turn it off or they can even manually send a location (let your team mates thinking your visiting the Trevi Fountain in Rome for the afternoon).  One of the most valuable ways this could be used though is for personal security. The dangers involved in the industry especially for female staff have been highlighted in recent years. Allowing the office to know the location of all staff, but particularly the females has a real security benefit.

The android market provides you with an endless amount of customisation. If you deal with overseas clients a lot, then you can have a live currency converter application on hand.  If you use permission based marketing like  Twitter and Facebook, then you have a range of applications to keep your fans and followers up to date. If you do your own property photography the Sunrise/Sunset application will make sure you know the best time of day for those amazing twilight shots. Access an application to convert hectares to acres, metres to feet, or etc etc.. the list seems endless.

Conclusion

The HTC Magic is truly an incredible phone that has seriously impressed me. Its not perfect by a long shot but nothing available is.  There are very few phones that can even come close to it on a feature for feature basis and since most of the people who want an iPhone already have one its biggest competitor, at least in the short term will probably be other Android phones soon to be released. Its a stylish phone, but it’s not something you buy to be trendy, rather it is  something you buy because it is so functional.

8.5 out of 10

Resources

Android @ Wikipedia

The Google Experience on Android

Google Mobile Blog

HTC Magic @ HTC

Android Phone Tips

Android Application Reviews at www.androidtapp.com

Android Home Page

Acer, Android, Apple, Asustek, Garmin, Google, HTC Magic, Intel, iPhone, LG, Motorola, Nvidia, Samsung, smartphone, Sony Erricson, Texas Instruments, Toshiba

SEO For Real Estate
Listing Leads
Agentpoint Real estate

About Glenn Batten

Glenn Batten is the General Manager at First National Real Estate Nerang and Principal at the First National Real Estate Upper Coomera office and has over 20 years real estate experience and a passion for technology. Glenn has been writing from an agents perspective on industry issues and covering a range of topics on Business2 since 2007.

19 Responses to Review: Android Powered HTC Magic Smart Phone

  1. Brett Clements July 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    I’ve always admired your posts, and this site. But re-publishing PR hype, word for word, from a press release, disturbs me.

  2. Glenn Batten July 9, 2009 at 11:43 pm #

    Brett.. what are you talking about… ?? The only thing that I can think of that was not original in that post was the list of companies involved in Android. Show me something I have copied word for word from a press release..

  3. Glenn Batten July 10, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    I wrote and submitted that article about a week ago so I have gone over the post,and nothing has been lifted directly from anywhere else, let alone word for word. In fact I can confidently say that I dont reckon I have even read a HTC press release on any of the their phones let alone this one.

    Before I purchased the phone I probably read half a dozen reviews myself so at worst I might have been influenced by another reviews postion, style or comments.. For example I remember reading one review that made a big deal about the battery life.. That certainly resonated with me after my experience with the Nokia N95.. and when you have everything activated on the Magic is sucks through the battery very quickly… so I made a point of commenting on that in the review.. but the gap between reading those reviews (and viewing a few on Youtube as well ) and writing my review was probably two or maybe even three weeks.

    The whole concept of writing the review.. was to show what an agent would get out of it. There are plenty of reviews covering all the finer specs and details of the phone.

    But copy a press release.. no way.. I even ran it through copyscape (it detects that sort of thing) to see if anything flags.. I thought maybe I got lucky and stringed together 6 or 7 words that somebody else had used somewhere… but nothing comes up at all. Not even one phrase.

    If you dont like the review.. hell thats fine.. there are stacks of people that don’t agree with my opinion 🙂 comment all you want.. but effectively calling me a cheat and a plagiarist is a bit rough!

    Let me guess.. you own an iPhone!!! Talk about brand loyalty…. sheesh! that is the only thing I can put it down to… that and having a bad day!

    I trust your going to explain your comments…

  4. Brett Clements July 10, 2009 at 7:04 am #

    I never called you a cheat Glenn. I said you re-published hype. Or maybe the modern day word is ‘aggregating’ content. So my apologies for the use of the word in the physical sense of a press release.
    But if the HTC Magic Tour video from YouTube video isn’t a straight up, straight out digital product plug, I don’t know what is Glenn.
    And how about the product placement pictures. Yeah. I’m an iphone fan. Through and through. Got a Broadbeach studio stacked with Macs and I’m glad Steve is back at work. 🙂

  5. Brett Clements July 10, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    Update. My sincere apologies Glenn for having a go at you. I really mean that. I admire your reviews. I admire you for doing the work. Of course I’m a hardcore Apple guy. Unfortunately, ‘tone’ never comes through in emails and BLOGS, so my black sense of humour is often misread. I need to research an Australian emoticon for “having a go” at somebody. 🙂

  6. Glenn Batten July 10, 2009 at 9:14 am #

    Brett,

    Thanks for that. Away from this blog you have also nominated the fact that I also used promotional images as further justification for your original comment.

