Editor's note: Amy Gahran writes about mobile tech for CNN.com. She is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and media consultant whose blog, Contentious.com, explores how people communicate in the online age.
(CNN) -- After being an avid iPhone user for two years, I finally gave up. A couple of weeks ago I picked up my first Android phone: an HTC Droid Incredible, offered through Verizon Wireless.
I'd owned my iPhone for two years and for the most part liked it. Having a smartphone improved my life and work in several ways. But my contract was up and I'd moved to the Bay Area -- where I've found AT&T's 3G network to be ridiculously spotty and slow. (Each month I felt like I was paying for the emperor's new clothes.)
As I considered my phone options, the unicorn of a non-AT&T iPhone continued to waver maddeningly in the mists of the uncertain future. Furthermore, even legal iPhone jailbreaking looks like more of a headache than I would want to deal with. It was definitely time for a change.
Over the last year I'd been demoing various Android phones, to see what I'd be in for if I switched. With Android 2.1, I felt like the OS had finally reached a level of usability and stability I could get comfortable with on a daily basis.
I'm not averse to learning a new mobile operating system -- but it's definitely not on my top-10 list of fun stuff to do. As I expected, there was a considerable learning curve, many decisions and tradeoffs, occasional confusion and frustration, and some things about my Android phone I just don't like but will have to tolerate. (That's pretty much the experience I had when I first got my iPhone, by the way.)
Here are some lessons from my iPhone-to-Android switch, which might be useful to others contemplating a similar move:
Set aside a day to learn your phone
If your smartphone is an integral part of how you conduct your life and work, take some time up front to focus. Even if you've demoed Android phones before, configuring it for your personal use and figuring out which new habits you should adopt requires time and focus. Don't expect to dive in and in an hour be as comfortable with your Android phone as you were with your iPhone.
Get your apps through AppBrain.com This site, and its Android app, helps you discover apps in the Android Market and manage them on your phone. It also makes it easier to update and restore all your apps. (These tasks are easy on the iPhone via iTunes, but tedious if you get your apps straight from the Android Market.) AppBrain will only update, sync, and restore apps you've listed with your AppBrain account. So if you've already started getting crucial apps elsewhere, be sure to list them with your AppBrain account too.
If you rely on iCal, you don't have to switch to Google Calendar
It's enough to learn a new phone -- but it's even harder if you feel like this change means you also have to abandon lots of other tools you've come to rely on. I'm a heavy iCal user, and (after trying for a couple of hours) simply could not successfully import my iCal data into Google Calendar. So I found a solution to sync iCal up with my Droid Incredible.
Instead of using the calendar app that came with my phone, I use a toolset from MarkSpace: Missing Sync ($40 for Mac software, free Android app) and Fliq Calendar (free Android app). In AndroidForums.com there's a useful review by Krischik of this toolset. Missing Sync will also sync contacts, photos, music, and more.
Missing Sync is not perfect, however. I found it created many duplicate contacts on my phone, and it was unbearably slow for syncing media files -- but your mileage may vary. For me,Doubletwist works better for syncing music between my Mac and Droid Incredible.
Carry a charger or spare battery
All smartphones, but especially multitasking Android phones, can drain a battery fast. It's a good idea to learn tricks for minimizing power consumption on your phone. But until you learn those tricks, expect that your new phone could run out of power surprisingly fast. Charge your phone whenever your get a chance.
The Kensington Portable Power Pack that I used for two years with my iPhone works just fine with my Droid Incredible -- which is good, since I've been getting lousy battery life from the Incredible, even worse than on my iPhone 3G.
Accept that you'll have to let go of some treasured tools
For years my main productivity tool has been OmniFocus -- pricey but excellent task-management software with a pricey but excellent iPhone app. Unfortunately, OmniFocus syncs only via Apple's MobileMe service, which really only plays nice with Apple devices. After trying several options, I decided to switch to the Web-based service Toodledo, which syncs with a pretty good free Android app, Got To Do Lite. This doesn't replace all the functionality of OmniFocus -- but for me, it will suffice. Again, your mileage may vary.
...All in all, after about three days of using my Droid Incredible I felt I was back up to a comparable level of mobile comfort and productivity. I'm still stumbling here and there, but for me the switching process was not especially daunting or stressful.
Plus, it's really nice to finally get the high-speed mobile access I'm paying for. I expect someday Verizon's network will get bogged down here too -- but for me, for now, it's working great.