I was in Los Angeles last Friday for TV meetings and lost my iPhone 4. It was on my belt and suddenly it wasn’t. Then in one of those deja vu experiences I noticed that I was only steps from an Apple Store, so I went inside to trace my iPhone using the Where is my iPhone? app. But my iPhone was nowhere.

Understand it was fully-charged and I had been using it less than 10 minutes before. My phone was nowhere to be found.

Sadly the kids at the Apple Store knew far too well what had happened because they hear the story every day. My phone was most likely stolen straight from its clip on my belt by a professional iPhone 4 thief. The moment it was grabbed from my belt the thief handed it to an accomplice. Within a minute the phone was powered-off and untraceable. They didn’t want my data, just my iPhone.

An iPhone 4 can go for $300 in China. They replace the SIM card, spoof the MAC address or sell it for use on a network that doesn’t care. The street price in L. A. for my phone is $100. An industrious criminal can grab several phones per day.

My friend Bill, hearing my story, said it is even worse in New York where thieves will steal the iPhone 4 right out of your hand, running off into the inevitable crowd of pedestrians. That will teach us not to use our mobile smart phones when, well, mobile.

I have had a hand-held phone continuously since 1993 and while I have broken phones a variety of ways including dropping one in a toilet, this is the first phone I’ve had stolen in 18 years. It’s not that I felt naked without the phone, I felt violated.

So what do you do? Go back to the Apple Store and pay full price ($599) for a replacement iPhone 4 because AT&T didn’t offer insurance and you didn’t think to buy a policy from a third-party provider

Nope. I bought for a quarter that price an iPhone 3GS which nobody wants to steal.

It’s good enough for me.