Android Community Week In Review: Week 10 2009

Big Android news this week was HTC's recently announced Magic handset getting official release windows on Vodafone UK and Orange France. Running Google's Android, the Magic will offer 3G internet, GPS, a slimmer form [than the current G1], and an on-screen keyboard for typing. Release dates are March 15th for Orange France and sometime in April for Vodafone UK. In case you're wanting to keep closer tabs on this bleak global economic state, Google has released an official app for Android to help you do just that. Google Finance is available in the Android Market now for the very appropriate price of $0.00, but only to users in the US. The software has limited stock market support (for now), though the major US indices are covered in near-real time. More companies are looking at Android as a new and powerful mobile OS for their upcoming devices. Acer has been surrounded by talks and comments regarding the possibility of Android powering their two forthcoming handsets. No concrete answer was given when asked directly if Android was the choice, but an OS other than Windows Mobile was said to definitely be in the cards. Still needing some feature bumps since its original debut in 2006, Road's S101 HandyPC is rumored to have switched gears from a Linux distro to Android as its OS of choice. Yuhua have also followed up their design of General Mobile's DLST1 handset with the Xphone-SDK concept. While only a concept at this point, the phone is limited to EDGE connectivity. Considering Android's dependence on 'cloud' computing, this may pose a problem with potential slow-downs. Potentially ground-shaking news is Android's perceived ability to give Apple's OS X Touch (iPhone) a run for its money by 2012. Industry analysts are predicting that current economic conditions paired with Android's non-commitment to a particular carrier or handset manufacturer will give it the extra boost it needs to catch up with Apple. Also considered was the fact that Smart phones have outsold notebook PCs for the first time ever, possibly signaling more powerful mobile platforms providing the majority of functionality that people need away from their desks. While OS X Touch is somewhat limited in its ability to multitask, Android can accomplish multiple things at once. This could also draw mobile professionals with the need to get more work done while on the go.

Vodafone HTC Magic April UK launch confirmed

A new page on Vodafone UK's site confirms that the HTC Magic will launch at some point during April 2009.  No pricing or specific launch dates are given, nor is there any way to preorder the Magic; instead would-be buyers can register for updates. The Vodafone HTC Magic has a 3.2-megapixel camera, HSDPA, integrated GPS and a full capacitive touchscreen.  Unlike the T-Mobile G1 it lacks a hardware keyboard; instead there's a new on-screen keyboard, which we first saw at Mobile World Congress last month. The upshot of that is the newly reduced bulk.  Unlike the sizable G1, the Vodafone HTC Magic measures 117 x 55 x 14 mm, and curved edges make it feel even smaller.  You can see our video demo and gallery of the HTC Magic here. [via Droideo]

HTC Magic hands-on: Gallery and Video

You've seen the preliminary video, you've read the specs; now it's time for the motherload of HTC Magic information.  We sat down with HTC's digital communications manager, Eric Lin, to talk Android, Vodafone and all things Magic. In terms of the hardware, under the hood there's little different to the G1.  What HTC have tweaked is the software, which has made the capacitive touchscreen more responsive and the smartphone as a whole speedier.  The Android software stack itself has few differences, the most obvious being the new on-screen keyboard.  80-percent of the time the Magic is used in portrait orientation, and the keyboard won't work in landscape orientation aside from with apps - such as the browser - that force the Magic to rotate the display. There's also now native video recording and playback, rather than requiring users to add their own media software.  The former offers two quality levels, one for MMS and the other slightly higher, while the latter is integrated with the photo gallery.  As you can see from the gallery, content is organized by photos and video in general, and those shot by the Magic's own camera. Since the announced Magic handset is dual-band 3G/UMTS (900/2100MHz), I asked Eric whether HTC had any plans for a US-spec version or if their agreement with Vodafone prevented that.  According to him, the carrier exclusivity is limited to country, not global, and HTC would jump at the opportunity to adapt the Magic for the US should they be approached by one of the carriers.  We also clarified the handset's name: despite what many sites have reported, the HTC Magic is not the "G2".  HTC named the smartphone, and Vodafone decided to use that title, whereas T-Mobile chose to use their own name when they launched the G1 (hence the handset being available as the HTC Dream elsewhere). Eric also showed us a black version of the Magic, though we were not allowed to photograph or video it as it's not intended for production.  HTC decided it looked too similar to other smartphones, and wouldn't be distinctive enough.  It's a shame, as the black version looked even smaller than the white, and with its curved edges reminded us a little of the Pre. There's still no flash to accompany the 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera (which is the same as on the G1); according to Eric, that's down to HTC prioritizing the areas in which they can make the most effective improvements in the timescale available.  HTC recognize that, as a company that not long ago only dealt with enterprise hardware, they're playing catch-up on some consumer functionality such as imaging; they chose to finesse the existing hardware, particularly the white balancing, rather than introduce a flash which wouldn't be best taken advantage of. In the hand, the HTC Magic is deceptively light and, although all plastic, feels great.  It's an altogether more tactile device than the G1, in no small part because of the reduction in bulk and sleeker casing, though obviously we're yet to play with the final-production button design. Touchscreen responsiveness seems on a par with the iPhone, at least during our relatively short time with the Magic, and the reduced thickness and less pronounced "chin" angle make it more comfortable to hold than the G1. Overall, the Magic feels much more like a consumer-ready device than the T-Mobile G1 did at its launch.  That's partly down to the extra maturity of the Android platform itself, but it's also thanks to a more attractive, perhaps more considered design.  Whether it's actually consumer-ready in practice depends on the final tweaks HTC make before the Q2 launch, and how robust Google's latest updates to Android are.  We've certainly left MWC with high hopes about the HTC Magic. Video is also available in HD - click the menu in the lower right-hand corner [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEOspvaOmbk[/youtube] [gallery]

