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[[quoteright:350:[[Film/AmericanPsycho http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/batemanmotorola.png]]]]

Once upon a time, cell phones served as a status symbol. In TheEighties, when they had just been invented and were both too bulky and too expensive for widespread use, carrying a cell phone was a shorthand for high status and wealth. Businessmen were always bound to show up with one. (The earliest examples of this variation on the trope use a beeper instead, but the intent is the same: to show that the owner is important and needed.)

In TheNineties, as mainstream cell phone ownership was starting to take root, their role as a status symbol in media evolved. Sure, anyone might own one, but only the wealthiest had the ultra-advanced camera phone decorated with gems and a super fast internet connection. Special attention was paid to the brand and the utilities of the phone denote the character's status, making it ripe for ProductPlacement. Expect the RichBitch and the PhoneaholicTeenager to show up with one.

This trope is [[TropeBreaker ultimately dying out]] in today's day and age. Nowadays, cellphones have become so mainstream and so much more affordable that [[SocietyMarchesOn it's basically expected for someone to have one]], and having a top-of-the-line model doesn't really mean that much anymore either--especially since [[TechnologyMarchesOn it's probably got at least a dozen nearly identical competitors and is only an incremental upgrade to phone's previous model anyway]]. Certain ''brands'' still play it straight to a point, but if the trope appears in contemporary fiction it's likely to be either {{satire}}, {{parody}} or {{deconstruction}}.

Subtrope of TechnologyMarchesOn and SocietyMarchesOn.
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!Examples:

