The Secret World of Tiny Phones That Go Up Your Bum
Available from Amazon and popular in prison, these phones carry reviews like: "No anal problems!!! Didn't hurt my bum at all thanks guys :)"
In the early-2000s, mobile manufacturers tried to make handsets as small as possible. In the 2010s, smartphones were sold on how big their screens were. In 2016, the tide might now be turning once again: Apple's newest phone model, the iPhone SE, boasts a relatively minuscule 4-inch screen. But Apple have some distance to go before they can match the Zanco Fly.
With a 0.66-inch screen, the Fly is apparently the world's smallest mobile phone. It's not the only nanophone in existence, but they're all made by companies you've never heard of, and you won't find them in major electrical retailers. You might, however, find them stuffed among chargers for Nokia 3210s at your local phone unlocking booth, and they're all over Amazon and eBay. They cost about £30.
Some features – like three-day standby – seem rather good. But if you're really wondering what edge these phones have over the latest touchscreen smartphones, try getting a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 up your arse.
Yes: if you hadn't guessed already, these phones are going up prisoners' bum holes.
If you think this sounds like wild extrapolation – after all, lipsticks are around the same size, and you don't get articles about whacking those up your nether regions – have a look at how some of these phones are sold. Many, for instance, claim to be 100 percent plastic, or come with a "beat the BOSS" tagline, which is to say they claim to be undetectable by body orifice scanners.
Amazon customer reviews for various brown-phones range from the subtle to the straightforward. One reviewer reports that the phone is "very small and easy/painless to hide", but is concerned that this model isn't 100 percent plastic, so won't necessarily beat the BOSS. They give the phone just one star, "as I imagine that most people will want a phone like this for a certain purpose".
Another user, Sean, is more blunt. In a five star review deemed "helpful" by 23 people, he notes: "No anal problems!!! Didn't hurt my bum at all thanks guys :)"
Similar phones were in the news back in 2013 when handsets shaped like BMW key fobs – also largely plastic, and in a convenient pellet shape – appeared. Those keyfob phones are apparently illegal now – if only due to trademark infringement of that BMW logo – but phones in prisons remain a big problem. In January it was reported that seizures of mobile phones had hit a new high in England and Wales: almost 10,000 phones or SIMs had been confiscated in one 12-month period, significantly outnumbering drugs confiscations.
"Phones are everywhere," says former inmate Carl Cattermole, whose HMP survival guide at prisonism.co.uk provides a fascinating insight into life behind bars. "Staff bring them in, or you could buy one from another inmate by doing them a favour or giving them something, or you phone up someone outside and they pay cash to someone else. People normally use them in their cell with people looking out, but it gets to the point where people are just using them in the changing rooms for the gym like it's the outside world."
Carl adds that cavity searches do occur on your way into prison, so bumphones might not be practical when you're on your way in, but there are plenty of other ways to get things into prisons. Having stuff chucked over a wall is one spectacularly basic method; going fishing is another – last year someone was given two-and-a-half years for tying drugs, a knife and a McMuffin to fishing line that a prisoner was hanging out of a window at Wormwood Scrubs. But regardless of how they get in, once phones are inside the prison, they need to stay hidden.
Phones up bums are frequently reported in the news. Last summer, for instance, a guy beginning a 16-month stretch for fraud was found with a phone, plus charger, up his arse. This February, a triple killer in a New South Wales maximum security prison went on hunger strike for 12 days in an attempt not to eject a phone detected by a BOSS unit (the phone eventually emerged on the 25th of February). A year before that, the bumhole of a guy being admitted to HMP Manchester was found to contain four mobiles, four sim cards and four chargers. Then there's André Silva, whose anus was the portal to an Aladdin's Cave of contraband: according to one report, Silva's back passage contained "two mobile phones, two batteries, pliers, two drills, eight pieces of a hacksaw, five nails and three SIM cards".
