The second Android cellphone arrives by Easter

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Chicago (IL) – T-Mobile’s
G1 Android will soon be joined be three more Android-powered
cellphones. Taiwan-based High Tech Computer (HTC) will first release Magic, debuting in April, with two more devices
arriving later this year. Designed to be a rehash of G1, Magic packs the
same hardware in a more stylish casing that lacks a physical keyboard.
The remaining two devices are believed to pack more substantial
hardware improvements. Combined with devices from other
vendors, Android will flex its muscles this year to show us what it’s got against Apple’s 15 million user base.

SLIDESHOW:
Android G2 (HTC’s Magic handset)
(8 pictures)


According to a statement given by CEO Peter Chou at the Merrill Lynch technology conference in Taipei, HTC will launch “at least three” new
Android smartphones this year. HTC, the world’s largest vendor
of Windows Mobile-powered handsets, didn’t provide further details on what those three might entail.
However, we already know one of the phones is Magic, also known as G2. Unlike Dream that T-Mobile launched last October as the first Android phone (the handset was marketed as T-Mobile’s G1 with Android), HTC said in mid-January it will turn to rival Vodafone (a member of the Open Handset Alliance) to launch Magic.

Co-operation with Vodafone

The carrier will initially launch Magic
in UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy (non-exclusively), with more
countries to follow. We were unable to confirm at press time when (and
if, for that matter) Vodafone will bring the phone to the U.S. market
through its Verizon joint-venture.

According to a pre-registration page, Magic is set to debut in UK around April. Vodafone will be offering Magic
for free with pricier service plans — to address the current state of the world economy. The phone, available in an elegant
black or white casing, packs a 3.2-inch 320 x 480 pixels touchscreen which dominates the front. It has the familiar six physical buttons positioned
bellow the screen (call, hang up, search, home, menu and enter), and includes a trackball. Surprisingly, Magic removes
the physical keyboard entirely in favor of an on-screen virtual keyboard.
Overall, the phone is much more stylish than Dream (which surely didn’t win any beauty contests).

 

ROUNDER AND SLEEKER
Outer appearance sets apart the new “Magic” Android cellphone from its predecessor G1. Rounder, sleeker and available in black and elegant white shell. It also lacks a physical keyboard. In fact, Magic is the first Android cellphone that solemnly relies on touchscreen-based input, like Apple’s iPhone.
(Click for slideshow)

Exactly the same hardware

Hardware-wise, Magic
is a tri-band phone with 3G (HSDPA/WCDMA), quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE,
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR connectivity. It comes with an internal GPS
antenna for applications to use navigation, as well as G-sensor and digital
compass. It has slightly better talk and standby time than its
predecessor. Powered by Google’s Android OS, Magic sports tight integration
with Google properties like Gmail, Calendar, Talk, YouTube, Maps (with
satellite, traffic and Street View) as well as one-touch access to
Google search. The handset has a built-in 3.2 megapixel camera with
auto focus and video recording.

 

INTEGRATED WITH GOOLE
Just like G1, HTC’s Magic packs tight integration with Google’s well-known online properties, including Gmail, Calendar, Talk, YouTube, Maps and one-touch access to
the Google search.
(Click for slideshow)

What’s different, then?

Magic
comes with 192 MB of memory, expandable via microSD (SD 2.0 compatible)
memory card slot. A mini-USB 2.0 is provided for charging and
connecting audio equipment — such as headphones as there is no standard 3.5 mm
audio jack, though Magic will ship with a hands-free headset included.

Since
these specs are exactly the same as G1’s, down to the Qualcomm’s
MSM7201a processor clocked at 528 MHz, Magic’s only improvements over Dream are
double the ROM size (512 MB), a sleeker design, the lack of a physical
keyboard (some will undoubtedly deem this to be a drawback rather than an
advancement), as well as a slightly narrower, thinner and lighter
appearance (113 x 55 x 13.65 mm and 118.5 grams — compared to 117.7 mm x 55.7
mm x 17.1 mm and 158 grams, a difference of 4.7 x 0.7 x 3.45 mm and 39.5 grams).

