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A taste of Android 'Cupcake' from the Magic phone

ZDNet UK has been given a sneak preview of Vodafone's exclusive HTC Magic handset, the first to use the updated 'Cupcake' version of the Android mobile platform
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1 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

On Tuesday, ZDNet UK was given a preview of the HTC Magic, which will be exclusively carried in the UK by Vodafone.

Taking a look at the handset also provided an opportunity to try out the functionality of version 1.5 — also known as Cupcake — of the Android platform. The second version of the Google-led platform, also rolling out from Tuesday for T-Mobile UK's G1 users, shows significant enhancements over the first, as demonstrated over the following pages.

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2 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

As shown in the above photograph, the HTC Magic (left) is shorter than the T-Mobile G1, the first Android phone.

The Magic measures 113x55x13.65mm, while its predecessor measures 117.7x55.7x17.1mm. The Magic is also lighter than the G1, at 118.5g with battery to the G1's 158g.

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3 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

This picture, showing the tops of the Magic and the G1, demonstrates the difference in thickness between the two handsets.

That difference is largely attributable to the lack of a physical slide-out keyboard in the Magic, which is replaced by a virtual on-screen keyboard similar to that of the iPhone.

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4 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

This shot shows the two handsets from the bottom view.

The Magic (left) retains the same mini-USB data and headset connector as that found on the G1, as well as the same slight upturn at the bottom of the device. A converter is provided in the box to allow the use of standard headphones with the Magic.

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5 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

As this picture shows, the Magic (on top) has a different physical-button layout from that of the G1.

The most notable change in this regard is the addition among the main buttons of a search key, marked by a magnifying glass. This was part of the slide-open physical keyboard on the G1, but as it triggers phone behaviour from the home screen — pulling up Google Search — it needs to be available even when the new virtual keyboard is hidden.

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6 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

The Magic (bottom of picture) may lack a physical keyboard, but the virtual keyboard makes up for it.

This virtual keyboard is one of the major upgrades that Cupcake brought to the Android platform, and can be used in portrait or landscape mode. G1 users will be able to use a virtual keyboard to avoid having to open their phone, once they are sent the upgrade over the air.

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7 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

The virtual keyboard on the Magic, which provides tactile feedback for each key press, proved at least as easy to use as that found on the iPhone, during our short time with the device at launch.

As with all mobile-phone keyboards, however, its size limitations can lead to the odd mistake.

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8 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

Like the G1, the HTC Magic uses a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus.

However, as demonstrated on the following page, the Magic's updated Android operating system offers more tightly integrated photo-sharing capabilities than those found in the first version of Android.

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9 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

Once a photo has been taken on the Magic, the menus offer easy access to upload services such as Picasa, Google's photo-sharing website, or for applications such as Twidroid, a popular Android Twitter client.

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10 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

While it is easy in theory to upload a photo from the Magic to Picasa, however, that functionality failed in the demonstration given to ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

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11 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

A significant upgrade in version 1.5 of Android is the ability to shoot video, as demonstrated in the above picture. This is currently not available in Android's main competitor, the iPhone, although there are confident predictions of a June update that adds this feature.

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12 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

Once a video has been shot on the Magic, the menus make it simple to upload that video to YouTube, which, like Picasa, is a Google property.

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13 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

Tighter integration between Google services is a major feature of Cupcake, when compared to the first iteration of Android.

The picture above shows how Latitude, Google's friend-finding location-based service, has been incorporated into Google Maps on the Magic.

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14 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

Another Google Maps service that can now be used in the UK is Street View, which shows the user a photographic representation of certain locations on Google Maps.

Street View was launched in the UK in mid-March and so far its functionality works only for major city centres. However, Google camera-cars have been spotted in the provinces.

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15 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

The above photo shows Street View working on the Magic, displaying a location in the heart of Soho.

The accelerometers built into the Magic allow the perspective shown in Street View to change with a subtle tilt of the handset.

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16 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

The Qype application shown in the above shot is a location-based service that is integrated with Google Maps. It allows the user to search for nearby shops and entertainment venues, providing relevant ratings and pinpointing those locations on the map.

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17 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

Another application that works cleverly alongside Google's location-based services is Android's barcode scanner.

While the G1 could use a free scanner from the Market applications store, the one in the Cupcake-equipped Magic provides more extensive and useful results. In the example pictured above, the phone is scanning the barcode on a book. The result is pictured on the following page...

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18 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

The barcode scanned in the previous picture provided the results shown above.

The book was quickly identified by the application, which then automatically displayed the best available prices for that book on the web, as well as the book's price at various nearby bookstores. A single tap of the finger then showed those bookstores pinpointed on Google Maps.

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19 of 19 David Meyer/ZDNet

Tuesday's demonstration of the Magic also showed how the Android Marketplace has developed since the T-Mobile G1 first appeared last year.

Pictured above is a fun, if pointless, iPhone-esque application that lets the user hit virtual drums using the handset's touchscreen.

The HTC Magic will be made available exclusively through Vodafone in the UK on 5 May.

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