I've been a happy iPhone user for about a year but I just bought an Android phone yesterday and I like it a lot. I decided to buy an HTC MyTouch on T-Mobile in order to use the Operating System. Here are my thoughts on it after my first 24 hours.

Many of us have high hopes for Android. It's not as polished, as popular, maybe not even as good as the iPhone so far - but if I had to choose between them right now...I might pick Android. Below are some thoughts about the hardware, the learning curve, the App Market and Augmented Reality apps in particular. I've also included one paragraph about the cost. Bottom line: Android is pretty cool and I'm really excited to have a phone that's more open than the iPhone.

The Hardware

Many people say that they don't want to buy an Android phone until the HTC Hero comes out in six weeks because the handsets are so bad. I bought a MyTouch, the most recently released Android handset, and am happy enough with it so far. I think I even like the small size better than the big brick of an iPhone I've also got in my pocket.

The Learning Curve

The iPhone is very easy to learn to use. The Nokia N95 that I tested some time ago was frustrating enough for me that I decided I hated it within hours. Android appears to be somewhere in between, speaking as an iPhone user. It takes a little time to get used to the controls and features; but that's ok - it's a computer, after all.

Multi-app Processing

One of the best things about Android is its ability to do more than one thing at a time. Listening to Last.fm while checking my email? That's cool. More interesting than literal simultaneous use of multiple apps at once though is the system's ability to watch for new email, new tweets, completed downloads or other activity in the background and notify you while you're using other apps.

Live dashboard widgets and the pulldown list of notifications fall into this same category. Those make a big difference in creating a very different user experience than what you get with an iPhone. I've got a URL bar/google search box/google voice search box, an analog clock display and a widget showing me the next item coming up on my Google Calendar - all on the front page of my phone. That makes the phone useful even with minimal interactions. Little things like that can make a very big difference.

The App Market

The Android App Market isn't as big as the iPhone app store and you won't find many apps like Pandora, Facebook or Tweetie there. The Android App Market is easy enough to use, though, and is wide open. There's no lengthy, arbitrary and anti-competitive approval process like there is in iTunes. That's really important.

Right now there are too few Android users compared to iPhone users for many developers to build apps for Android. (Though at least one report says that the number of Android developers is growing fast.)There are a whole lot of apps in the Android store none the less. Android hasn't solved the problem of discovering the best new apps any better than Apple has. It's hard to know after one day how the Android Market compares to the iPhone App Store. It may be a matter of supporting Android on principle but prefering the experience of the iPhone app ecosystem.

The Android Market is about to undergo a radical transformation, though. Check out this video below that was just posted to the official Android Blog.

Augmented Reality

I bought this phone in large part to use the new class of technologies called Augmented Reality (AR). These are tools that display a set of data on top of your otherwise naked view of the world around you. So far the AR apps I tried out were a little disapointing.

These are early days of AR but the dream of pointing my phone at a row of businesses on the street and seeing information about them displayed on top of my camera view of those buildings - that's still just a dream.

So far I've tried out two AR apps on Android, Layar and Wikitude. I'll be writing in-depth reviews of both over the next few days but I will say this for now. Both clearly have a lot of potential, both have a lot of obstacles to being useful and neither is a good excuse for pointing my phone in the direction of women in the coffee shop where I'm testing the apps out. If I'm not careful I'm going to get punched sometime soon.

I think these AR apps and I are going to need to meet half-way; I need to learn how to use them effectively and they need to improve. More on that later.

Cost

I chose to buy this phone with a 1 year contract, making the sticker price for the handset $299. By only committing to 1 year though, I may save myself almost $700 by not paying for data and voice through a second year. I split that $299 into three payments, too, since I just paid my quarterly taxes and because T-Mobile made it easy to do. I selected unlimited data and the minimum voice plan (300 minutes per month) because I mostly want this phone to use and test apps. After tax and a small monthly insurance payment I'm paying $65 per month for the service.

I canceled my $60/month Verizon EVDO service, intend on tethering my other phone, and thus am out just the price of the handset plus an extra $5 every month. More than worth it to me.

For now I'm having enough fun getting to know Android that I don't even want to pick up my iPhone to use it. The first day using any software is very different from what it's like day-in and day-out after extended use, but first impressions are important to make note of. My first impressions of this Android phone are good and so far I'm glad I bought it.