Read on the next page:  G1 conquers Asia and Europe, the second Android phone disappears from view, Conclusion

While you were away: Android G1 conquers Asia and Europe

The first Android G1 has expanded into new territory. The
phone was recently brought to Australia and Singapore last month (via Optus and
SingTel respectively). Optus started offering G1 to post-paid Australian
customers from February 16 with an obligatory service plan. The carrier
offers four plans
for the handset ranging from an entry-level $59 a month plan that caps
data, all the way to the high-end $129 a month plan that comes with up to 3 GB of
monthly data.

SingTel, which also owns Australian
Optus, started offering G1 in Asia on February 20. The carrier sells
the handset with a two-year $39, $56 or $95 a month service plans that
pack 500 MB, 1 GB and 3 GB of monthly data respectively. In addition,
the three plans feature 100, 200 and 500 free minutes
respectively and 500 text messages is included in all plans.

Beyond Asia,
G1 is soon expected to hit a host of European markets as well through
various carriers. SingTel enhanced G1 with carrier-designed services
like video on-demand, the personal shopping recommendation application SG
SavvyShopper
and a mobile social network called Foyage. In an effort to
lure consumers, SingTel is offering an unlimited data download for up to
six months as an introductory offer. SingTel also carries Apple’s
iPhone and advertises it prominently on its site, along G1.

G1 ON THE WORLD TOUR

Officialy named “T-Mobile G1 with Android”, but also known as only G1, this is the first Android-powered device to have hit the market in the U.S. in October of 2008. Last month Singapore-based Singtel brought the phone to Asia and Australia, through its Optus subsidiary, expanding G1’s footprint. T-Mobile is bringing G1 to some European markets as well.
(Click for slideshow)

The second Android phone disappears from the market

Magic
may not be the second Android device on the market after all. Watchful
readers could note that Australian online shopping mall Agora hyped the
Kogan and Kogan Pro as the second Android cellphones and the only one sold unlocked
(to work on any network). However, the two phones that were initially
offered for $225 and $295 Australian dollars appear to be non-existent
as a link that led to the Kogan product
info now redirects to the homepage, while the phone itself is nowhere to be
found in the shopping section.

The tech press largely ignored Kogan phones in favor of a more substantial hardware and software upgrade that HTC’s Magic plus updated Android OS combo will deliver.


VAPOURWARE?
Australian online retailer Agora claimed the second Android cellphone named Kogan. While promised unlocked for $225 Australian dollars, the phone mysteriously dissapeared and is nowhere to be found.
(Click for slideshow)


Conclusion:  All key Android pieces now in place

As we recently reported, Google will soon treat their existing Android G1 owners with a major firmware update, dubbed CupCake,
just in time for Easter. According to T-Mobile execs, the firmware improves the overall performance, adds video recording and voice notes
and enables an on-screen virtual keyboard — the first time on Android.
The arrival of this new firmware coincides with Magic, meaning that both
existing G1 and new Magic owners should run the latest OS that supports virtual keyboard (as Magic will have no physical keyboard).

While the Android platform launched to a rough start in half-finished fashion, key pieces are now beginning to fall into place.

The combined firmware update, new devices and the Android Market store that recently started carrying for-fee programs (not only free ones), altogether creates a viable proposition for anyone looking for a modern, efficient alternative to the iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile-powered handsets.

While neither 2009 or 2010 will be “the year of Android”, it’s an important intermediary period for Google to establish strong footholds for the Android platform while helping carriers and vendors push a plethora of devices to market.

Time will tell us exactly how well this strategy pans out.

 


ANDROID PLATFORM — NOW READY TO GO
With recent update to Android’s mobile software bazaar that enabled for-fee applications, and an Android firmware upgrade announced just in time for Easter, the Android platform now finally looks complete and ready to compete with the iPhone. The completion of the software foundation will result in more Android devices shipped in 2009, and a better outlook for 2010.
(Click for slideshow)

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