Ok, now don't laugh... but I'm 24 and have never bought a cellphone before. Until recently, I rarely used any phone (whether I was at home, borrowed someone's cell or otherwise). I've always done most of my communicating online - truely, if you didn't have internet access, you were just out of luck getting ahold of me.

Well, daily life has changed and I find myself in need of a cellphone. I currently pay $20 a month for my home phone with unlimited calling, day or night, to anywhere in the US and Canada, but I knew I wasn't gonna get away that easy on cellphone service prices. Speaking with friends and family, they average $60 a month for their services - some less, some more, depending on other factors, but ok, an average of 60 gave me something to base my continuing research on.
I've also realized unless I wanna pay an arm and a leg, I was never going to be able to call Canada on my cell. I'll just have to make time to be home and use the home phone.

Besides several cities in Canada, I also am now calling California, Oklahoma, New York, Michigan, Texas and West Virginia on a regular basis (daily) - in fact, more so than I call anyone in my own state (Mississippi).
I will mostly be calling from Mississippi, but take several trips a year to Texas, Michigan, New York and West Virginia for a few days at a time, sometimes a week or so max.

I've checked several coverage maps for different companies (ATT, T-mobile, Verizon, Cellular South, Alltel, and many others) and asked around. Cellular South has the best reviews, most recommendations from folks in Mississippi. True enough, the coverage maps show they have excellent service in this area - but that's about where it ends. It doesn't show much coverage elsewhere in the US, but my mother did have success with her CS service in WV, MI and TX with just patches of no service areas so it would probably be worth risking going with CS.
However, my concern comes into play about the type of phone I want isn't compatible with CS (at least, not that I've found - I thought if a phone was unlocked it could be used with any service provider, but the one I've been looking at still says only compatible with ATT/Cingular or T-mobile).

Sooooo... having checked the coverage of ATT and T-mobile, ATT was the better option. More coverage, better reviews and more recommendations in the areas I live in and would travel to with the except of one area, which their was alot of complaints on few or no bars (but I rarely travel to that area and when I do, I'm not alone so it wouldn't be needed for emergencies, figured no big deal, sacrafice service in that area to have this phone I want).
T-mobile had excellent coverage in some areas I'd travel to, but not all and very little in my hometown with hundreds more complaints than success stories - so that option is just completely out. Not going that route.

Since I'm away from my pc and home more and more, I considered getting a phone with IM capabilities (yahoo, msn), email, etc. - what? a smart phone? or pda? (remember I'm new to this lingo, lol) So that I can check in during the day with my Canadian contacts who I'd normally speak to on my pc or call from my home phone. But... adding that service would jump my monthly fee to 100 a month. Say what?!? I knew owning a cell wouldn't be cheap, but dang...

Am I crazy? Being cheap? Expecting too much for too little? 60 a month was a leap for me, nevermind 100.
Is it not possible to have ATT/Cingular or Cellular South service on a reliable, durable phone that is capable of IM's, with a nationwide plan that I'd use 1200+ minutes on calling out of state each month under 100 a month?

A few other things that aren't as important are:
I'd prefer a phone that was orange, red or yellow - black, blue or silver is in the majority and I'm not fond of having a phone that looks like everyone else's.
A qwerty keyboard would be nice instead of the typical click 3 times to get to the letter C on the standard phone pad.
Having the photo caller-id (I think they call it that?) - where you can set it up to show the person's who is calling picture on the display screen.

After all my researching the past two weeks, considering what preferences I can live with sacraficing and which features or services I really need, it seems the Blackberry Pearl (Sunset) with Att would be the best route to go - but that 100 a month phone bill got me bugging out.
Is there another option out there I've missed?
Suggestions? Another way around my need to keep in touch with Canadians besides adding that expensive IM feature?

Thanks for listening to me babble so much (sorry) and for any advice you can shoot my way!


See More: Am I asking for too much??