The phone is a portable communication device that has been carried by the protagonists of all the Grand Theft Auto games since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, with the exception of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. In the GTA III Era, the phone was essentially cosmetic, and could not be used by the player to make calls at will, but its use has been expanded in Grand Theft Auto IV.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Tommy Vercetti retrieves a phone from Leo Teal during "Back Alley Brawl", allowing him to receive calls from in-game characters about missions or other topics. The phone's design is based on early commercial mobile phones from the 1980s.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Carl Johnson has a phone which he uses to make and receive calls. Again, these may be about missions, they may relate to the general story, they may be tips from other characters, or they may serve no particular purpose — for example, the prank calls CJ receives from Catalina. The phone's design is that of an early flip-phone, with a small display for numbers.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
In Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Toni Cipriani retrieves a phone from a deceased Sindacco member in "Snuff". This phone is presumably the phone he uses from then on, as Toni originally called using a pay phone in "Home Sweet Home". The phone's function is similar to those in GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas.
Grand Theft Auto IV
The use of the phone is greatly expanded in Grand Theft Auto IV and its episodes. The player can use the phone (given to Niko Bellic by his cousin Roman during the second mission), and a camera phone from Playboy X, during the mission Photo Shoot to make calls, a new feature to the series
Niko can now call his friends and girlfriends to hang out or go on dates respectively, and can now receive text and picture messages from people. Niko can also use his phone to access cheats, go to multiplayer, and call emergency vehicles (like Police Cars, Ambulances, and Fire Trucks) for assistance. The second model of phone is equipped with a camera, available for use anytime, and used in certain missions. Use of the phone can also trigger some missions, like The Holland Play, and preemptively calling some characters may trigger story-related dialogue more quickly.
The theme and ringtone of the phone can be changed via a website on the in-game internet after the second model of the phone is acquired. The two phones used by Niko during the game are Badger and Whiz brand phones.
The player can change the text size in the phone with the 'Text Size' in the options menu, however this is only available if the resolution is set to 1080i.
In the PS3 version, an additional option is available in the phone. It is a SIXAXIS tutorial that teaches the player on how to use the SIXAXIS controller in the game. In the PC version, the Video Editor is an option in the phone which will exit out of gameplay when selected and all unsaved progress will be lost. Selecting SIXAXIS tutorial (disabled during missions or when having a wanted level) in the PS3 version will place the player at the runway of Francis International Airport.
If the player has damaged a vehicle to the point where the engine won't start, the phone can be used to 'jumpstart' it by calling any number or contact — the engine will spontaneously function again, although no damage will be repaired. For convenience's sake, one can cancel the phone call as soon as "Calling..." is seen on the phone's display — the engine comes back to life as soon as the call is initiated.
In the console versions of the game, the phone can also be used as a kind of 'super handbrake', to instantly stop any vehicle, no matter the speed. Initiating the camera while driving will instantly stop the car — the player can leave the phone open to the 'Camera' menu option, and then press X (on PS3) or A (on Xbox 360) when they want to stop. This is presumably a bug, and was fixed in the PC version — activating the phone camera while driving on PC will merely change the game camera to the 'hood cam' perspective, and activate the phone camera as normal. As this exploit requires a camera function, it can only be performed once the player has acquired the second model of phone.
In The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, phones are practically the same except with cosmetic changes. Johnny and Luis each have a unique theme for their phones. Johnny's phone assumes a more hardy appearance with a black plastic/leather phonecase, and has a unique "Lost MC" theme featuring The Lost Motorcycle Club's patch. Luis Fernando Lopez's phone appears to be more high-end than Niko and Johnny's phones and is round, similar to Johnny's, and has a glowing blue keypad and a unique "Club" theme.
- In GTA San Andreas, if the player has dual pistols wielded and gets a phone call, CJ will pull out two phones.
- In GTA IV the second model of the phone can be customized with themes and ringtones from websites. On the streets of the Liberty City random pedestrians will sometimes take out their phones to receive a call. If you look closely at the civilians phone, you will notice that the theme on their phone's screen will be the same as your current phone theme, and if you hit them you can take their phone.
- Almost each phone resembles a real-life phone:
- Tommy's phone resembles a Motorola DynaTAC.
- CJ's phone sort of resembles a Motorola MicroTAC with a green display (similar to Honolulu Cellular MicroTACs).
- Toni's phone resembles a Motorola StarTAC.
- Niko's phone sort of resembles a Sony Ericsson W302 without directional buttons.
- Johnny's phone nearly identical to Niko's phone, but given it comes covered in a phonecase, it looks more rounded than Niko Bellic's rectangular phone and the numbers on the keypad are more separated due to each number being on a separate button, whereas the numbers on Niko's phone use a "key strip" layout used on phones like the Motorola Razor.
- Luis' phone resembles a HTC Desire.
- Advertisements of phones in GTA IV and its episodes depicts a battery meter on the phone, yet the phones the player uses never run out of battery.