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by Tim Beissmann

iPhone vs car. No brainer? Apparently not according to data from the US, which shows 46 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 would take internet access over access to a car of their own.

The data, compiled by technology researcher Gartner, reveals the importance young people place on social networking and being connected digitally, and the decreased importance of the physical mobility and freedom a car brings. In contrast, baby boomers placed much more importance on cars, with just 15 per cent saying they valued the internet more than their car.

Gartner lead automotive analyst Thilo Koslowski told the New York Times the freedom and liberation allowed by smartphones and social networking sites were the equivalent of having a driver’s licence in years gone by. “The iPhone is the Ford Mustang of today,” Koslowski said. “Mobile devices, gadgets and the internet are becoming must-have lifestyle products that convey status. In that sense these devices offer a degree of freedom and social reach that previously only the automobile offered.”

So how do car makers get kids out of Apple stores and into their showrooms?

Ford senior technical leader of open innovation K. Venkatesh Prasad said the answer was to make cars more like smartphones – creating an “experience” rather than just a mode of transport.

Features like touchscreens, voice-to-text services and music hard drives are examples of cars and smartphones crossing over.

So what’s next? Manufacturers are considering a number of features including automatic social network check-in when you arrive at a destination, in-car cameras to upload and tag images of friends, and music sharing networks between cars.

What’s more important to you: your car or your smartphone? And what tech-inspired features would you like to see in new cars? Let us know in the comments section below.