Comparing smartphones to cars, from Prius to Lexus

If smartphones were automobiles, which car models would represent the leading phones? See which phone is the Lexus and which is the Prius, and everything in between.

The type of smartphone you carry can certainly say something about you, or at least it may be used by others as a way to try to glean something about you.

A BlackBerry says that you're likely a corporate professional. An iPhone says that you're more of an intellectual. An Android phone says that you're probably a bit of a technophile. A Nokia device says that you've got European sensibilities. A Windows Mobile or Palm phone can mean that you've been in tech for a long time and you're loyal to the more traditional brands.

When you hear people in the technology industry talking about how today's tech is becoming more like fashion, they're not talking about chips embedded in clothing. They're talking about the phenomenon of some people selecting their gadgets as part of their self-expression, in the same way that some people choose clothes to wear as part of the image they want to portray to the world about the type of person they are.

In today's world, the type of smartphone you use can be the digital equivalent to the kind of car you drive since both of these machines tend to have a very personal connection with their owners. That's one of the reasons why I recently compared the HTC EVO 4G to a Hummer and the Motorola Droid X to a Cadillac Escalade. Plus, it's just an interesting comparison to make because both markets have a lot of diversity in terms of brands, style, and functionality.

When I published both of the comparison pieces mentioned above, TechRepublic members asked about extending the car metaphor to other top smartphones, so this is my effort to do just that. I've put together a list of 20 popular smartphones and compared each one to a car brand or a specific car model. The best way to view this is in the photo gallery that we've built, but I've also included the list in text form below.

Keep in mind that this is just a fun exercise. As most IT and business professionals will agree, the functionality of a smartphone is far more important than it's style, but fortunately there are lots of choices in the market right now and so there's the option to have both in many cases.

For instant analysis of tech news, follow my Twitter feed: @jasonhiner

Photo gallery

Photos: Comparing smartphones to cars, from Prius to Lexus

If these smartphones were cars...

1. Apple iPhone 4 = Jaguar

The Jaguar is a luxury vehicle that's a mix between a sedan and a sports car, and it comes in a package with the greatest attention to detail and style. Easy to see the similarities here.

2. Apple iPhone 3G/3GS = BMW

The iPhone 3G/3GS reigned for two years as the most popular high-end smartphone on the market; the BMW 3 Series is most popular luxury sedan in the world.

3. Google Nexus One = Lexus

Arguably the highest rated and most critically-acclaimed sedan on the road today is the Lexus; the Google Nexus One has received similar rave reviews, and it has the same type of style as the Lexus — top notch quality, but simple and not overdone. Plus, the name similarity is too good to pass up.

4. Motorola Droid X = Cadillac Escalade

Both the Motorola Droid X and the Cadillac Escalade are symbols of oversized luxury vehicles. They both make a big, powerful statement.

5. Motorola Droid = Ford Fusion Hybrid

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is Motor Trend's Car of the Year (2010), while the Motorola Droid was widely hailed by the tech press as the phone that launched the Android revolution. Plus, they're both very popular with the public, and the Fusion Hybrid gets great gas mileage (+40 mpg) while the Droid has some of the best battery life of any smartphone on the market.

6. Motorola Backflip = Chrysler Sebring

Motorola Backflip has drawn customer interest, but has been also drawn wide criticism for "crippling" the Android experience. Similarly, the Chrysler Sebring was derided by U.S. News & World Report for its performance and style and called "the worst midsize car for the money."

7. HTC EVO 4G = Hummer

Another monstrous new smartphone in 2010 is the HTC EVO 4G. With its large, boxy design and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feature list, the EVO naturally evokes the Hummer.

8. HTC Incredible = Infiniti

The Infiniti is a luxury sedan (made by Nissan) that often flies under the radar but is known for its quality and is typically well-liked by its owners. In the same way, the HTC Incredible is a top quality smartphone that is overshadowed by the EVO and the Droid X.

9. Samsung Galaxy S = Ford Taurus

The Samsung Galaxy S is a new Android phone that is coming to many different wireless carriers under various product names in 2010. It's automobile equivalent is the workman-like, unpretentious Ford Taurus.

10. LG Ally = Nissan Sentra

LG's first Android phone comes in a minimalist package and is a little underpowered, but the price is right and it has few nifty features to brag about, much like the practical and economical Nissan Sentra.

11. BlackBerry Bold = Cadillac CTS

BlackBerry's flagship device, the Bold, is a symbol of well-balanced, high-quality craftsmanship based on years of experience and design savvy. It's design also represents a rebirth of a classic brand, similar to the Cadillac CTS. And both are popular sellers as well, especially in the US.

12. BlackBerry Curve = Toyota Corolla

These two both represent minimal styling but reliable service year-after-year.

13. BlackBerry Storm = Audi A4

The Storm 2 and the Audi A4 are both slightly quirky but nevertheless top quality. Both tend to get lost in the shuffle because of more prominent competitors.

14. BlackBerry Pearl = Honda Civic

Like the Curve-Corolla match, here's another example of two brands that represent substance over style. Both draw solid reviews year-in and year-out and are distinguished mostly for their dependability.

15. Palm Pre = Volkswagen Beetle

Here are two brands that both think outside of the box with a unique sense of style, and both have a small cult following because of it.

16. Nokia E71 = Toyota Prius

Nokia's E71 has a great mix of high-end smartphone features in a very slim package with great battery life. The Prius packs lots of terrific tech features (from hands-free Bluetooth to a big LCD in the dash) into a small hyrid vehicle that can get up to 50 mpg.

17. Nokia N97 = Honda Odyssey

Nokia loaded a ton of high-end features into the N97, including an excellent camera and a full hardware keyboard. But, the result was a thick, bulky device, the smartphone equivalent of a mini-van. And since the Honda Odyssey is among the most tech-equipped mini-vans available, it is the perfect analogue.

18. HTC HD2 = Ford F-series

Before the EVO and the Droid X, the biggest smartphone on the market was the HTC HD2. This monster is still around, but since it runs Windows Mobile it's a more utilitarian and less flashy device, albeit still very powerful. It's perfect counterpart is the Ford F-series pickup truck.

19. HTC Touch Pro2 = Honda Accord

The most popular Windows Mobile device on the market is arguably the HTC Touch Pro2. It's the Honda Accord of smartphones. It's a little bit nicer than its smaller competitors, but it also doesn't have any of the extra touches that its high-end competitors can boast.

20. Microsoft KIN = Yugo

Microsoft's KIN was hyped for years as "Project Pink" but the product was so disappointing when it finally hit the market this year that Microsoft killed it shortly after launching it. The whole saga has echoes of the much-hyped Yugo car from the 1980s, one of the most infamous automobiles ever made.

Your take

Which of these comparisons do you agree or disagree with? Which smartphones aren't on the list, and can you think of a good car comparison for them? Post our thoughts in the discussion.


Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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