4/22/2009 2:43:00 PM
Vodafone staff await HTC Magic
The HTC Magic, which runs on Google’s Android operating system, is set to hit the shelves on 1 May.
The phone, which is exclusive to Vodafone, has met mixed opinion from analysts, but staff are keen to begin selling the new device.
Vodafone staffers say most consumers are unaware of how Android works, so staff training at the operator will be key to the phone’s success. Vodafone says staff have been trained on the handset ‘mostly through hands-on, demo based learning’.
Staff are also enthusiastic about the selling points of the HTC Magic (pictured). One Vodafone staffer says: ‘One of our guys went to a management meeting and looked at it – it’s awesome.’
He also confirms that the systems say the phone is due for release on 1 May. He adds: ‘Google Street looks amazing on it, apparently. A lot of people have been asking – we have pictures in the brochure. I am dubious about the battery life, though.’
The price of the phone has not yet been revealed. In Italy, where it is not exclusive to Vodafone, the HTC Magic will be available for E149 (£131) for existing users signing a new contract, in addition to a E9 monthly fee. It should also be available without a contract for E449 (£396).
Reports say the phone is much slimmer than the G1, and is updated from the first model, with Android’s 1.5 – or ‘cupcake’ – software.
Vodafone would not reveal the UK price strategy as Mobile went to press but says it will be for contract customers, and will be available free on some
However, analysts say HTC will face tough competition from established rivals such as Apple. Neil Mawston, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, says: ‘The price is going to be key, in terms of what’s out there – it’s smartphone wars. The handset needs to compete with the iPhone and the marketing needs to be good. It will be interesting to see the second Android device and there is the hype of the growing category around smartphones.’
There is also the issue of consumer awareness, as the hype remains mainly in the industry. Gartner’s mobile devices research director, Carolina Milanesi, says: ‘Overall, the hype around Android remains more within the industry than the consumers. In other words, if you asked a consumer about the iPhone they will know what you are talking about. The same cannot be said for Android.’
However, she adds: ‘I think the design is better suited to a European audience than the G1 was, so sales should be stronger. Price and contract conditions will be interesting as I would imagine this should have a lower TCO [total cost of ownership] than the iPhone and RIM’s Storm. From a usability perspective there are only minor improvements over the G1 and we will have to wait for the release of the platform.’
There is no denying that the HTC Magic is a feature-packed phone. It has a 3.2-inch QVGA touch-screen display and features a trackball and navigation buttons. It also includes a variety of email options such as Google Mail, POP3 and IMAP, as well as Google Talk for instant messaging.
The HTC Magic has a variety of powerful mobile internet capabilities including an Android-optimised Webkit browser. It features Google applications, such as Google Maps (below) and Google Search as well
as ‘favourites’ like YouTube.
The handset has met a mixed reception even before its launch. Powerful marketing and thorough staff training will be needed to make sure the phone is the success that HTC, Vodafone and Google are hoping for.
HTC uses Android to crack into the consumer market
HTC hopes to increase its brand awareness and break into the consumer market with Vodafone’s Google phone.
The traditionally white label manufacturer, with strong links to Windows Mobile, will increase its brand with the Magic as the phone will be HTC branded, unlike the previous Android phone – the T-Mobile G1.
HTC’s head of retail and distribution for the UK and Ireland, and current acting country manager, Dave Catt, says: ‘We see the Android as incremental – we see it as a way of raising our brand profile.’
The Vodafone exclusive handset has opened up the possibility of HTC taking its brand to a consumer market with a new network. Catt says: ‘The Android phone, which [Vodafone] see as a mainstream product, was the first time they’ve taken HTC as a consumer product and looked at the opportunity.’
Catt would not confirm that HTC is in discussions with T-Mobile for a G3 as alleged by some, but he says: ‘Judging from the success [T-Mobile] have had with that product, they’ll be looking to succeed it over time.’
HTC will increase its marketing spend by 30% this year in an aim to increase brand awareness.