Smartphones

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.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

127 comments
taylorjamer11
taylorjamer11

A absolutely beautiful car but plagued by engineering west coast metrics problems that mostly stemmed from the fact it was built by Lancia!!

jayohem
jayohem

I guess that makes my Motorola TracFone a Skoda.

markusrow
markusrow

You have left out the Vertu, which I would compare to a gold plated tractor.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

"greatest attention to detail" Really, that is why holding the iPhone the wrong way will cause someone to lose the signal?? Whether the issue is hardware or software related is immaterial; it totally invalidates any comparisons between the iPhone4 and a true luxury car. Even Consumer Reports, who generally love all things Apple, say to pass on the iPhone4 until the issue is resolved.

dkunaka
dkunaka

Not on the list but I think deserves a mention

jkameleon
jkameleon

Nothing fancy, but useful, comfortable, well suited to my needs, gets the job done, cheap enough that I don't feel sorry for it.

madmalc567
madmalc567

iphone 4 = form over function = anything by Mitsuoka

disasterboy.info
disasterboy.info

Not sure what my Nokia N97 mini compares to. Is there a Chrysler Odyssey Mini?

hembrasalvaje
hembrasalvaje

what about those who do not like any of th smart phones who find the old faithful nokia 3110 has all they need..... find the same with my cars. the older ones i prefer. new ones have to much unnesacary crap on them

willyd357
willyd357

Most iPhone owners were about as intellectual as a cheese sandwich. Let me guess, you own an iPhone and you think yourself intellectual. Well, I hate to break it to you, but I think the word you're looking for is pretentious, which is not the same thing by a long shot. iPhone is is just a brand, and it's one thats not any better than anything else thats out there, except perhaps iPhone knockoffs.

wjvelasquez
wjvelasquez

'In basic Public Sub Declaration Dim Apple iPhone 4 = Troubles if Apple iPhone 4 = Jaguar then Jaguar = Troubles End Sub

webmaster
webmaster

Heh! I've got a Droid and I drive a Fusion. Not a hybrid though. I need a Ferrari though.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Personally, I'd consider the iPhone grouping as members of the Jeep brand--rugged and reliable no matter what kind of terrain you drive it through. It may not be the fastest or most agile vehicle on the road, but it gets you there, one way or another.

etherkeiffer
etherkeiffer

Interesting I guess, mind you my phone and my car are two quite different beasts in terms of size at least: one is the Dell Streak - a fast and capacious physical giant with its huge 5" screen (although it does allow for fair bit of banter around the subject of 'big') and the other is the diminutive Mazda MX5 (Miata) S-VT Sport. Both make something of a statement in terms of appearance, performance and my knowing exactly what I want each to do. Certainly I agree that handset choice is a fair indicator of the mindset of the individual, however two like-minded people with the same high spec handset can have very different family (as well as financial) circumstances such that one may drive a sportscar and the other needs rather more seats in his people-carrier, although he may at least have a people carrier with more oomph under the bonnet and leather seats. I think it's a very difficult comparison to make and can really just be a bit of fun.

widd11e
widd11e

Gee wiz where is the Mustang? Mustang wins over a BMW anyday! Sorry BMW owners! /I will crawl back into my hole now.

Tomas
Tomas

The Palm Pre (my phone) does fit with the Volkswagen Beetle - or more contemporaneously the Scion xB that I drive. Most of your equivalencies are pretty good! :o)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Guess that makes my Motorola V-series work phone equivalent to a Chevy Cavalier and brings the old Samsung in as a scooter or bicycle.

MytonLopez
MytonLopez

Why compare phones to cars? It should be more about looks at my new iPhone I am cool.

fair03
fair03

What about the Tour?

lkarnis
lkarnis

I guess no other M$ phone even counts. Does that mean if you have an M$ phone, you are riding a bicycle?

