'My iPhone's Been Stolen!'

PHOTO A screen grab is shown from the "Mobile Me" iPhone application that assists users in finding their lost iPhones.

With a little less than six months remaining, I still proudly claim membership in that hippest of demographic cohorts -- American adults under age 30 -- 60 percent of whom told the Pew Research Center in a study this month that they consider a cell phone a necessity of life, ranking it twice as essential to modern existence as a television set.

While the Pew folks didn't specifically ask, my hunch is that among youthful, urban iPhone users like me, the rate of those considering a cell phone a "necessity" is much, much higher.

Because to those of us who own them, iPhones are everything.

They hold all of our contacts, play our favorite music, take pictures, keep us in touch with the world pretty much no matter where we are, get us from one place to another, and increasingly contain the entirety of most of our daily conversations with friends and relatives -- conducted not by voice, but via text. I could go on, of course, but you get the idea.

Cost and antenna and network exclusivity issues aside (blah-blah-blah), the millions of us who have been devoted to the Apple smartphone since its 2007 debut -- and I've owned one of every iteration -- are of the same mind: we are enamored with our iPhones.

To love an iPhone and lose one is to be socked in the gut in a panic-inducing, knock-the-wind-out-of-you blow.

To have one stolen, and then watch as it moves on a screen further and further away, only intensifies the pain.

As a reporter who travels in the field alone, I carry several electronic devices at all times -- thousands of dollars worth of gear, including two other phones. Haven't lost any of it yet.

I never lose things. Ever.

(I mean, I lost my wallet in a cab once about six years ago. But a nice Swedish lady found it, called me in the office the next day and returned it with nothing -- not a dollar -- missing.)

So I'm either very conscientious or just plain lucky.

That's why this morning, my breathing stopped the moment I felt a terrifying, discernible lightness in the front right pocket of my workout pants.

I know had the iPhone when I was downstairs in the lobby of my apartment building reading the paper. I know, because I had sent a friend a text message. I know, because he'd responded with something funny. (What he said, I no longer recall.)

I hadn't used the phone since I'd come back upstairs, so it must have slipped out of my pocket.

I grabbed my two work cells -- a 2006 model of lesser brand on another network, and a Blackberry -- and started calling myself as I stalked my apartment, hoping that the ring I heard in the earpiece would be matched with a reassuring ring tone within earshot.

Nothing.

I jumped into the elevator and bolted downstairs, dialing and redialing as I retraced my steps.

Nothing.

I tore apart the couch in the lobby where I'd been sitting, looking underneath and around it.

Nothing.

I asked the man at the front desk if anyone had turned in a missing iPhone.

Nothing.

By this point, I was late for work, so I headed into the newsroom, carrying only two other phones and feeling remarkably naked.

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