Entire, working mobile phone with SIM free in this week's Entertainment Weekly

This week's issue of Entertainment Weekly sports a live-tweeting interactive video display. The folks from Mashable did a teardown to see how this was accomplished, and discovered that there is a complete (albeit without a case or keypad) Foxconn Android phone glued between the pages, along with a T-Mobile SIM. By poking around, they were even able to make phonecalls with it.

They didn't show what happened if you put the SIM in another phone, which would be a neat trick, and I also wondered about the injunction to turn off mobile devices for takeoff and landing.

We Found a Free Smartphone Embedded Inside Entertainment Weekly (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


    1.  The poorest members of the richest nations will soon have unfettered access to all manners of technological wonder for pennies, and all it takes is the poorest members of the poorest nations slaving away for conflict minerals in the deuterium mines! Awesome!

    1. I concur. It seemed as if they were dicking with us because 1) they kept hedging around as if they almost but weren’t quite sure it was a cell phone, and 2) me having never opened a cell phone before, it seemed pretty obvious that was a phone based on the camera and keypad in relation to the form factor

  1. I’m both fascinated and horrified at the novelty and waste that this represents. My artistic/sci-fi fantasy is that throwaway tech like this is widely available for simple multimedia art projects like distributing small video players embedded in books. My enviornmental concern, however, is screaming in the background, even though this is actually a decent recycled use of obsolete technology.

      1. Does it alarm you that you mange the truth so badly?

        “A popular myth is that QWERTY was designed to “slow down” typists though this is incorrect – it was designed to prevent jams[4] while typing at speed, allowing typists to type faster.[5]” –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY 

        1. fine, fine. I WAS WRONG. but you missed the point entirely, so:

          Does it also alarm you that we use a keyboard layout designed to prevent a mechanical malfunction in a device that is only the spiritual ancestor of the one you’re using now?

          1. Does it alarm you that we use a writing system whose spiritual ancestor was convenient for etching into stone tablets and vellum? Or that we talk on cell phones with languages whose spiritual ancestors were convenient for talking to people in person?

            My point being: stuff has to come from somewhere!

          2. Do you think this bothers me? Do I find it wasteful to put cheap, obsolete electronic devices into dead trees for a huge amount of PR, as opposed to dumping them into a landfill?


      1. Vapor Paint is where it’s been for a while. RGS is kind of alive as my iPhone app Tondo. 
        If only they had bound an Amiga into Entertainment Weekly, I’d actually be on topic in this thread. 

  2. I’d guess the hardware was obsolete/surplus/mildly defective anyway, and somebody figured out how to make it worth a bit of money.

    A) excess inventory of phone guts for a canceled model.
    B) the camera/microphone/speaker doesn’t work.
    C) oops we made a few too many innards for our cases

  3. Was it just me, or was everything the female host said wrong (other than repeating “it’s a phone!” over and over again)?

  4. they kept trying to hear the phone call, held it up to his mic even – why not just put it on speaker? the option was right there on screen

    beta geeks – the way they kept poking at things, ooh aah, saying the same things over and over – reminded me of the ape scene in 2001

  5. Woah. First of all, I wonder who is paying the bills for those phones, letting ’em use data and voice like that? T-Mobile, possibly, but that could be bill-free/stealth phone for a little while. Second of all, I wonder if it’d be possible to do something similar and load it so that the camera/microphone turns on at your command to grab compromising video/audio. Forget high school laptops, baby, I can make your advertising material show me the moments you thought were the most private…

    1. “Woah. First of all, I wonder who is paying the bills for those phones, letting ’em use data and voice like that?”
      As well as the cost of tearing down the old phones and carefully adding new circuitry, wiping the old data (hopefully), and installing new software, and then repackaging them. I would have liked to get a better view of the page on/off mechanism to see if it was part of the design, or soldered on later- I’m wondering if it would be cheaper to build all of this new, rather than recycle??? Then, activating a SIM is a manual process, even more so in a recycle environment. The data plan is now looking like a cheap part of the equation.

    2. First, SMS doesn’t cause the cell phone carriers anything. It’s a use of the protocol required for the cell phone to be able to communicate with the cellular network in the first place. It costs the cell phone company just as much as it costs to turn on your phone from a powered off state. Everything that the carrier needs to handle an SMS message for you to text your BFF already has to exist if the phone company is going to capture billing information for your cell phone calls. The only potentially additional feature is the ability to send and receive SMS to non phone users on the internet, which the carrier pretty much needs to have in place if they are going to give you a data plan in the first place.

