I got myself a MyTouch phone yesterday. It's has been available since Thursday at T-Mobile and it features Android 1.5 Cupcake. I have been a user of an iPod Touch for almost a year but the lack of anywhere data access was increasingly frustrating. The choice was between an iPhone and the new Android phone.
I like the iPod Touch a lot, it works with a fluidity and an ease of use that is extremely impressive. However, I find it has a few weaknesses that keep it more than a few inches away from perfection. But, the real annoyance with the iPhone is the proprietary nature the iPhone OS and the need to go through iTunes to transfer music, files and updates. I don't care for Apple arbitrarily choosing what applications are acceptable and which ones are not. And finally the T-Mobile data plan is also cheaper than the ATT one and I suspect that although the T-Mobile coverage is not as extensive, its existing 3G network is less crowded than ATT's.
The MyTouch looks very attractive, good plastics, it appears solid. The case and screen are slightly smaller than the iPhone's but with the same screen resolution. It's also a tad thicker. 7 buttons on the from instead just one for the iPhone, that's the most striking difference at first. I find this to be to the advantage of the MyTouch as I'll explain later.
The most annoying weakness of the iPhone in my opinion is the lack of shortcut between applications. To go from the web browser to the email application for example, you always have to go through the main menu. No need for that with the MyTouch as it features a 'back' button. So if you click on a URL in the email client, it takes you to the web browser and once you're done with the page, you just have hit the 'back' key and it gets you back straight to the message you were reading.
Now, the major strengths of the iPhone are fluidity and responsiveness. As soon as the finger starts sliding on the screen the web page or the list starts rolling, there's no delay (except when browsing complex web pages as they're being loaded). The MyTouch can't compete on this front, it often takes a few tenths of a second before the screen starts moving. It's quite tolerable though. I blame the ability of Android to multitask vs the foreground applications only in the iPhone for the difference.
Again, this is a strong point of the iPhone. A web page appears in full width at first, and a simple double tap on a text column or a pinch over the area that you want to enlarge shows you the desired area with the right zoom level. I find it very intuitive and effective.
The Android approach is different, Android doesn't have multitouch. So here is how it works: the initial view of the page is zoomed in on the top left of the page at a level where the text is readable. Whenever you slide the screen, the zoom +/- button will appear. The zoom step is quite small and it might take many taps to get an overview of the full page. Tapping on the piece of text you're interested in has no effect.
Another major difference is that once the focus is on a text column, the Android browser will reformat it to fit in the width of the screen, you can then zoom in or zoom out and the screen and the text still occupies the full width and no more than the width of the screen.
It takes some getting used to, and it's only been a day but I can now find my way around different areas on a page quite easily.
The web browser is another part of the interface where the back button is greatly appreciated. It's also very easy to access the the address bar as there is a key for that on the phone: that's the very versatile search key which changes purpose depending on the application.
Another useful key is the menu key that gives easy access to settings and bookmarks. In the end all those keys at the bottom of the phone save a lot of screen real estate and that's major plus for the MyTouch.
Final advantage of the Android browser over the iPhone's: better caching. The iPhone is quite bad at managing it's graphic memory. When scrolling up and down, it's very common for the content to stay invisible for several seconds while being hidden behind a frustrating grey and white grid. No such thing on the MyTouch.
The iPhone and Android email readers have a lot in common including flaws. One missing feature in the iPhone email app is the ability to zoom on message the same way it can be done on a web page. Well, this flaw is unfortunately shared by Android.
Okay, it's not entirely true, there are actually no less than 3 email applications in Android, one for Gmail, one for MS Exchange and one for your other IMAP or POP accounts. Oh wait, 4 if you count the gmail web application. This is definitely silly and I hope Google will consolidate all those apps in a future version.
Anyways, out of those 4 application, only the Exchange one allows you to zoom in and out. In the other 3, you might have to scroll left and right for every line of the email you are tediously trying to read.
The Android front page is a breath of fresh air compared to the iPhone, you can setup the background the way you like, organize your applications icons on any page or maybe in a folder with the name of your choice. The apps that are less often used can be left out of the front pages and stay in the full app list if you want to.
There is a notification bar at the top of the front page that shows not only the usual mobile phone indicators (signal bars, time...) but it also shows icons whenever emails are received, downloads complete or wifi networks are available. Where it gets interesting is that you can drag that bar down, and then it show a detailed list of the new events that you can select to go directly to the appropriate application. Very neat.
Okay, I admit it, I'm thrilled with my new phone. Besides everything I already mentioned, the screen quality is excellent, the camera takes great pictures, Google Maps coupled with the GPS is terrific. I should really mention the Amazon app where it's possible to scan barcodes wherever you are and immediately see the item in the Amazon website, this feature is just amazing.