    Unfortunatley I don’t have a Broadbeach studio to generate original media to insert with articles and trust me writing the articles takes significant time enough. But neither did Peter when he inserted the Google video in the post immediatley prior, nor did the Insider when he posted on Domain’s iPhone app, or Dave Platter on a few iPhone posts he has done. Everyone has resorted to inserting or embedding other peoples professional and promotional photos or video and I don’t think we are going to stop any time soon so you might have to be a little less critical next time.

    Although… since you are now sincerely concerned about the quality and source of our images and videos maybe you could lend me some of your gear.. I reckon one of those flash Canon EOS 5D Mark II would do me fine. I think I am going to need it for a few months just to make sure I know what I am doing.. When can I pick one up… I am only up the road 🙂

    At the end of the day I was thinking you were an overworked and extremely passionate Apple fan who had spent all day in front of a computer monitor and late at night while bleary eyed and tired and whilst reading the article you had a brain snap and thought you had read something before.

    but…

    If it was all just humour.. thats another thing… I never even contemplated the concept that an Apple fan could be funny… what was I thinking!!! 🙂

  7. Robert Simeon July 10, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    Great article Glenn, I for one always enjoy your articles and you put a huge amount of time preparing, writing, editing and presenting. For the moment I will stick to my Blackberry – (not be confused with black humour) 🙂

  8. Glenn Batten July 10, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

    Thanks Robert.. They don’t call those things Crackberry for nothing. Once you get hooked you can’t give them up 🙂

    One thing is for sure, the current crop of smart phones are amazing business tools when used to their capabilities. With Google’s recent launch of their Real Section I am hoping the mobile versions of Google maps gets updated to include the real estate layer. That would be very nice. Throw in an augmented reality overlay and you have a very cool real estate solution for the HTC Magic, iPhone 3GS and any new phones with gps and a compass which is going to be most of the new ones.

    We are getting a new N97 in the office soon as well and I am thinking of doing a review on that once I have a play. I wont be using it on a day to day basis, but I should get enough play time to wack out an opinion…

    Maybe I should rethink it for fear of it being another great phone 🙂

  9. Glenn Batten July 10, 2009 at 10:44 pm #

    Oh yeah, I missed another bad point on the phone I meant to add in. Personally it does not effect me but I know it will be a major issue for somepeople.

    The HTC magic does not come with a standard audio out 3.5mm plug. but instead uses the miniusb plug. This dramatically limits your ability to use custom upgraded headsets. You can purchase a dongle to plug into the usb port, and then you plug your headsets into that.. but that is really inconvenient.

    If you listen to a lot of portable music on your phone the HTC is probably going to be a big let down.

  10. Sal Espro July 12, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Thanx for that, Glenn.
    Egad! It must have taken you two weeks to put together!

    Do you or anyone ‘out there’ know how much data one of these things uses to access email / What sort of data plan you would need to access email, please?
    (It seems an absolute rip-off that a group like Optus – let alone the King of rip-offs, Telstra!, is allowed to charge so much for data when we are already paying through the nose for simple ‘voice’!)

    Thx again,
    Sal 🙂

  11. Glenn Batten July 12, 2009 at 8:34 pm #

    Sal

    I had done most of the research during the whole buying decision phase. That and I am fairly competent typist thankfully.

    Lets not discuss the price of mobile voice and data.. there is just nothing good to say about it.

    Because I have wifi at home and work I went with the 1gb option rather than 2gb. I expected to hammer that pretty hard and was prepared to upgrade if I needed it but I am quite surprised by my lack of mobile data used. I think I am on target so far to hit about 300mb for the month and that really surprised me. I download quite a bit on it but obviously most of that has been whilst it was connected to a wifi connection and since it switches seamlessly and automatically you just dont notice what it is using..

    With any modern smartphone that spends 24/7 online I personally would never recommend anybody gets a data package under 1gb but if you have wifi at home and/or work you should be fairly safe even with high demands. Obviously with no wifi and if you are heavy user then larger data packages will probably be better.

  12. Sal Espro July 13, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    Thx very much, Glenn.

    Gee, the auto switching between the Android’s independent Web connection and workand home wireless connection is a winner!
    It’s a rip-off that I have to pay to turn-on the data option though. I guess it’s not possible to just use it through my work and home ISP’s without paying for the phone provider’s data connection?

    Agents are going to love this beast!

    Rgds,
    Sal 🙂

  13. Sean Wyld July 21, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    Hi Glenn,

    Nice review.

    What are your favorite real estate related Android apps? I’ve been using a G1 since late last yr and have been disappointed by the lack of quality AU real estate apps which have come out.

    Sean

  14. Glenn Batten July 22, 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    Thanks Sean..

    Lack of !!… as in NONE 🙂

    There really is no specific AU real estate apps that I am aware of yet. Some of the websites are ok as Android phones seem to get directed to the iPhone web version.

    There is a range of other handsets all about to hit the market including the HTC Hero, Sony Ericsson Xperia X3, Motorola Morrison, Samsung Galaxy as being confirmed models and then there is still a slew of yet to be named models such as LG who are claiming to be releasing three different models.

