A History of the Phones of Girls

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Ring ring, Hannah’s phone. Photo: HBO

As an intelligent television viewer, you might think that HBO’s Girls is semi-satirical tale about four privileged white women coming of age in New York City. You are wrong. Girls is a show about phones. Specifically, how quickly phone technology has changed in the six years that Girls has been on the air, and how *deep, professor-like breath* phones have become signifiers of class, social status, and all sorts of other things in the 21st century. Girls never went the route pioneered by Sherlock and House of Cards and included text messages onscreen, and for a show preoccupied with naturalistic communication, the 20-something characters spend a weird amount of time calling rather than texting. But unlike, say, a show on the CW, nobody ever uses Bing, and Girls was free to name-check brands and include iOS’s that actually look the part. So, without further ado, a guide to the many phones of Girls, from Jessa’s flip phones to Marnie’s Blackberry.

Season 1, episode 1: Hannah calls Adam on an iPhone

Photo: HBO

In the pilot, Hannah has been texting Adam, who’s just a hookup at that point and doesn’t text back, so Marnie encourages her to call him by referring to her “totem of chat,” which goes, in ascending order: Facebook, Gchat, texting, email, and then phone. “Face-to-face is, of course, ideal,” she adds. “But it’s not of the time.”

Season 1, episode 2: Marnie uses a Blackberry

Photo: HBO

Marnie, ever so buttoned-up and serious, uses a Blackberry (remember those?) in season one, making her the Kim Kardashian, if only in phone choice, of the friend group.

Season 1, episode 2: Shoshanna embraces her purple argyle phone case

Photo: HBO

Shoshanna must of course have the trendiest technology, so she’s using the flatter, more angular iPhone 4, which she’s decorated with a statement case, all the better to clash with that nail polish.

Season 1, episode 4: Hannah tries out sexting Adam

Photo: HBO

In “Hannah’s Diary,” Adam sends Hannah a dick pick, so she decides to respond in kind with a naked selfie, a word that became Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013. The iPhone 4 and 4s, which came with front-facing cameras, were out by the time this episode aired, but Hannah’s sticking with an iPhone 3, so she has to be old-fashioned and turn her camera around.

… and calling him.

Photo: HBO

Remember that old, damp phone menu? Whatever happened to those droplets?

Season 1, episode 7: Jessa still uses a flip phone

Photo: HBO

The coolest people you know, including Adele, can’t be bothered to deal with modern technology. (Later in this episode, “Welcome to Bushwick, a.k.a., The Crackcident,” Hannah sends Marnie a drop pin to identify her location with Adam, in an ingenious use of Google Maps.)

Season 1, episode 10: Ray shows off Jessa’s wedding invitation

Photo: HBO

Ray might be a Luddite, but he is here for a front-facing camera. Jessa, meanwhile, seems to have figured out how to send a photo from her phone.

Season 2, episode 2: Shoshanna upgrades to a new iPhone case

Photo: HBO

After losing her virginity, Shosh tries to act more adult, with limited success. Ray, especially, finds her emoji usage befuddling. “A panda next to a gun next to a wrapped gift?” He tells her. “It makes no sense!”

Season 2, episode 3: Marnie answers Hannah’s text on a Blackberry

Photo: HBO

In “Bad Friend,” Hannah tries to get in touch with Marnie, who’s hanging out with Booth Jonathan. We assume Hannah’s the kind of person who texts in complete sentences, just not while she’s on cocaine.

Season 2, episode 9: Marnie keys up the backing track to “Stronger”

Photo: HBO

The most excruciating scene in Girls gets all the more awkward when you realize that Marnie, who does not have an iPhone, had to bring out her iPod to play music.

Season 2, episode 10: Hannah FaceTimes Adam

Photo: HBO
Photo: HBO

Hannah upgraded to an iPhone with a front-facing camera in time for in the season-two finale, which means the two can stay in touch over the course of Adam’s romantic run across Brooklyn. This was far before the era of widely available subway cell reception, so Adam has to end the call once he goes underground.

Season 3, episode 2: Marnie (finally!) gets an iPhone

Photo: HBO

Now she can actually download Charlie’s app and prevent herself from calling exes like Charlie.

Season 3, episode 3: Hannah’s editor (John Cameron Mitchell) borrows her phone to download Grindr

Photo: HBO

Girls never was much for story lines involving dating apps, but David Pressler-Goings briefly brings up the gay hookup app in “She Said OK” shortly before his untimely death — who’s to say whether Hannah ever deleted it from her phone.

Season 3, episode 4: Jessa’s got a new phone

Photo: HBO

After a stint in rehab, Jessa reaches out to a friend she thought was dead in “Dead Inside,” only to discover that that friend is very much alive. She’s got a new phone that looks like an improvement on her old flip phone. It’s still not big enough to be an iPhone, however — Jessa would never be a smartphone girl.

Season 3, episode 9: Hannah’s mom calls

Photo: HBO

In “Flo,” Hannah’s mom tells her about her grandmom’s passing using what appears to be a white Blackberry. A few episodes earlier in “Only Child,” her dad calls her on a flip phone. Parents just aren’t hip.

Season 3, episode 9: Hannah’s cousin texts and drives

Photo: HBO

Rebecca (Sarah Steele) is a serious med student, which means she uses a smartphone that isn’t an iPhone (it’s hard to tell in the scene, but it could be an older Samsung Galaxy). But she’s also dumb enough to text and drive. Don’t do that, kids!

Season 4, episode 1: Marnie’s mom shows off her fancy iphone case

Photo: HBO

Evie Michaels loves her cumbersome phone case so much she also brings it to Marnie’s wedding in season five.

Season 4, episode 2: Shoshanna screens Hannah’s call from a phone booth

Photo: HBO

In the first time we see a clear iOS update, Shoshanna’s call screen has a noticeably flatter look and a swipe to answer function, which implies she has iOS 8. Shoshanna doesn’t know how to respond to Hannah’s collect call and simply ignores it.

Season 4, episode 4: Marnie shows off her new song

Photo: HBO

Marnie has finally learned that if she wants a music career, she’s going to need a device that can actually play her music for her.

Season 4, episode 5: Hannah watches Mimi-Rose Howard’s talk on YouTube

Photo: HBO

Phones aren’t just for calling people. They’re also great for stalking your ex’s new girlfriend.

Season 5, episode 3: Hannah deletes photos from Fran’s phone

Photo: HBO

That classic modern conundrum: Is it okay for your boyfriend to keep sexy photos of his exes on his phone? (Hannah’s solution: Delete all the photos yourself.)

Season 5, episode 5: Hannah sneaks her phone into her mom’s female-empowerment retreat

Photo: HBO

By 2016, we’d started to worry about our phone addictions, and to consider putting away your phone as part of detoxing. In this episode, Hannah is using the teal polka-dot phone case she’ll keep for the rest of the show.

Season 5, episode 8: Hannah calls Jessa

Photo: HBO

Who’s still using a flip phone.

… and Marnie.

Photo: HBO

Who’s upgraded her iPhone case.

Season 6, episode 4: Hannah FaceTimes her mom

Photo: HBO

Loreen has finally gotten an iPhone, which means she can see Hannah’s face while consulting on urinary tract pain.

Season 6, episode 5: “Mira” holds her phone

Photo: HBO

In a fascinatingly meta wink, Daisy Eagan, who plays the Hannah-like character “Mira” in Adam’s movie, holds an iPhone with a red case, which looks a lot like the phone Hannah herself used back when she first met Adam. It’s the circle of life, or rather, a circle of phones!

Girls: The Show’s History With Phones