Economists tell us choice is good. It turns out though, only up to a point. Recent studies find that many people, when confronted with too many options, end up less satisfied. The fear of making ‘the wrong’ decision about changing my mobile phone and mobile broadband access has paralyzed me.  

At the risk of a bit of stream of consciousness – something for you to ponder over the long weekend – here is my somewhat cluttered thinking about my mobile communication needs.. If it’s confusing, well, that’s because the choices and decisions are confusing. If I had an answer, I’d just blog what that answer is.

I welcome any feedback but would ask not just for recommendations, but for the right framework for thinking about such decisions. It’s not like this is the only consumer electronic device I need or want. It’s also time to replace my ancient digital camera. But wait, maybe I don’t need a dedicated one and can just use a new mobile…

So I have a 2+ year old BlackBerry 8830 World Phone running on the Sprint network. No camera. It meets my core needs of e-mail and calls, both domestic and international. The international is key because I do travel overseas 1 to 4 times / year. I also use it in ‘phone as modem’ mode, tethered to my PC, for mobile broadband. My friends assure me this is slower than a dedicated USB receiver but the pay off is that I carry one less device (and have one less item to lose).

I am not longer under contact so can change devices. But what to change to. Yes, the iPhone is cool. But I read the articles about the A&T newtowrk. And the Android operating system and several of the handsets running it get good reviews. Without trying both out, checking out call quality, and seeing the ecosystem of apps, the decision is not obvious.

But wait, there’s more. I am also intrigued by 4G data access. Right now, I am only aware of one handset – the Sprint HTC Evo handset – that offers 4G speed. But the Wall Street Journal gave this feature a bad review. Not sure I want a cool fun where the core function I want performs poorly.

Then there’s the questions of whether you can tether some or all of these phones to a PC for mobile broadband. And if you can, can you also make and receive calls without losing the data connection? Can you actually exchange data if you have a voice call. Try finding answers to these questions on carrier or manufacturer websites. (It may be there, but good luck finding it.)

Hold on, “if you order now, there’s even more….” Not really, but that’s the way if feels. What if you want a mobile hotspot. Some phones offer the feature. But now I can’t remember which and if they are 3G or 4G. Oh, and can I make a call if it’s acting as a mobile hotspot? And if I can really get 4G speed reliabliy, does the unit / carrier support Skype, so I can avoid ridiculous international rates? But will I get that speed when overseas? And if I do, will it break the bank?

Maybe I should stick with my BlackBerry and just buy a dedicated mobile hotspot. The New York Times on Thursday reviewed the new, inexpensive Virgin Mobile MiFi. Cool, but it’s only 3G. Sprint’s mobile hotspot costs more but is 4G (where available). And then there’s the question of whether I want to carry around yet another device – and charger for it.

Now I know I said in a recent post an iPad is not for me. But if I did get a mobile hotspot, then I would not need the iPad 3G because I would carry my own 3G or 4G local wifi cloud. So from a cost perspective, that makes the iPad a cheaper decision and gets it closer to “nice to have, affordable, this is cool enough that maybe I can just buy to fool around. But is it really very cool and Apple-like to to have to whip out two devices? And how long does it it take to get both devices up and connected anwyay?

Now, if I could finally decide on the right combination. What is the likelihood that within 2 weeks, some even better device / combination becomes available? No joke – I almost bought a mobile hotspot then decided to wait. Good thing because the Virgin one – reviewed Thursday – may be a better choice for me.

All right, now I have a headache. And that’s why I am paralyzed. There was a certain simplicity when I was a kid and your only choice in phones was a black, Western Electric, rotary dial handset. (The intro of the Princess line did nothing for me personally.)

In all seriousness, I feel like the choices are legion, the uncertainty about exact feature operation enormous, and the challenge of optimizing a basket of goods is just way too daunting to actually allow deciding, at least not with buyer remorse setting in quickly. Is it just me?