Zoli Erdos
Zoli Erdos

Ford Taurus? Oh, man, you're hurting me... I gave up my EVO to try the Samsung Galaxy S.

lurwin
lurwin

HTC - HD2... I feel like I should be insulted so let's make the HTC HD2 comparison to a Ford F350 King Ranch. The dependable tool to get the job done, just enough flash to make people recognize "status", but does its job VERY well!

andyt1_2000
andyt1_2000

Toshiba TG01 = Renault Espace. Nice features, but too big and too unreliable to be happy with.

patrick
patrick

Based on current recalls from Toyota, I am not sure if you are slamming or praising when you compare to those products. Toyota has proven their products are not all they are publicized to be and that they were rushed to market before they were ready. Is that what you are trying to say about the phones in the comparison?

john
john

I have long been comparing operating systems in vehicular terms! OSX = Audi R8 (Every conceivable innovation) Windows = London Taxi (A proper no nonsense business car) Linux = Caterham 7 maybe? Come to think of it, isn't it funny that Stephen Fry drives a Taxi?

MsGeeky
MsGeeky

Right on! I have the Palm Pre and had a Beetle; so loyalty is a big factor.

dcolbert
dcolbert

You're bound to offend both car and smart-phone aficionados with this post. I think it is unfair to compare the iPhone 4 with an rebadged Ford, for example. :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Like the Checker, many of the bare-bones phones don't look like much, but they perform their intended function reliably and effectively. You can't ask more than that.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

:0 That's a surprise! Diminutive is too accurate a description of the Miata.

Daughain
Daughain

More like a Chevy Nova. A decent phone/car, but with the promise of so much more.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

with the plate that reads "4U2C ME"?

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

the BlackBerry Bold. In fact, the BlackBerry Bold 9650 is essentially a small iteration/upgrade of the Tour. In other words, BlackBerry folded the Tour product line into the Bold product line.

don.howard
don.howard

there would be a pickup brought into the dialog. How about a Suburban?

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

Over Toyota's history, its products have provided innovation, initiated green features without having to be strongarmed in by legislation, maintained their value, and their overall quality has been quite good. I don't know what the ultimate reason for the recalls will turn out to be (greed? negligence? a combination of both?) but using this recall wave to symbolize the entirety of Toyota's history is like saying the fact that Washington had slaves made his entire presidency defective. I've had Fords, Chevys, and Toyotas, and once I got the Toyotas, I never turned back. My first-generation Prius is still happily chugging along, with little more than basic maintenance in those years. (So is the other Toyota car purchased around the same time.) And as it happens, I do have a Nokia as well. :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

No way. You have to learn "The Knowledge" and be licensed before you can operate a Londen hack. Unfortunately, anybody can hook a Windows box to the Information Superhighway and drive around imperiling the those of us who obey the rules of the road.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

It's sure to offend many, and hopefully generate some fun debate!

jamey123
jamey123

iPhones are not worthy of the Ford title.

etherkeiffer
etherkeiffer

ROFL! Well I'm dubious about getting a windscreen mount for the Streak as it won't leave a lot of windscreen to see out of ;)

Slayer_
Slayer_

Goes fast, useless design but looks cool, guaranteed to crash at some point.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

I think it'd compare better to a Jeep Wrangler. But that's just me.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've got a .JPG somewhere of Jimmy Spencer shoehorned into an Indy car.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I was looking [u]over[/u] the windscreen. :0

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Can go fast, but shouldn't, some run great, others run like crap, quite a few crash, but some don't, and even Grandma can make it go.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Can go fast, but shouldn't, runs like crap and sounds the same, guaranteed to crash and is primarily driven by hairy fat people.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

except where did you get the 'goes fast' part? :D

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

I haven't had any problems with either one since I bought them, neither my Jeep nor my iPhone. No dropped calls, no 'stuck in snow', no negative issues whatsoever. But then, you expected that of me, so I'm glad to oblige. After all, the Jeep can do things no other road car can do in the same price range. And don't even mention the overpriced Hummer; after the H1 (and of course the original military model) it's become nothing but a status symbol.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Or he will attack and try and convince us his favorite Jeep is a quality product...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Is that because you've got to watch the handling on both of them? :-)

Editor's Picks