Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

HTC Magic – First Impressions

I received my new HTC Magic from Vodafone NZ yesterday. I couldn’t wait to get home to check it out and set it up. After "toying" with the phone for a bit less than a day, I have to say that I like it. A lot. The device isn’t perfect, but I do think it’ll meet my needs.

Of course, I arrived home and had to charge the phone before I could use it. That was delicious torment time. The expectation was building. Finally, after about 3 hours, it showed a little green light telling me it was fully charged. I turned the Magic on and let it go through it’s setup phase. Then, I explored what it did, how it did it. To call the HTC Magic is to do it disservice. It’s a phone, it’s a camera, it’s a miniature computer that allows you to access the web, and do many things. That’s good, because that’s what I needed – I needed a device that combined several different items in one.

Simon Young gave his own review of the phone, saying that the learning curve was steep. I am not finding the learning curve steep at all. This may be because I have used similar devices for a long time. I started using Palm handhelds back in 1998 (yes, that dates me!). I’ve been using cell phone/handheld combos for near on ten years now. So perhaps I forgot the learning curve.

I found the Magic to be quite intuitive and was moving around its various options in no time at all. I was able to make phone calls, send & receive TXT, take pictures, install software and write a few notes within minutes of handling the phone. Good stuff.

Some might compare the HTC Magic with the iPhone. As I have never so much as held an iPhone in my hands, I won’t go there!

I like that the phone dialer can be used either by putting in a phone number, or writing a name from your contact list. It’s a simple change from my previous device, where I had to actually look up my contact list, then switch to the phone dialer.

I like the quality of the photos taken by the camera. At 3 Megapixel, it’s not the best camera found in a phone today, but it is more than sufficient for my needs. It isn’t like I’m going to use this as a primary camera, I have a DSLR for that. It even has an autofocus, which my old phone didn’t have. I tried a silly photo of myself, and found the trigger to be awkward to use when aiming the lens at yourself. Only minor inconvenience, I don’t plan to do a lot of self-portrait with this! Another minor inconvenience is that there aren’t any settings for the camera, to switch from daylight to night to fluorescent, so white balance has been a bit off on some shots.

I like that TXT messages appear in threaded view. It’s nice to be able to see a whole "conversation" in one place. It’s silly, but I find that a tremendously exciting feature!

I am not sure I like the on-screen keyboard. I have big fingers and the touches are rather small. This is a case of getting used to it. For over ten years now I’ve been used to using a stylus to write on the screen. I can write about 30 words per minutes in that fashion, without even looking at what I’m doing. So I miss that ability. But it doesn’t look like any device available now has that function. Not even the Palm Pre (Paul, that’s why I was asking on Twitter!). I’ll get used to it. And if I want the "keys" to be a bit bigger, I can turn the phone on its side to automatically change the layout from portrait to landscape.

I was disappointed to see that there isn’t a native note taking/document writing application. There isn’t a PDF viewer either. I had become used to the imate Jam’s Microsoft based OS and Word for mobile. Funny thing is, the imate is an HTC device as well. But I was able to search for, and find, a couple applications on the Android Market that will do the trick for me. A catch to be aware of, is that there are many more applications available on the Android Market if you look at it from the phone than if you go to the website. That said, there are nowhere near as many available applications for the Magic as there are for the iPhone. Still, there are plenty of free applications to do what I need it to.

I will have to figure out which viewer to use to read my ebooks in .lit format. I’ll probably have to convert the .lit to something else. Minor inconvenience. .lit is, after all, a M$ propietary format ;)

I still have to finish setting up. For years now I’ve been relying on Outlook’s contacts, calendar, notes & to do lists. I’m still tied in to Outlook at work, so I’m in the process of using Calendar synchronising, and cleaning up my contacts to merge Outlook and gmail’s contacts. I’m disapointed that there’s no automated way to sync contacts, but that’s more of a Google issue than it is a Magic issue.

The phone itself is nice and small. It’s thinner than the Jam was. It’s a bit longer than the Jam, and the screen is slightly larger. The Magic is lighter, too. There is a trackball which can be used instead of using fingers to scroll. The trackball is very small (you need to move the ball A LOT to get the same effect you’d get from scrolling by touch). I am concerned that this trackball will quickly clog up with dog hair. Time will tell. The "case" that comes with the Magic is only a thin sleeve and compared to the case that came with the Jam is disappointing. For serious long term use, I’ll have to get a different case to protect the phone.

Overall, a very nice phone. Glad to have it, and I hope it serves me well for a long time to come.

And there you have it, my first impressions of the HTC Magic. I might write more about this after I’ve had the phone for a few months.