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Basic Trope: Fictional cellphones are either more unreliable than Real Life cellphones, or fictional characters are less likely to possess them than in the real world.

  • Straight: Alice tries to contact Bob using a cell phone, but circumstances conspire so that she can't (her phone runs out of battery, cell service goes out at just that moment, her phone chooses just then to break).
  • Exaggerated:
    • Alice tries contact Bob using a cellphone but cannot find a signal, despite the fact that they are both in downtown New York.
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    • Alice is trying to contact Bob. Her battery runs out... then she produces a spare battery. Then cell phone service goes out... and she gets another provider. Then her phone just gets hit by a meteor.
  • Downplayed:
    • Alice tries once to contact Bob with her cell phone, and the subject never comes up again.
    • The technical difficulties keep Alice from contacting Bob immediately, but this is only a temporary inconvenience. About an hour after her first try, she does fix her phone's problems and get in touch with Bob. The consequences of this delay are significant, but not disastrous.
  • Justified:
    • Bob is in an out-of-reach location where it genuinely is difficult to get a cellphone signal (such as a basement, the middle of a desert or Antarctica).
    • Alternately Bob is in a relatively remote, but still usually on-grid location like a nature preserve and just has a cheaper carrier.
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    • Bob has unknowingly been shunted to Another Dimension, and one can't exactly get good cell reception between dimensions.
    • Something supernatural is going on, and whatever supernatural presence there is messing with cell phone reception.
    • Cell phone traffic is jammed, for whatever reason (emergency services, bad guy interference, etc.)
    • Bob's forgetful and keeps leaving his phone at home and never remembers to charge the battery.
    • The story is set in The '80s and cellphone technology (and coverage) really isn't that good yet.
  • Inverted:
    • Alice's cellphone is so powerful it is capable of doing things no cellphone should be able to do.
    • Alice has a satellite phone.
  • Subverted: Despite being out of an urban area, Bob is still within cellphone range and Alice's call gets through.
  • Doubly Subverted: The line is unclear, however, and cuts out before Alice can impart her message to Bob.
  • Parodied:
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    • All the characters have working cell phones, and resort to them as much as any normal person would. However, the instant they would use them to do something that would quickly and easily solve the plot, the phones suddenly break down. This happens every time cell phones would be actually useful.
    • Alice refuses to call Bob in a life-and-death situation because she's running low on minutes.
  • Zig Zagged: Bob repeatedly goes into areas of bad phone service.
  • Averted: Fictional cellphones are exactly as reliable and widely-possessed as they are in Real Life.
  • Enforced: In a reverse case of Product Placement, the movie shows the rival company's cellphone service as unreliable and troublesome, all while promoting their own company in the cheesiest way possible.
  • Lampshaded: "Damn, the reception out here is terrible. I'll need to have a word with my provider when this serial killer stops chasing me."
  • Invoked:
    • Bob intentionally gives Alice a malfunctioning cellphone so that she will not be able to contact anyone in an emergency.
    • The bad guys are shown shutting down cell service via Hollywood Hacking.
  • Exploited: Clyde wants Alice dead and, knowing how fickle her cell phone and its service carrier is, plans accordingly so she will go to a spot where she will not be able to call for help (and if a friend of her comes along with a good cell phone... well... blockers are useful. So is killing him first).
  • Defied:
    • Alice is Crazy-Prepared and always has a working phone with her. She might even carry several.
    • Alternately, Alice has a satellite phone which always works.
    • Or, Alice and Bob have radios and know how to use them.
  • Discussed: "Don't you have a cell phone?" "Yeah, but all the cellphone towers around here can't get a signal if you're more than two feet away!"
  • Conversed: "Wow, the cellphone service providers these characters have suck."
  • Deconstructed: The uselessness of cellphones in general means many companies go bankrupt and millions of workers are put out of jobs.
  • Reconstructed: The uselessness of cellphones in general puts pressure on cellphone companies to finally improve service by building more powerful towers. Those that do not go bankrupt.
  • Implied: We see Alice's phone at one point, and it shows 'NO SIGNAL'. However, Alice never gets a chance to actually use it.
  • Played For Laughs: Alice is in a tight spot and discovers that her phone is not working. Much Angrish ensues.
  • Played For Drama: Alice is careless with her cell phone and keeps forgetting to charge it. Because of this, when she needs to call Bob to avert Poor Communication Kills, the phone gives out.

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