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RIM, Apple and Garmin Create Need to Spend

The smartphone manufacturers do a great job turning wants into needs.

Smartphone manufacturers have certainly worked hard over the past year to convince me that I actually need what they're selling. They're succeeding.

Research In Motion


announced its new

Blackberry Bold

on Monday, another gadget in the smartphone revolution that will probably motivate more consumers like me -- who are somewhat reserved about electronics spending -- to indulge in the new technology. The Blackberry Bold could be available this summer.

Recent hype about smartphones and fierce competition among manufacturers such as Research in Motion,


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, and


(GRMN) - Get Garmin Ltd. Report

is persuading me to upgrade mine. It's only a year old and works perfectly fine, but it lacks some of the newer bells and whistles that would certainly be nice to carry in my purse.

Innovation is both the blessing and curse of the electronics industry. I'm usually loath to buy something when companies bill their new technologies as yet another big thing that consumers should want to own. But I can't think of an electronics item that doesn't perform better than it would have five years ago. However, I just can't stomach the thought of junking a product that's still in good working condition and parting with cash just because there's something new on the market.

Every few years, however, I resign myself to the process -- and find that I even enjoy the shopping. My $1,500

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flat-panel LCD television is perhaps the best example. Did I need it? Absolutely not. I had a 32-inch Sony that worked just fine. But I realized the benefits of enjoying new technology when I had the new set mounted on my wall and no longer needed to waste space on a large cabinet (a.k.a. "the TV altar") to hold my old set.

My newfound interest in smartphones is somewhat odd. Just a year ago, Apple couldn't persuade me -- an enthusiastic Mac devotee -- to plunk down $500 when launching its much-anticipated iPhone. The price was too steep, I thought. Besides, I really didn't need it, I reasoned. I already had a $300 video iPod and a Samsung flip phone with a screen that seemed nice at the time. Buying the next big thing would seem like a waste of my existing nice-quality, useful gadgets.

One day, however, I was struck by the urge to communicate via email 24/7, if I wanted to. A need -- and the inclination to spend -- was suddenly born. I was still testing the waters, however, and not quite ready to make the giant leap to a $500 phone. Besides, the iPhone was still new. An upgraded version would probably arrive on the scene in the months to come, I thought, and my $500 expense would then just be "the older model."

So, I went a more economical route and bought a

BlackBerry Curve

, which cost about $150 after rebates and a Cingular service contract. It's certainly done its job. But news about recent phone innovations has just about persuaded me that my year-old BlackBerry Curve will soon be a relic. The BlackBerry Bold will work on the tri-band High-Speed Downlink Packet Access network (also called "3G network"), which means it will download data a whole lot faster, making mobile Web surfing easier.

Other goodies include stereo Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, and a screen that my colleague and's

senior technology consultant

Gary Krakow

says we must see to believe. It will also work all over the world, which is a huge benefit (even if I'm not planning to travel outside of the country anytime soon).

The question now is not whether to upgrade, but whether I'll buy the new BlackBerry or iPhone. Retaliers' present stock of iPhones have all but disappeared -- a development that's fueling speculation that Apple will soon unveil its much-anticipated 3G iPhone.

Do I need either? No. Seven years ago, I didn't think I needed high-speed Internet, either. But indulgences quickly become necessities. Will I love owning one after I part with the money? Probably yes, and soon I'll wonder how I ever lived without one.

Suzanne Barlyn is a writer in Washington Crossing, Pa.