Damn you HTC and your product titles that cry out for corny gags! It was bad enough with the HTC Dream, the company's first Android-powered handset, but the Magic is 10 times worse. How are we supposed to review this phone without referring to Harry Potter, Houdini or Siegfried and Roy?
Those interested in the differences between the HTC Dream and the HTC Magic will find the most outstanding changes in its physical design. Gone is the Dream's bulky size, and with it, its full-size QWERTY keyboard. Instead, the Magic makes use of a 3.2-inch HVGA (480x320) touchscreen display with a built-in software keyboard. This omission means the Magic is impressively slimmer, and we also find it to be much sleeker and sexier too. Our review unit is a glossy black number with small silver navigation keys under the screen and a 3-megapixel camera lens on the back.
We really like the size and shape of the Magic; a colleague in the US referred to it as being slim with a chin. The chin is a small, curved lip around the base of the phone, visible from side-on, which really helps to hold the phone comfortably in your palm. This shape appears to assist with single-handed operation, with most common tasks being simple to complete with just one hand, and thanks as well to a jogwheel tucked away beneath the Magic's display.
To discuss more about the physical aspects of the phone, the interface and navigation, is to talk about the latest incarnation of Google's Android. This operating platform is now version 1.5, codenamed "cupcake", and is quite similar to the original version of Android launched with the HTC Dream, with a few tweaks and additions.
Navigation is identical to the previous phone, the touchscreen gestures are intuitive and the Magic responds to these well. From the home screen, dragging a finger left or right will show extra space for customised shortcuts; dragging from the top will draw down the notifications panel, showing new messages and missed calls; and dragging up from the bottom opens the applications window.
One of the major enhancements is the inclusion of an on-screen keyboard, with a landscape mode for when the phone is tipped to the side. At first glance this keyboard may seem too small to use accurately, but what Google has achieved is one of the best predictive text experiences we've come across. We've found the best way to type a message is to type as fast as possible, making sure we strike keys in the vicinity of the correct letter each time and the software does the rest, auto-correcting mistakes with astounding accuracy.
The growing Android Market is also worth a mention in this review. Though its 3500 applications seem small compared to the whopping 35,000 apps of the Apple App Store, we are consistently impressed with the quality on display. Cupcake also adds widget functionality to the Android, so expect to see the Market swell with various widgets for the home screen very soon.