What recent movie/film repeatedly showed characters snapping mobile phones in half after using each one?
December 2, 2012 8:11 PM   Subscribe

What recent movie or tv show repeatedly showed characters snapping mobile phones in half after using each one?

It was more than one scene. They would physically crack the flip phones in half.
posted by User7 to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Wire?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:14 PM on December 2, 2012


The Wire
posted by gaspode at 8:16 PM on December 2, 2012


Breaking Bad had a lot of this.

For a crime drama that's otherwise so authentic, this is a really weird thing in the show. Me and my shady/infosec friends have always laughed and been like "DESTROY THE DAMN SIM CARD, NOT THE PHONE".
posted by Matt Oneiros at 8:16 PM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Wire. I think they called them "burners."
posted by scratch at 8:16 PM on December 2, 2012


Breaking Bad (possible spoilers)
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:17 PM on December 2, 2012


Thanks, guys. Seen and loved the Wire, but I think it was Breaking Bad I'm thinking of. Each time they would dramatically snap the phone in half and drop the pieces, rather than just chuck the phone/sim, or throw out the battery (maybe they did that in the wire too, but it's definitely not what I was thinking of).
posted by User7 at 8:23 PM on December 2, 2012


For a crime drama that's otherwise so authentic, this is a really weird thing in the show. Me and my shady/infosec friends have always laughed and been like "DESTROY THE DAMN SIM CARD, NOT THE PHONE".

A quick google seems to indicate that GSM coverage is/was not that great in New Mexico. If Walter's using a CDMA prepaid, there's no SIM to destroy.
posted by zamboni at 8:41 PM on December 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


Homeland has shown a lot of this too.
posted by la petite marie at 9:00 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gustavo snaps a phone in half and throws it out in the trash in the parking lot of Pollos Hermanos, partway through season 3 of Breaking Bad. After hearing [Gunfire over phone]. Don't want to spoil any more than that. Just destroying a sim card doesn't look all that cool does it?
posted by citron at 9:21 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Burn Notice has done a bit of this lately, since the characters are always somewhere between "on the run from good guys" and "on the run from bad guys." The Burn Notice guys also chuck phones out of moving cars and other dramatic destructions.

Not all phones in the North America have SIM cards, by the way-- CDMA phones such as Verizon 3G and Sprint phones don't have SIMs. Or removable batteries, which would also disable any phone trace.

Also, the only time I've ever seen someone dramatically get rid of a SIM card was at the very end of the Swedish version of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," the third movie in the trilogy. Salander makes a phone call to police (from a nearby hilltop overlook) after convincing the motorcycle gang and the other threat in her life to meet at the same location, the abandoned property. After that, she removes the SIM card, snaps it in half, had chucks it away.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:56 PM on December 2, 2012


Just destroying the SIM card isn't enough: the phone could still be tracked via it's IMEI I believe.
posted by pharm at 12:25 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I see you've found your answer, but for another example of destroying SIM cards, I just watched the movie Four Lions tonight. There was a recurring gag about eating your SIM to destroy and evade 'the feds' (hilarious in itself, the movie is about four inept guys trying to be jihadists in London) and it led to the funniest part of the movie at the end, when one guy tries to eat a card, chokes, and a stranger runs up and starts giving the heimlich unaware that he's got bombs strapped to his chest.
posted by mannequito at 2:18 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, providers use the IMEI all the time to (for instance) figure out if you're using a "smart" phone on a featurephone dataplan. If you want to really disappear, you have to dramatically break the phone in half and throw each piece away in a different garbage can.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:09 AM on December 3, 2012


Yeah, what breaking it into pieces does is to guarantee that no-one can re-use the phone, since any subsequent use could lead to a trail back to you via the IMEI: Even if it's just the finder saying "I found the phone by the side of road X" that might be enough.
posted by pharm at 5:41 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't the cellular provider have a record of what cell tower the call is placed from anyway?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:43 AM on December 3, 2012


There are three different reasons for destroying a phone in a movie or tv show. Dramatically severing a relationship, preventing immediate location tracing, and to prevent the phone being identified as yours.

Phones are destroyed in ostensibly realistic crime shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad to prevent the phone being reused. The point of a burner phone is that law enforcement doesn't know you own it. If they can link you to the phone, you already have a different one. If they establish that you own a phone, they can tap it, locate it, or theoretically use it as a bug, but all these uses depend on law enforcement knowing you have that specific phone.

Destroying your phone to prevent your location being traced right now is also a trope, but kind of distinct from destroying a burner phone.
posted by zamboni at 9:27 AM on December 3, 2012


In addition to the phone's technical traceability, phones routine store all kinds of information about calls, SMS, contacts, and these days very little of that is stored on the SIM anymore. Lester Freamon on The Wire would have a field day with that kind of information, even if it didn't come over the wires, as such.

This all reminds me of a mid-1990s Carrottop joke, in which he pointed out that with cellphones, you can't express your anger the way you could slam down the handset on a phone. I guess since the invention of the disposable cellphone, joke's on you, Carrottop!
posted by Sunburnt at 1:25 PM on December 3, 2012


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