Today we took a trip into Soho, London, UK, to visit Vodafone’s invite only launch for the HTC Magic. The private members club was a fitting venue for the UK launch of one of the most highly anticipated phones of the summer. Although somewhat hard to find, the venue provided an intimate spot for us to have a face to face with Vodafone about the HTC Magic, Vodafone’s decision to get involved with Android and their plans for the future. Here’s what we learnt.
First, a few quick important points. If you want to grab yourself a Magic and you live within the UK, order online now. There is a £5 discount on a number of price plans, and according to the Vodafone representatives at the launch, including ‘unlimited’ data. This is a big difference to Vodafone’s previous plans which offers a bolt-on data plan for £7.50 a month; once you went over the limit you then pay per KB. This isn’t particularly clear on the website, but rest assured, it is the case. Second, Vodafone will have the HTC Magic in-store on Friday this week. The 5th of May is the quoted date for online orders and it is quite possible your Magic may arrive before then. Vodafone are just playing safe. Third, everyone at Vodafone is ready to go; all the relevant in-store staff have had a week of training with the new Android device, ready to answer the every-day question from consumer joe.
But putting Vodafone aside for one minute, has anything changed with the device itself? Well we got to try it in a fully working state (including data connectivity) ready to go for the general public. Aside from the inclusion of a physical search key, there are no hardware changes to the device since MWC. This search button allows users to search whatever they are currently viewing (email, web, messages, etc.) with a single touch of the key. This productivity enhancement is particular suited to a Google related device. Just like the G1, the Magic is super-snappy and a pleasure to use. The onscreen keyboard is a contentious point for some, but for many it’s the pulling factor too; for me, it works just fine and I found no productivity drop off compared to, say, a Blackberry 8330. Admittedly, my hands and fingers are pretty slender so perhaps this helps.
We pressed Vodafone about why Android and why the HTC Magic. They seemed so excited about both, but do they just want to get a slice of the Android market while it is still fresh, irrespective of the device it is running on? When asked whether they are launching this device for Android, or for the HTC Magic as a phone in its own right, they looked shifty, but gave what was probably a truthful answer; ‘both’. Furthermore, they admitted to be looking into the possibility of other Android based devices for later this year. This bodes well for the operating system, although Vodafone refused to comment, or even speculate, on projected sales forecasts for the Magic (presumably because of the forthcoming corporate progress report).
Overall, we still like it, we think it will sell well and we are pleased to see a large carrier such as Vodafone come across so excited about something we rather like a lot ourselves.