- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - I felt nervous and a little giddy sidling up to the counter at the Apple Store on the first day the new iPhone went on sale last month.

I’d just given the iPhone 4S a rave review, and I was going to buy one for myself. It was about to be my first iPhone and only my second smartphone.

I was a little freaked out.

I hadn’t bought a cellphone since October 2008, when I got the first phone running Google’s Android software, the G1, on its first day on sale. Since then, I’ve reviewed scores of phones for The Associated Press, and I’ve given personal recommendations to friends and family.

When it came to opening my own wallet, though, it got a lot harder: There were so many great phones out there, but none that had it all. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s had trouble deciding.

I really liked the G1 at first and because it never died, I kept using it. But over the years, smartphones have moved light years ahead. I granted it a new lease on life in January by replacing its battery, but with sluggish performance, tired features and an inability to run many newer apps, I knew time was running out.

It wasn’t just the phone. It was also the phone’s service plan with T-Mobile.

I’ve been a loyal T-Mobile customer for years. I’ve stuck with it when my first apartment in New York lacked coverage and again when I moved to a San Francisco apartment where I have to practically stick my head out the window to get a signal. But that was getting tiring.

I wanted a hot, new phone and reliable service to go with it.

As a gadget reviewer, you’d think it would be easy for me to pick out a new cellphone. I know what’s out there, and I have access to the top devices. At any given time, I have a disturbing number of “loaner” smartphones crowding my desk, waiting to be reviewed or sent back to a handset maker or wireless carrier.

As it turns out, this made it even harder to make a decision. Part of me felt paralyzed by choice, while another part of me felt no existing phone had everything on my wish list of features. I also hesitated knowing that anything I bought would soon be replaced by a newer model.

On top of all that, I felt anxious about signing a new two-year service contract. I’d been going month to month with the G1 for almost a year. I was fearful that if I committed now, I’d miss out on a better phone over the next two years _ one packed with more goodies from my wish list.

I wanted it all. I wanted design and ease of use like the iPhone, but with an operating system that’s more flexible, like Android. I didn’t want a physical keyboard, but I longed for a good on-screen keyboard. I wanted the ability to use third-party keyboard software like Swype for fast typing, something I couldn’t do with an iPhone. I also desired an awesome touch screen and a built-in camera that could take the place of my trusty, yet older-model digital camera.

Also, it had to work well in my home and office.

When the iPhone 4 came out last June, it had much of what I wanted, but I wasn’t completely swayed. I also held off because it was still only available with AT&T’s network, so it would barely work in my apartment.

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