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Americans Cling to Gadgets Despite Tanking Economy

You can repossess my car. You can foreclose on my house. But you'll have to pry my iPod out of my cold, dead hands.

Market research and anecdotal evidence show that even in a brutal economic climate, people want — make that need — their high-tech devices, regardless of tightened budgets and a tanking economy.

"My iPod froze up on me — and I'm in no position to do it right now — but I had to get a new one," says Jim Heenan, a financial planner, of Manasquan, N.J.

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Scour the Internet, and you'll find scores of posts about our devotion to gadgets.

"I must have my cell with me at all times for work. I feel naked without it," blogs "Stratos5353" on Experience Project's "I Can't Live Without My Cell Phone " discussion forum. "I just wish it had more battery life. The stupid thing is my laptop, my phone, my planner, and my phone book."

That co-dependency on technology, and the related sinking feeling of being off the grid for any length of time, has been dubbed part of "disconnect anxiety," says market analyst Kaan Yigit of Toronto-based tech consultancy Solutions Research Group (SRG).

"Internet and wireless will be very resilient through this downturn," says Yigit. "This is because many consumers, with minor exceptions, view these as essential utilities like water and electricity."

Even with the ubiquitous downhill graphic of the Dow, smartphone giant Apple sold 4.4 million iPhones in the first fiscal quarter of 2009 — beginning at $199 a pop.

The required two-year AT&T service contracts mean that iPhone users are spending another $70 per month, at least, for data and voice.

True, tough economic times might force consumers to delay purchasing other big-ticket tech items this year, such as digital cameras, says Yigit. But it doesn't look like users are cutting back on the communication or electronic services they already use, according to Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

Some 80 percent of folks polled by Forrester, in fact, say they'll make no change in their video game purchases, and 84 percent don't see a need to change their allotment of music downloads, this year.

Only 12 percent and 9 percent, respectively, said they'd be making fewer purchases in those areas. (That's close to the 9 percent and 8 percent who expected to make more.)

Even if the timing isn't the best for shelling out for new technologies, a person's got to do what a person's got to do, says Rosemary Talkin.

The suburban New Yorker, a self-professed phone addict, says that if she lost her phone, a Blackberry, she would "replace it immediately with an upgrade."

"It would be extremely hard for me to cut back or not use my phone at all," says Talkin.

In other words, Jim Heenan's devotion to his iPod isn't undone by the tough times. In fact, these tough times may make us cling to our gadgets even more.

"I think even in a recession, you just need some music in your life, you know what I mean?"

Yes, Jim. We do. Now put on another sweater if you're cold.