Can Google’s myTouch 3G Out-Smartphone the iPhone?

I really wanted to love T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G, the latest “Google phone.” I truly did.

Not because I don’t love my iPhone 3G, but precisely because I do love my iPhone 3G.

I love it more than I should. But it’s like dating the captain of the soccer team. Everybody wants him. He’s got you tied around his tanned little finger. He doesn’t have to try very hard anymore.

I wanted the T-Mobile myTouch 3G with Google, which hit the streets on Aug. 5, to be the smartphone equivalent of the handsome student council president — the smart, sexy guy who sneaks in and steals away the soccer player’s girlfriend with his smooth apps and glossy touchscreen. I wanted to be wowed and wooed and swept off my feet.

I wanted my iPhone to have some stiff competition.

But while the myTouch 3G is a major improvement on the first generation G1 Android phone, which was feature-rich but seriously lacking in design savvy, it didn’t steal my heart.

Across New York City, both iPhone owners and non-owners gave the myTouch 3G a spin and sounded off on its better attributes and its shortcomings.

At the top of the plus column is attractiveness. My test unit was in “merlot,” an appealing burgundy color with a bit of sparkle. The myTouch 3G also comes in white and black, and for a few extra bucks you can trick it out with a colorful skin.

We liked the way it felt in our hands — light, sleek. It is a darn good looking phone, and it doesn’t just appeal to chicks, as my editor feared after taking a look at the burgundy phone and surveying the product’s Web site.

The myTouch 3G’s biggest fan was a male recent college grad in video production who petted it and said, “I want one.”

Yet its $200 (with two-year contract) price tag puts it a little out of reach for the starving artist. T-Mobile’s monthly plans, however, are more affordable than AT&T’s. Its cheapest comes in at $55, while AT&T’s will cost you $70. Unlimited data and messaging plus the minimum voice plan bring T-Mobile to $65 and AT&T to $90.

The iPhone 3G S retails for about $200 as well. AT&T offers 3G service in more cities than T-Mobile.

AT&T has promised it will be bringing picture and video-messaging capabilities to the iPhone 3G S this year, but T-Mobile already has that feature.

The 3.2-megapixel camera took decent pictures, and its ability to record videos and immediately post them to YouTube or upload photos via Picasa is a definite plus.

In a sound-off with the iPhone’s iPod function, the myTouch 3G gave Apple a run for its money, mostly due to its superior headphones. Apple’s ear buds are notoriously uncomfortable, and their sound wasn’t as clear. The music interface, however, doesn’t compete with the elegance of iTunes and the iPod interface.

It does have a nifty notification bar at the top of the screen that you can drag down to receive notifications of incoming e-mails, calls, voicemails and instant messages. But it’s still tiny and getting your aim right takes practice.

When it comes to functionality, however, the myTouch 3G with Google begins to lose its luster.

The myTouch 3G, made by Taiwan’s HTC, has a single mini-USB port for both charging the phone and plugging in headphones, requiring an adapter that I can see getting lost easily.

The touch screen is significantly less responsive than the iPhone 3G, the unit against which it was unscientifically tested, and it doesn’t have the pinch and scroll capabilities of the iPhone. It also doesn’t have the iPhone’s rebound capabilities which allow it to scroll quickly.

Its on-screen keyboard is lazy compared to the iPhone’s and harder to type on, even for women with delicate hands. The keys are small, and while — like the iPhone — the letters enlarge when you hit them, they often disappear before you can see which you’ve hit.

I’d like to see significant improvement to the keyboard.

The Android Market — Google’s App Store — has several thousand applications that will be available for the myTouch 3G, but it still pales in comparison to the App Store’s 65,000 offerings. And its Twitter and Facebook apps were a bit clumsy compared to the iPhone offerings.

Overall, though, for those who don’t want to take the iPhone plunge, it’s a solid product that will hopefully become even more competitive in its next incarnation.