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The weird, wonderful phones of Pretty Little Liars

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pretty little liars

Pretty Little Liars, the teen version of Desperate Housewives but with fewer Emmys for some reason, is coming to an end after seven seasons. "After seven seasons" is being used loosely here since every season was broken up into two half-seasons that were each 10 to 12 hours long. There are also "event" episodes every year on Halloween, Christmas, and other random holidays. Pretty Little Liars doesn’t have seasons, so much as it has had a dark, looming, lip-glossed presence for the better half of a decade.

Pretty Little Liars is equal parts Gossip Girl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mean Girls, and the complete Christopher Nolan oeuvre. It has created fashion trends, reinvigorated the practice of live-tweeting, and eviscerated cable ratings records in its demographic.

'pretty little liars' is the first good tv show about teens and technology

Most importantly: it is one of the first good examples of television about teens and how they live with technology. Life happens on screens, and one of the weirdest, best things the show has done is demonstrate how the seemingly benign gadgets that are meant to make our lives better can be twisted into powerful instruments of torture. Later in the series, the Liars exhibit signs of PTSD, triggered most often by the sounds of cellphones ringing in unison or an alert from a blocked caller ID.

This isn’t an after-school special on the dangers of letting your kids have a cellphone, and technology isn’t a gimmick: it’s the conduit for the monsters of Liars, and it’s woven into the plot just like it’s woven into your life. Pretty Little Liars is simply an incredibly compelling, very long horror film written by people who know what scares us now. Because what could be scarier than the little slab we rely on for everything, becoming a gateway for our worst fears.

In honor of this incredible show (RIP), I enlisted The Verge tech team, plus the exhaustive Pretty Little Liars Wiki, to identify and analyze every phone that appeared on screen in 149 episodes of Pretty Little Liars.

Season one (2010–2011)

The early episodes of Pretty Little Liars feature phones from all over the spectrum: Motorola RAZRs, which I distinctly remember being Very Cool well into 2009 (especially in pink!) were mixed in with Palm Pixis with weird fake stickers and Microsoft Kins. It’s in keeping with the high school cellphone environment I was experiencing at the time, of which the theme was basically "who can have the newest and weirdest looking object in their pocket?"

The iPhone 3G is also present and accounted for, although in my recollection it would have been a fairly extreme luxury for a teen at the time. Only one kid in my class had an iPhone and his entire day was generally spent passing it around for everyone else to play with. Pretty Little Liars — very aspirational!

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Aria Montgomery’s Motorola KRZR K1

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Aria Montgomery’s Microsoft Kin One

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Aria Montgomery’s Palm Pixi with fake stickers in the upper corner to look like speaker grilles

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Spencer Hastings’ iPhone 3G

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Spencer Hastings’ HTC HD2

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Hanna Marin’s Palm Pre

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Hanna Marin’s second Palm Pre, with, according to Dieter "a hellaciously ugly case and slightly fake interface"

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Emily Fields’ Motorola RAZR V3i

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Emily Fields’ Microsoft Kin Two

Emily Fields’ Samsung Intercept with a fake Palm Pre webOS interface

Season two (2011–2012)

I’m really not sure where all of season two’s Palm and HTC devices came from. They were difficult to identify, given their limited screentime and the fake stickers that were slapped on them. That leads me to believe that this is not product placement, even though I can’t imagine what else could explain their abundance! Teenagers did not own these phones! As for the HTC HD7 that Spencer wields in season two, I dare you to find me a 2011 teen who had heard tell of Windows Phone OS.

The Samsung Intercept that Emily owns this season is on the mark for me. I have vivid memories of trying to take suitable group photos in dimly lit high school gyms with that thing. I promise you there was not a girl in the US who did not crave and cherish that satisfying "schwick" noise and the subsequent tactile thrill of texting on a full horizontal keyboard.

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Aria Montgomery still has a Palm Pixi with fake stickers

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Spencer Hastings’ HTC HD7

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Hanna Marin still has a Palm Pre and still has an ugly case on it, but she throws it in a sink halfway through the season

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Hanna Marin’s Motorola Bravo

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Emily Fields still has a Samsung Intercept

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Emily still has a Samsung Intercept but now it’s displaying a fake Android 1.5 interface

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Alison DeLaurentis’ Motorola V3i

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Mona Vanderwaal’s BlackBerry Pearl

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A’s Motorola Droid

Season three (2012–2013)