Those, of course, are just the phones that have been found, and perhaps that's where these £30 bumphones come in; they're not only hard to detect, they're quick and easy to get hidden, too. Obviously it's possible to get reasonably large items up your bottom, otherwise fisting wouldn't be such a popular hobby, but for the purposes of easy storage and retrieval, you're going to want to go as small as possible. "Things like iPhones are rare in prison," Cattermole says. "Most phones go up a bum at some point or another, so fuck an iPhone 6 Plus, or, rather, don't. You'd look like Spongebob Squarepants: a rectangle with limbs hanging off. Having said that, I knew a dwarf who plugged a Blackberry."
And yes, on one hand it's all very amusing that some fella's doing his best not to shit out the latest Samsung. Equally, if someone told you that you couldn't speak to your loved ones whenever you wanted, you'd probably do the same. Christ – considering the blind panic most of us experience when our battery drops below 30 percent, we'd probably be eyeing up the lube if we were facing a single day without Facebook. "I think this is something you don't understand unless you've been to jail," says Carl. "It's the emotional segregation. I'd find a way to put a phonebox up my bum if it meant staying in contact with my loved ones."
Some of the uses may be innocent – last year, two prisoners at HMP Birmingham were given an extra nine months each for shooting a rap video while inside – but it'd be naive to think there's nothing dodgy going on. "Predictably, people also organise crime on the outside," says Carl. "Just like El Chapo still ran the biggest drug cartel in the world from his prison cell, Phil from Gartree will use a mobile to organise his mates to carry on doing whatever it is they do."
One remaining question is whether bumphones actually work properly. My first step is to buy one off Amazon – the phone works on all networks except 3, and considering 3's main pull is free international roaming that'll probably be fine for all but the most ambitious prisoner.
The logical next step would be an unsavoury hands-on, phone-in personal odyssey, but nothing of note's been up my bumhole for the best part of a decade and things aren't about to change now, so it's off to Sainsbury's.
As you can see, a chocolate ring donut allows ample room for manoeuvre:
And how about the cavity test? Well, the guy at the Sainsbury's meat counter couldn't help with "the nearest thing to a human bottom", so I just had to go for a chicken. In many ways, this is the classic of the cavity world. In went the phone.
GREAT NEWS: I'm pleased to report that having been left overnight, the bumphone still worked the following morning.
But are these phones explicitly made for anal retention, or are they just like tin foil: made for one thing, occasionally used for another?
I tried to track down the company that made my phone, but given the subtle phrasing – or explicit claims – made by some resellers, it's perhaps unsurprising that the people behind these phones are hard to track down. My model, the Zanco Fly phone, is apparently made by Zini Mobiles Ltd, a company established in the UK in 2013, but struck off and dissolved last summer. It was registered to a forwarding address with just one director, who still appears to be selling the phone through online trading site Alibaba (minimum order: 3,000), where Zini is listed as a British company whose purported total annual revenue exceeds $100 million (£76 million). Other online sources claim Zini employ, or employed, over 300 people.
Eventually I manage to speak with a Adam, a guy in Birmingham who started flogging these phones on eBay, then built the website smallestmobilephones.co.uk. He's dealt with Zini, and is keen to point out that his own website contains "nothing about prisons and nothing about arseholes". But does he know how the phones are being used?
"We don't say nothing to nobody about that," he tells me. "If that's what they want to do, they can, but we've never tested the phones to see if they set off those scanners; some of them are mainly plastic, but they're not going to be 100 percent plastic – they still need to have a circuit board."
Adam's endearingly frank about some of the phones: while the Zini phone's pretty good, one of the others is "not very good, to be honest", and when it comes to batteries, he adds that some manufacturers "don't exactly put the best stuff in there". For that reason, he urges caution on the bum front.
"Mate," he laughs. "If someone rang me and said, 'I'm going to put one of these up my arsehole,' I'd say don't. I've heard of people saying they've had some of these small phones on charge and they've blown up." He adds, by way of comfort: "But it won't make a big explosion."
I don't know how to break it to Adam that one of my unwritten – until now – life rules is that it's best to avoid any sort of explosion, big or otherwise, in the arse area. I'd say that's a fairly straightforward rule to live by. That said, I might keep my bumphone within easy reach: I illegally downloaded a lot of music back in the day, and you never know how things might pan out.
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