HTC Magic Android phone hands-on

We know we said that HTC weren't allowing live shots or video of the HTC Magic, but we couldn't leave it at that. Non-final hardware or not, we know you guys are as excited by the Magic as we are, and still want to see it. Hands-on, the HTC Magic is everything the G1 was not: thin and lightweight, with none of the bulk G1 owners have complained about.

It also has more RAM - 192MB - so it should run quicker and be able to multitask more comfortably than the G1. The on-screen keyboard - which is only available in portrait orientation, not landscape - has letters which pop-up when you press them, as on the iPhone, which makes text entry much easier.

In the non-final hardware we've played with, the key change are the hardware buttons on the HTC Magic's "chin" section. The prototype has thin, sliver-style keys running under the capacitive touchscreen, together with a single button ("Menu") to the left of the trackball. The final hardware will have four square keys under the screen, with functions switched around to leave call send/end on keys either side of the trackball. According to Vodafone Spain, the HTC Magic will be priced between 99 Euro and 199 Euro when it launches. Still no word on pricing outside of Spain, nor when the HTC Magic will be available in the US. We've got a full 1-on-1 hands-on session with the Vodafone HTC Magic tomorrow, so expect plenty more photos and footage after that! [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBbu_FR6XPU[/youtube] [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMSHbmCHT9E[/youtube][gallery]

Vodafone HTC Magic announced: second Android smartphone

HTC and Vodafone have officially announced the second Android-based smartphone, the HTC Magic.  Available exclusively on Vodafone in Europe, at least initially, the HTC Magic has a 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen running at 320 x 480 HVGA resolution and, unlike the T-Mobile G1, no hardware keyboard.  Instead, HTC have developed their own on-screen keyboard. The HTC Magic is based on the Qualcomm MSM7201a chipset running at 528MHz.  It has quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE and dualband HSPA/WCDMA (900/2100MHz) for up to 7.2Mbps downlink and 2Mbps uplink speeds, network depending.  In addition there's WiFi b/g, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR and HTC's own ExtUSB port which incorporates both a USB 2.0 connection and an audio jack (with an included adapter to use standard 3.5mm headsets). Other specs include GPS - which works with Android's Google Maps and Street View - and a compass, plus a trackball with an enter button.  All the usual Android apps are onboard, with the Magic having 512MB ROM and 192MB RAM.  The smartphone measures 113 x 55 13.65mm and weighs 118.5g. As for availability, the Vodafone HTC Magic will initially be available in Germany, Spain and the UK, as well as non-exclusively in Italy, and with the SFR network in France.  No known pricing as yet, but given the nature of the European cellphone market we won't be surprised to see it free with a new contract. According to HTC, because of very last-minute hardware changes - including a change in the number of hardware buttons on the fascia - nobody will be permitted to take photos or video of the new HTC Magic.  However we'll be spending some 1-on-1 time with the device while at MWC, and will be able to bring you some early hands-on feedback, together with these official press shots. UPDATE: We're either very persuasive or HTC had a change of heart: live Vodafone HTC Magic shots here! [gallery]

Vodafone HTC Magic confirmed as second Android handset

It's been all quiet on the Android front here at Mobile World Congress, and for a while we worried we might end up leaving the show without seeing anything other than reference platforms and non-functional dummy phones.  All that has changed with the news that Vodafone have clinched a deal to launch the second Android handset, in the shape of the HTC G2, which will go on sale in Europe as the Vodafone HTC Magic.

Full details on the handset won't be available until after a press conference later on today- which you know Android Community will be attending - but Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao did confirm that the HTC Magic would be an exclusive to the carrier in Europe "for a limited period".  Availability beyond that point is unclear, though it's likely that just as the HTC Dream (aka T-Mobile G1) has gone on sale under HTC's brand elsewhere in the world, so will the Magic. Although there are no official shots of the HTC Magic yet, Pocket-lint managed to snap a few pictures of the handset prior to the official announcement.  It certainly bears a strong resemblance to the non-QWERTY G2 that we saw leaked images of back in January. [gallery]
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