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Android hacks: Get the HTC Hero keyboard on your Magic

We love the HTC Magic, but we prefer the HTC Hero's keyboard -- we really missed it when we went back to the Magic after time with its big brother. Here's a hack to make it all better

Make no mistake: as much as we love the HTC Magic, we're certainly not blind to its flaws. These aren't insurmountable, but they can be irritating. Battery life, for instance, is a major problem, but hardly one that Android users have to face alone.

One of the biggest problems with the Magic though, is its hideous built-in keyboard. Because there's no physical interface on the phone, it's an on-screen virtual keyboard, like you'd find on the iPhone -- but significantly worse. It's just not as slick as the one HTC put on the Hero -- and having used both, we don't think it's anywhere near as good. Of course, you might disagree. Have a look at them side-by-side:


The main advantage of the Hero is that it's possible to 'long press' keys. This means that if you want a number or special character, you simply press and hold the appropriate button. Simples.

Be not downhearted, Magic fans -- it is possible to get the Hero keyboard on to your beloved phone. It doesn't involve much hacking, but you will need to download the Android SDK. This is slightly daunting, but actually very useful and relatively simple to use. The SDK is also essential if you want to 'root' your Magic to run third-party ROMs and other such stuff.

To install, it's a matter of following these steps: 

  • Download and unpack the Android SDK on your PC
  • Install the USB driver when asked by Windows (OS X and Linux don't need a driver)
  • Download the application from Haykuro
  • Extract the files in the download to the 'tools' directory of the Android SDK
  • Open a command prompt (Start > run > type cmd)
  • Browse to the 'tools' directory of the SDK
  • Use ADB to issue the commands listed on Haykuro's blog

It took us about 10 minutes. Once you've done it, you can choose which keyboard you use, so the original Magic version is left intact. To get the keyboard working, you need to go into something that uses text input. Then long press on the text field, select 'input method' and select 'touch input'. If it's not listed, you should be able to get it going via the phone's menu system: look for 'Locale and Text'.

Being able to do that is the reason we love Android.