Ah, this is the era of the iPhone 4S – the first iPhone iteration in my memory that was truly ubiquitous. This is the iPhone of Siri’s birth, and its release in the fall of 2011 coincided with my freshman year of college. Of course the trendsetters of Pretty Little Liars had them — every kid on campus had one. The Liars were perpetually in high school, but also perpetually ahead of the curve. This is the same season in which the stylist who did Lucy Hale’s nails more or less invented the trend of painting your ring finger nail a different color than the rest of your nails. PLL was at its peak influence, and everyone wanted Hanna’s hair:

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It’s around season three that we can note a turning point in Pretty Little Liars cellphone choices. They go from odd and unpredictable to, I have to say it, pretty basic. Season three aired during the twilight years of weird and interesting smartphones — right when everything started standardizing into a handful of Android and iPhone options that look and behave roughly identically.

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Aria Montgomery’s Nokia E6

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Spencer Hastings’ Nokia of some kind

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Spencer Hastings’ HTC Titan

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Hanna Marin’s iPhone 4S

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Emily Fields’ iPhone 4S

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Paige McCullers’ Nokia of some kind

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A’s iPhone 4S

Season four (2013–2014)

I’m very happy to see Aria and Toby’s characters clinging to their Nokias in season four, even as more and more of the cast traded their wacky early smartphones in for iPhones. Aria’s Nokia E6 was released in the US in May of 2011 and Toby’s N8 was Nokia’s flagship phone in 2010. That’s loyalty, you guys.

Alison has an iPhone 3GS, which was released in 2009, but it almost makes sense because she faked her own death and is living in hiding. Timely phone upgrades are probably hard to come by!

Meanwhile, Hanna’s hair is only getting better and more influential.

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Aria Montgomery’s Nokia E6 (a holdover from season three)

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Spencer went back to the HTC Titan

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Hanna’s iPhone 4S, a holdover from season three

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Emily Fields’ iPhone 4S, carried over from season three

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Alison DiLaurentis’ iPhone 3GS

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Toby Cavanaugh’s Nokia N8

Season five (2014–2015)

Aria finally changes teams and upgrades to an iPhone 5S in season five. The Pretty Little Liars Wiki points out that this phone is shown running iOS 6. The 5S came preloaded with iOS 7, so, whoops! Even as the PLL team gets better and better at hair, it gets worse and worse at authentic portrayals of phone operating systems.

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Aria Montgomery’s black iPhone 5S

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Aria Montgomery’s white iPhone 5S

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Spencer Hastings’ HTC HD2

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Spencer Hastings’ iPhone 5

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Hanna Marin’s iPhone 4S from season three

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Emily Fields’ iPhone 4S, which she has now had for three seasons!

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Alison DiLaurentis’ iPhone 4S

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Shana Fring’s iPhone 4

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A’s iPhone 5

Season six (2015–2016)

Everyone has iPhones by season six. Alison is no longer in hiding / pretending to be dead so I don’t totally understand why everyone else got the iPhone 6 or 6S and she was stuck with the 4S. It was five years old by the time she swapped it out for a 6S Plus at the end of the season.

In what is perhaps an odd Android vs. iPhone wars statement on the part of the prop director, Emily briefly converts back to the Samsung / Android life before her Galaxy S6 Edge gets run over by a car and she has to get another iPhone.

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Aria Montgomery’s iPhone 6

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Spencer Hastings’ iPhone 6

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Hanna Marin’s iPhone 6

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Hanna Marin’s iPhone 6S

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Hanna Marin’s decoy iPhone 6S, which she gets after accruing a stalker

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Emily Fields’ Samsung Galaxy 6S Edge, which gets run over by a car

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Emily Fields’ iPhone 6 Plus

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Alison DiLaurentis’ iPhone 4S

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Alison DiLaurentis’ iPhone 6S Plus

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A’s iPhone 6

Season seven (2016–2017)

Everyone keeps their iPhones, but two of the girls add Apple Watches to their tech ensembles! I’m not sure that wearing a second screen on my wrist is a choice I would make had I been terrorized by mysterious, violent text messages for most of my life. But it is certainly a choice that was on-trend when the seventh season was filmed in early 2016.

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Emily Fields’ Apple Watch

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Spencer Hastings’ Apple Watch

It seems almost unfair that we won’t get the opportunity to watch the Liars grapple with iPhone 7 headphone dongles, but there are only 10 episodes of Pretty Little Liars remaining and it does not make fiscal sense for them to upgrade their phones just before their demise. I will miss them, their hairstyles, and their phones.

Additional eagle-eyed phone ID reporting by Dan Seifert, Vlad Savov, Paul Miller, and Dieter Bohn.