    This means if the major portals are not creating an android based solution they should be shot. The iPhone is not even the number one smartphone in Australia yet Domain has created an iPhone specific app. Of course the fact that the typical iPhone user probably users the web a lot more on their phone than other smartphone users probably helps with that 🙂

    I cant wait for when Real Estate is built into the mobile Google Maps application. Although this will not be android specific as its available for other phones as well, we might also see someone create an android mash up with an augmented reality browsing experience that makes use of the compass and gps.

    Maybe you can tap into your old workplace and see when they will have that implemented.. we will keep it just to ourselves… whilst you are there ask about google voice, google wave and anything else you think we might be interested in 🙂

    I got my invite to Google voice the other day.. only to be denied during signup about being non-US..

    Some of my apps getting the most workout on the phone includes “My Maps Editor, Maps, Google Talk (who needs sms when you have im integrated into your phone that well), Exchange Activesync, Aussie Weather Radar, Bloo, TwitterRide, ChompSMS and Twilight. None are RE specific but they all come in handy. Which ones have you found useful yourself ?

    I have checked out a couple of the overseas real estate apps and some look great but it is a bit hard to full appreciate them without local data.

  15. Sean Wyld July 23, 2009 at 9:23 am #

    There was one RE app i found a while back which had some potential called ‘Homes’ but I can’t seem to find it in the market place anymore. It allowed you to search for houses for sale or rent in a particular location, but also allowed you to search for houses in a particular radius of your current location which I thought was pretty good. However I believe it was pulling in data from Google maps, which at the time meant it didn’t have much AU content, except for a few real estate view listings. Now that Google has launched it’s AU real estate offering, there’s no reason that Google or a 3rd party couldn’t launch an improved version of this app.

  16. Glenn Batten July 23, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    I actually had that one installed but as you pointed out it was not really relevant for the Australian market at the time. I have since uninstalled it so I dont know if it is working with the local data now.. but i will give it another look

    Thinking about it, Homes must have been pulling the data from Google Base (rather than google maps) but last time I checked the Australian data was not available through the API interface. Maybe they are waiting for the full launch of Google Base Australia before they do that… or maybe they have chosen to establish their own Google Maps solution in the marketplace before they allow others to mashup the data.

  17. Glenn Batten August 5, 2009 at 2:59 pm #

    Sean,

    I reinstalled the “Homes” app and pretended I was looking for properties in a US suburb. I must say this is pretty good implementation. You can browse property just fine, dial the agent directly form the property form and visit the agents website… etc etc.. but the best part is the program stays resident and you get notified in the phone like an sms when a new matching property is uploaded. It really takes advantage of the Androids ability to multi-task.

    With so many Android phones on the horizon late 2009 and 2010 we will soon be saturated by them. The two paid portals should be looking at the current Homes app for inspiration and build that functionality and more into their own application. Unlike the domain IPhone app which requires the user to log back in, the android app will notify phone owners when new properties match their criteria.. driving more traffic and more inquiries back to the portal and agents.

    The Domain IPhone app requires that users pull information from Domain whereas an Android version would additionally push information to the user. This is effectively another form of permission based marketing where a user install the software, sets up their requirements and the portal is marketing new properties automatically.

    In the US there is no one database or portal that has the majority of the listings but here in Australia using the databases from realestate.com.au, domain.com.au or even the Real Estate in Google Base would be amazing.

    BUT… by far my best addition to the new phone has been to upgrade to the Fatal1ty Hero rom. WOW!

    Sean, I assume you would have seen the Hero info and video before but for anybody else the HTC Hero Phone is still to be released in Australia … HOWEVER the Android community has got hold of the ROM (effectively the operating system installed on the phone) and have ported it so it will run on the HTC Magic.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKTDSfbcbBU

    (Sorry Brett… I am not making my own video.. this promotional one will have to do 🙂 )

    Reading through the forums it took them a couple of goes to get the rom working smoothly but I have only tried the latest version and it works great.

    The vanilla android installed on the HTC Magic is nice.. but the Sense UI on the Hero that HTC have developed is very slick. Unless you have done this sort of thing before (note to anybody considering do thing… I would not recommend anybody actually do this update unless you have done this sort of thing before. Its not that difficult per se but there are certainly opportunities to “brick” your phone. )

  18. Steve Goschnick September 26, 2009 at 8:36 pm #

    Nice review of the HTC Magic – I’ve had one for a month now, and it is certainly addictive.

    One point you overlooked in an otherwise well-rounded article, is that software publishers/developers from Australia canNOT yet sell applications over the Android Market.

    While the US, the UK and many of the EU companies have been able to ‘sell’ software (we are talking 99 cents to 2 or $3 dollars a shot) for a while now and Japan was added this month, Australian companies still cannot.

    Cheers
    Steve

  19. Glenn Batten September 27, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    Steve

    Australian can get access to Australian apps (I have a few) and paid apps (and a few of these as well) , but I did not realise that we cant get Paid Australian Apps.

    Can Australian developers just realease to the US market which Australian can purchase from. ?

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