Culture

The broken phones of New York City

Cracked screens, unbowed spirit.

It’s been said that the people of New York have an indomitable spirit. That New Yorkers are uniquely capable of weathering strong winds, be they political, personal, or literal. One evidence of the strength of New York City is the sheer volume of people you see on the street every day using completely smashed phones. Undeterred by shattered screens, exposed circuitry, and inaccessible features, they soldier on; their phones may be broken, their spirit is not.

We sent photographer Amanda Suarez out to the frigid avenues of NYC just before the holidays to meet some of those people. These are their phones. This is their story.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Dayna Lee, 39

“I was getting out of the 1 train, and there was a man next to me pleasuring himself. I was shocked, and my phone fell on the ground.”

Months with a broken phone: 5

Plans to replace it: “No, not really. It's working. So no major issues.”

Michael Burgos, 53

“I have a daughter and when a new phone comes out, she likes to update. This was actually her phone. She cracked it. And I inherited it when I bought her a new phone.”

Number of months with a broken phone: 8

Plans to replace it: “I was thinking about waiting for the one that just came out, the 11. So I was thinking about just getting through the Christmas holidays and maybe treating myself afterwards.”

Jared Katzman, 26

“I was at the gym and I put [my phone] in the locker, face down as I got changed to get ready for the shower. I remember someone sort of like bumped into me as I pulled out something in my locker and my phone just fell straight on its back.”

Number of months with a broken phone: 4 to 6

Plans to replace it: ”I thought about it, but actually iPhones are more expensive to replace the back than the front and so [I] actually would need an entirely new phone. It's functional so I thought just to keep it.”

Sarah Ford, 60

“It was the morning of my son's wedding, and we’d just come back from a hike. I was taking a group picture, and someone walked by and said, ‘I'll take it for you.’ She took my phone to take a picture and handed it to her daughter, who then dropped it on the street.”

Number of months with a broken phone: 5

Plans to replace it: “I'm working on it, but I may not. My phone has insurance, but the insurance company wants to have my credit card before they let me either take it somewhere or come to my house to fix it. And I don't want to give them my credit card number.”

Tanryea Byan, 20

“I went to the Rolling Loud festival in October. I got a little too excited while recording, and I dropped it on the barricade. I think I was recording Blueface when I dropped it.”

Number of months with a broken phone: 3

Plans to replace it: “I can still use it, so I haven't felt like I needed to get a new one yet until I can't use it or I cut my fingers.”

Alexandra Depisch, 26

“I was in Washington, D.C., renting a shared electric scooter. I go to unlock the scooter and dropped my phone on the concrete. That was basically the first crack, and from there it just got worse.”

Months with a broken phone: 11

Plans to replace it: “Yes, when I come home [to Austria] I will replace it because the camera is broken. I just forgot to buy a case this year and I was working on a farm. So, tough times for a smartphone.”

Chris Cunningham, 33

“I was jogging with it, and I dropped it. I’ve dropped it multiple times though, since the summertime when I got it. So it's kind of went through a lot of wear and tear. The first time I dropped it, it was like a hairline crack. No big deal. The second time, it got almost half the screen ⁠— and then I felt a little upset.”

Months with a broken phone: 5

Plans to replace it: “I don't have a really strong relationship to my phone, to the point where I need a brand new phone. I do have plans to replace it though at some point, ‘cause I know that it's going to give out on me if I don’t.”

Anna Fader, 48

“It fell out of my pocket when I bent over at Universal’s Harry Potter World. I was there to write; I write about things to do with kids, so I was working.

Months with a broken phone: 11

Plans to replace it: “It's not too bad. I feel bad about how often we replace phones because of the lithium batteries and how bad that is for the world. So I really try not to replace my phone that often.”

Craig Handfield, 26

“I was biking back to the club from home, and I had my headphones on. I was going to change a song, and my phone dropped out of my hand. I had to stop and go back and get it. I thought I didn't for a sec, cause my headphones did the thing where they dragged [the phone]. At least a car didn't run it over. That was chill.”

Months with a broken phone: 4

Plans to replace it: “I really don't want to go out of my way to fix my phone. It's not that big of a deal.”

Leah Genth, 20

“I think I dropped it. It's been dropped many times, and I just kind of throw it around. I was hiking and it dropped.”

Months with a broken phone: 2

Plans to replace it: “No. It's a screen protector that's mostly broken.”

Share