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[[folder:Advertising]]
* One of Budweiser's "Real Men of Genius" ads profiled "Mr. Talking-Too-Loud-On-His-Cell-Phone Guy":
-->''Nothing screams "I'm important" like a man screaming "I'm important" into a cell phone.''
-->''♩ Did I mention I'm important ♩''
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[[folder: Anime & Manga]]
* Miyuki from ''Manga/NurseAngelRirikaSOS'' owning a cellphone in the mid-1990s (and as an elementary schooler no less) signifies her as wealthy.
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[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/HortonHearsAWho'', one of the mayor's girls wants a cell phone, claiming that everyone else in class has one. When her dad says she's exaggerating, she shows him her class photo, with everyone but her talking on their cells.
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[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In the 1980 comedy film ''Film/{{Caddyshack}}'', Rodney Dangerfield plays Al Czervik, a real-estate developer who is shown to be eccentric/filthy rich right from the start. He has a telephone right in his golf bag, which he answers while out on the course. This was not a typical "brick" phone, but from what we could see it was more like a typical 1970s desk phone, complete with an acoustic ringing bell and a coiled handset cord.
* The main characters in ''Film/{{Clueless}}'' all having mobile phones despite being in high school was intended as a joke about how spoilt and well-off they were. Modern viewers tend not to understand why a high school student with a mobile phone is supposed to be funny.
* Harry from ''Film/WhenHarryMetSally'' has a fake plastic car phone, just so he can fake talking on it, to look rich and important when someone else is talking on theirs.
* Gordon Gecko on ''Film/WallStreet'' has an extravagant, top-of-the-the-line, and brick-sized cell phone. This is used as a TechnologyMarchesOn gag in the sequel ''Money Never Sleeps'' when he [[spoiler: is released from prison]] and gets said phone, now obsolete, returned to him.
* Parodied on ''Film/{{Zoolander}}'', where the title character's cell phone is impractically tiny.
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[[folder:Literature]]
* In the ''Series/DoctorWho'' ''Literature/PastDoctorAdventures'' novel ''Business Unusual'' (written in 1997, set in 1986) Mel's dad is a businessman who's extremely proud of his mobile phone. The Doctor, who knows that in ten years they'll be a fraction of the size and a lot more common, isn't impressed.
* In Creator/KimNewman's short story "Organ Donors", Sally Rhodes's new job includes being provided with a "portable phone", which is indicative of how important it is (although being Sally, she doesn't actually use it). Newman notes this as one of the things that makes the story an UnintentionalPeriodPiece.
* Creator/DaveBarry had a newspaper column in the late 90s or early 00s about how smaller cell phones and larger [=SUVs=] were the status symbols of the time. He predicted a lot of traffic accidents in the future: everyone will drive vehicles the size of Delaware, but they won't be able to watch the road because they'll be too distracted by losing their rice grain-sized cell phones mid-conversation.
* Crowley having a car phone in his Bentley (also owning a Bentley) and an answering machine in ''Literature/GoodOmens'' is a symbol of his being filthy rich.
* ''Literature/TouhouKourindouCuriositiesOfLotusAsia'' has a spin on this thanks to ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}''[='s=] SchizoTech setting. When Sumireko (a person from the Outside World) visits Kourindou, she unintentionally takes some wind out of Rinnosuke's sails by saying that the Outside World technology he has on display is 20-30 years out of date; in particular she's somewhat surprised to see an old model cellphone that doesn't fold. She then impresses Rinnosuke by showing him her smartphone and describing some of the things it can do.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* On ''Series/CornerGas'' the town of Dog's River is in the middle of nowhere and has really lousy cell reception. The residents are forced to use special cellphone with bulky signal boosters. When it is announced that a new cell tower will be erected in the town, the main characters get new cellphones and a try to show up each other by gettign progressively smaller cellphones. However, when the plans for the new cell tower are abandoned, they have to go back to their old bulky models.
* In the "Jeffery's" recurring sketch on ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' the manager of a Jeffery's (designer clothing) store has a very tiny phone, about half the size of his thumb. In the last sketch he has a really large brick phone. When the sales clerks laugh at him he says "big is the new small. [[Creator/CameronDiaz Cami Diaz]] has one '''twice''' this size."
* Spoofed on ''Series/ThirtyRock'' with Dennis Duffy, who brags about being the top beeper supplier in the city, at a time when beepers were becoming obsolete.
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[[folder:Music]]
* Music/SaltNPepa reference this in their song, "Express Yourself". They talk about a "business man with [[TechnologyMarchesOn a beeper]] for a reason, not like Tim because [[TrendAesop it's in this season]]."
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[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''Literature/WhateleyUniverse'': With more than one GadgeteerGenius working on cellphones, and charging appropriately, the quality of a cellphone indicates either your connections to those Gadgeteers, or your ability to pay the price for such a cellphone:
** Such as the bPhone and the stuff Jadis's dad can make, as said in [[http://whateleyacademy.net/index.php/stories/226-ayla-and-the-mad-scientist-chap-20 Ayla and the Mad Scientist (Chap 20)]]:
--> Jadis [...] pulled out her phone, which I now knew was a gift from her father. That meant it had features that even my bPhone probably didn’t have, although Bunny had designed an entire phone OS so that she could write or update apps for the phone to give it new functionality whenever she felt like it.
** Or the enhanced gPhone from [[http://whateleyacademy.net/index.php/original-timeline/802-the-final-trump-working The Final Trump (Part 1)]]:
--> “Like I would give you just some mass market techno-trinket?” Zach asked with a grin. “I had ABBY assemble this inside a gPhone casing. It can do everything a gPhone can do- except maybe fink you out to the MCO- and a whole lot more. It has ten times the RAM, its battery holds 15 times the charge, and- hey, just check out the ‘handbook’ for all the apps, otherwise we’ll be here all day. I basically told ABBY to go for ‘awesome’, and I’d say that she did a good job of it.”
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* An early 2000s episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Arthur}}'' had the local RichBitch, Muffy, as the only character known to have a cell phone. Later episodes have everyone owning one.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Daria}}'': The main character's parents both own cellphones, in the middle-late 1990's when this was comparitively rare and cellphones were the size and shape of housebricks. Helen Morgendorffer carries hers because she is genuinely in a high-status high-wage job (lawyer). Jake Morgendorffer carries his because he ''aspires'' to be in a high-status well-paid job.
* In "Brian Wallows, Peter Swallows" on ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'', Brian sings a song about how society has changed since the 50's. He sings a line about a businessman with a cell phone and how busy his life must be, then mentioning how the phone will give him a tumor, but his doctor will see it and admit how cool he is.
-->Those fancy cellphones, make people mumble "gee whiz, look how important he is, his life must rule!"
-->He'll get a tumor, but on the surgery day, the doc will see it and say "Man, you must really be cool!"
* The 2001 short ''A Kitty Bobo Show: Cellphones'' was about a cat who recently got a cellphone. Kitty Bobo is constantly annoying his friends by bragging about his phone. In the end he breaks it and his friends all get cellphones, causing him anguish because everyone else has one but him.
* Almost no one in ''WesternAnimation/AsToldByGinger'' has a cellphone besides the rich kids.
* Charlotte Pickles' cell phone in ''WesternAnimation/{{Rugrats}}'' distinguished her as a wealthy businesswoman.
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[[folder:Other]]
* In the [[RussianHumor modern folklore]] version of [[UsefulNotes/TheNewRussia 1990s Russia]], a cell phone is a stereotypical attribute of a nouveau riche New Russian, along with a Mercedes 600 and a crimson jacket.
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[[folder:Real Life]]
* An urban legend from when cell phones were still a rarity: On a busy commuter train, some businessman is loudly chatting on a cellular phone, mostly with "important" sounding talk. Then an older man on the train suffers a heart attack. When other passengers and/or a conductor approaches the businessman to call 911 on his cell phone, he eventually sheepishly admits that the phone is a fake (and was obviously just trying to impress people with it).
* The Chinese nickname for cell phones is due to this trope; back in the day, they were most often seen being carried by Triad head honchos, so cell phones were referred to as 大哥大 ("Big Brother's Big [Phone]").
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