      As to placing calls, I would suspect that they figure the target market for the 1000 copies of Entertainment Weekly has a sufficiently small enough number of people who would turn this into a functioning cell phone, that the value of the data that T-Mobile gets from tracking where the magazine goes by triangulating it from their cell towers, that it pays for any ‘real’ costs associated with being able to place calls at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if the cards involved in this promotion all have a 7 or 14 day lifetime, (active until it’s reasonable to expect the next edition of the magazine is readily available) at worst a month. Additionally they did not demonstrate that you could dial a user specified number, just a user selected number from the included phone book. No indication if there was a functioning microphone, etc.

      Interesting idea as a source for burners or ‘bugs’ for the next episode of Burn Notice though. But that’s the wrong network I think.

    1.  THAT is an interesting point. Is this a phone with a GPS? If so, the app may be pinging its location. Not that I consider this necessarily a bad thing, since it’s anonymous… I’m just wondering whether it’s so, and if so what they’re learning.

  6. It has been a *long* time since I have had a desiderata craving as hard as that!

    Even though I already have a droid, before even watching the whole video, or reading the comments, I was out the door and in the car, driving hell for leather for the nearest newsagent’s. I was willing to spend maybe ten bucks for one of these, which is pretty hefty given that’s my whole months’ spending money.

    “There’s no way there’ll still be any unsold, I’m way too late!” I said to myself. But no! There, in the magazine stand, was not one but THREE of them!

    I grabbed one, and gently felt it… nothing hard, it flexed like paper. I opened to the center spread… just a card insert ad.

    Had someone ripped out the middle pages? I checked the others. All three were the same. It didn’t look like pages had been removed, as the staples were un-straightened, there was no paper fibers caught in them, and the page numbers matched up, if you counted the crap card insert as four pages.

    Was it *last* weeks’ EW? Might I have a chance if they still had the stock in back or something?

    So I opened my phone and read the comments to this post to find out what others were trying.

    1000 split between NY and LA? I live in Texas. No phone-ad hacking for me. What a sad wild goose chase :(

    1. Because they’re the parts we wish for.

      Flexible screens, e-paper… people are trying, but they’re just not there yet. They’ll get there in the end, because it’s what we wish for.

      Flexible circuitboards exist, and are in most modern electronics as inter-board connectors, but there are problems making joints to the rigid components, that can resist mechanical the flexion of the rest of the board. You can cover a chip with a blob of rubber, as a reasonably effective grommet, but it’ll still end up peeling away in the end.

      But this is the closest I’ve seen to someone trying, and frankly, it blows me away. It’s a technological dead end, for a certainty, destined to be toxic landfill or a relic on people’s shelves. But WHAT a dead end! WHAT a relic!

      This for me, is a wonderful thing. I so wish the whole print run had contained them.

      1. Flexible circuitboards exist

        and have for some time.  The dashboard circuitry for the gauges and instrument lighting in my 1970 Mercury is printed on a flexible sheet of plastic just like this.

        1. Whoa! 

          And here I thought the ‘Scotty, Transparent Aluminium & the Whales Affair’ was simply a one-off! 

          Kinda makes one wonder about other stuff.

          No snark or disrespect meant to you Donald. I like your post and the fact that you pointed out the existence of a flexible circuit board that was more than just a simple connector, and attached a picture of one from 1970 ;)

          I appreciate how you pointed out how a seemingly new concept has been around for decades. Similar to (but not really equivalent I guess) how rollerblades were first invented and manufactured in the 1890s.

    1. I feel black inside- came here to watch a tech clip, and walked away disliking a stranger instead??? On a brighter note, the video showed me new methods, or ideas, on things not to do that makes an audience uncomfortable.

      Between the “We Found…”, the excited over talking, and 4 hands grasping at one device, this video was making my subconscious hurt.

  7. Like a bull in a china shop. Remind me never to have this guy help me do anything. I am really surprised it still worked after he rammed, poked, slashed, and dug with that excuse he has for a knife. 

    1. Yeah, that made me cringe.  I have a whole drawer in a tool box dedicated to pokers and scrapers and pry bars that I made myself over the years.

  8. Not a single one of these is available on eBay.  Goes to show you how worthless the general public already feels these things are.

    1.  More like, people who might have ebayed it, know what they have and aren’t letting it go until they know how high the market price might get.

      To me, this is pretty historical, and a tightly limited run: so if I had the money, I’d pay a *lot* for one of these. Way more than for a real android phone, even.

  9. It should be noted that, as an advertising campaign for a product, this is an utter failure — the attempt to build word-of-mouth about the ad has turned into word-of-mouth about the technology.

    As a marketing tool for the _magazine_, it’s a definite win.

    1.  And, yeah, this was undoubtedly surplus circuitry, so the hardware was probably the least expensive part. Binding it into the magazine was probably more expensive, but looking at the installation (pretty nicely done, actually), I suspect that there’s some company which bought up a large pile of these and has more than one ad campaign planned using them. “Watch your mailbox…”?

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