Saturday, July 25, 2009

HTC Magic (Indian version) - expectations and facts

This month HTC Magic came to India. Being the first Android phone to be introduced in India, it is much longed for by Indian geeks. I know how much I have waited for it. Yesterday afternoon when I eventually received a list of dealers from HTC support, that are selling Magic, I almost left for the nearest one to buy a piece. But after I googled a little thouroughly, I found some early reports of HTC magic.

If you are a geek in India looking for a hackable Android cell phone, HTC magic (so far) is not the one for you. The biggest attraction of Android, is the ability to install new apps and a rich variety of them. The biggest repository of such apps, is Android Market. It has loads of free and paid apps. Unlike Apple, Google doesn't enforce exclusivity on App store choice for Android phones. So there are other app repositories too - but they are not nearly as rich in variety as official Android Market. Now note that HTC Magic in India does not come with Android Market App.

If you don't already know, here is the trouble: Android Market is only accessible through the app installed on the phones (you can check the featured/top apps from website, but can't download them from web). Furthermore, the Android Market App is not open source (like rest of the Android platform).

There are however ways to get around this problem. Root the phone and flash it with a ROM image that has Android Market binary in it. (didn't i say this post if for geeks only :) You will find many places which have well documented steps on how to do this. Some of the best resources: Haykuro's blog, xda-developers forum, android-dls wiki, Magic rooting post for South Africa version

The problem is, all of the above methods won't work for the HTC Magic released in India. Someone has already tried it here and reported here. Also some frustration can be seen here. The crux of the problem is Indian version of HTC Magic comes with "HBOOT-1.33.0010" which is a so-called "dreaded perfect" SPL. It will only accept signed images to flash the firmware, so the ROM images from G1, or ION or Hero are not useful with this HTC magic. There is however work going on to find a way around this. Follow this thread. There are many suggestions - ranging from dumping the memory during an update and searching for keys used to sign the firmware to exploiting the buffer overflow in linux kernel 2.6.27 to gain root access. People are offering money for someone to do this job. It will be interesting to see how this turns out. But all in all no Android market for HTC Magic in India.

I also explored more formal channels. I emailed HTC support (which is very responsive BTW) asking "whether HTC plans to provide firmware updates in near future that will enable support for Android market and other Google Apps. OR HTC will never provide any such support?". They diligently replied:

"In this regard, we would like to inform that we are not having such information that HTC is going to provide the android market software for Magic device in future or not.
We request you to for regular updates visit our site i.e. www.htc.com "

For a serious Android developer the need for rooting the device goes beyond just the Android Market app. Once the flashing powers are tamed, we can use the same device to test our apps for different ROMs - G1/ION/Hero for now.

My impression is HTC Magic is not targeted for geeks in India ('m asking for too much you say? :). This version comes with Microsoft Exchange Sync facility (check specs) - something that is useful for the "suit". (This feature in itself is rare I believe, not seen in many of the US/Europe versions of Magic)

Anyway. As far as my first purchase of Android phone goes, I see three choices.
  1. If someone successfully exploits the dreaded perfect SPL, I will buy Indian HTC.
  2. If Google announces HTC ION (the GoogleIO version of Magic) as ADP2 I will order it (Note that ADP1 i.e. unlocked G1, is out of stock).
  3. If Samsung Galaxy (i7500) that is releasing in India next month comes with an exploitable ROM, I will go for it instead.
In any case: I wait.

15 comments:

Noorul Islam said...

Thank you so much! Thank god that I found this blog entry. Just now came back from couple of show rooms. None of the them allowed me to have a look at the phone.

I was dreaming about getting an Android phone. Better phones like iphone are there but they are all closed. I thought time has come with htc launching Android phone which is an open OS and thought I can do anything with it. Now it looks that is not the case :(. Frustrating.

Thanks a lot once again.

Jayesh said...

Noorul,
I hope you don't give up and buy an iphone :)

I am pretty sure one of the three options I mentioned at the end of post will materialise within a month's time.

The bounty on hacking 1.33.0010 HBOOT is increasing as the thread now extends over 10 pages.

I suspect Google would have released ION as ADP2 so far, but they are held back because TMobile hasn't released official Magic in US yet. But I guess, Google will soon have to release it, given that ADC2 (Android Developer Challenge) has begun today.

Also found this new option today: Zii egg
It's not much of an option here, because India is not listed in supported countries. But the phone is amazing and open for development and probably more powerful in graphics capabilities than any android handset available in market today.

raja said...

I think all of HTC's Androids have a custom android build on them (almost like the Verizon/AT&T customizations on top of other phone models) that allows them to block access to certain features.

But as mentioned in the blog, you could always flash it with the plain android binary but you would lose those nice HTC features. Infact, IIRC if you wanted to upgrade the Android version on a HTC phone, you have to flash it anyway!

-- Raja

Jayesh said...

Samsung Galaxy (German version) has been rooted

If the Samsung Galaxy releasing in India this month has same firmware, it will be a good piece to buy.

cYpHr said...

@ Jayesh,

Am not too certain about Samsung Galaxy hitting India this month - the Omnia HD itself is yet to make its appearence.

Keeping my fingers crossed - my last investment of 30k into the magic is soon gonna land in my brother's hands unless its gonna be rooted.

Jayesh said...

@haykuro @l3wish just twitted that myTouch3G is rooted. It's the US version of HTC magic. I don't know what's the SPL of that device and is it among the "dreaded perfect SPL"s. The thread that is tracking "[Work in progress] Fix the dreaded perfect SPLs" now points to the myTouch3G as solution.

Have the owners of indian HTC magic tried this method of rooting?

Jayesh said...

This is the thread to follow for confirmation.

http://htcpedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=344&page=2

ccfiel said...

I also have this version ( im here in the Philippines) and its sucks. :( Every expensive phone but you can not do anything.

Raghavendra said...

Can anybody tell me whether the 3G frequency of HTC Magic (G1) US version (1700/2100) will work on Indian 3G network?

Anonymous said...

A costly smooth OS just to send sms and make calls and you can't just do anything extra in it. What dumb HTC people are!!

Wincy.. Winny... Wishtya.. n so on said...

Unfortunately for me.. i bought the phone before I read this post. Its really sad. Feel cheated, When i bought this i had an option to buy the illegal UK edition magic for Rs. 6K less. Being the good Indian, i paid more to get a legal device.
HTC advertises the magic with a tag line, 'I dont persue freedom, I live it'.
But the real story is the opposite. Feel like someone has put me in jail, but not letting me get what i want, and what i have paid for.

And to top it all its a Perfect build.

I some times feel i should try and sell this one to some one and buy the UK edition. Will be at a loss but at least i will have the satisfaction of the Google Phone, not the Fu***d up HTC phone....

ccfiel said...

Hello Ppl,

I just want everybody know that the phone with perfect build can now be free. I just did mine. Now my ROM is HTC hero and I love it!!! :) You just need make a goldcard.

Jayesh said...

Thanks ccfiel.

Great to know. I 've been lazy checking updates on this one. Time to buy one for me.

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=4335330#post4335330

Anonymous said...

hi, I am travelling to Singapore ... Can I buy HTC Magic from Singapore and use it in India ?

Amit Abhishek said...

I have a used (15 days) Magic which is Vodafone branded. I bought it yesterday and YAY! it has Android Market. Once you poweron the device its nothin but only Google-Google all the way :).