The handset also has a built-in accelerometer so that, when you move the phone from a vertical to a horizontal orientation, the screen will automatically switch from portrait to landscape mode after a short pause. This is very handy when viewing Web pages or snaps you've taken with the rear-mounted 3.2-megapixel camera.
The Magic's camera is quite a basic affair. It lacks a flash for taking shots in low light and doesn't have a micro mirror to help you frame self portraits. But there's relatively little shutter lag and HTC has kitted it out with autofocus. As well as shooting stills, you can also use it to take videos. Unfortunately, the shots it takes are only of average quality and video tends to look quite blocky when there's much movement in the frame.
On the plus side, the phone supports Bluetooth, complete with A2DP (unlike the current iPhone models), so you can stream stereo audio to a wireless headset or speaker system.
The Magic uses the same processor as the G1. That's no bad thing, as it feels very responsive in use. The Magic switches between applications quickly, and the various animations dotted around the operating system are smooth and slick.
Unsurprisingly, as the phone runs Google's Android, integration with Google's core applications, such as Gmail, Calendar, Maps and Talk, is excellent. Also, because the Magic uses the latest version of the operating system, some of these apps have been updated with small but useful improvements. In Gmail, for example, messages can now be marked so that they can have labels added to them.
Another Google property, YouTube, is also well represented on the Magic. You'll find a dedicated YouTube player in the main menu, so you can quickly search for and view clips. When you click on a thumbnail to view a clip, the phone automatically switches to landscape mode.
The Magic's on-board GPS also works wonderfully with Google Maps to pinpoint your location, and some appealing extra features have been thrown in for good measure. For example, when you're using Street View, you can turn on a digital compass feature so that, as you turn with your phone, the view pans in real-time, following your movements.
Call quality is also first-rate and battery life is pretty good by smart-phone standards. We got around 2.5 days out of the battery with medium usage, making calls, surfing the Web and emailing.
Despite all this, however, the iPhone feels like a slightly slicker package than the Magic. This is partly because the Magic lacks multitouch. In the Web browser on the iPhone, for example, you can pinch two fingers together to zoom in on part of a Web page, and spread them apart to zoom out. On the Magic, you have call up an on-screen magnifying glass that's slower and more cumbersome to use. There are other issues as well. Scrolling around emails and Web pages isn't as smooth an experience as with the iPhone, and the Magic's menu system is more complex and fussy.
The HTC Magic is not quite the iPhone killer that some people expected it to be. As both cost roughly the same price on contract, we'd still recommend the iPhone over the Magic, mainly because the Magic lacks multitouch. But we can pretty safely say that the Magic is the second-best smart phone we've ever used, so, if you really can't stand the iPhone, this is the handset to get, as it's easy to use, fast and packed full of features.
Edited by Charles Kloet