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World’s Smallest Mobile Phone Proves Big Hit with Prison Inmates

While Samsung and Apple are dominating the smartphone market with large, big-screened devices, some companies are making a nice profit by making phones as small as possible. The Zanco Fly, for example, is touted by many as the world’s smallest mobile phone and caters to caters to a niche customer base – prison inmates. At just 71.8 mm in length and 23.5 mm in width, the $40 nano phone is small enough to smuggle into prisons in the most unlikely of hiding places, including inmates’ rear ends!

You won’t find phones like the Zanco Fly at major electronics retail stores, but they’re widely available on web stores like Amazon and eBay. They are marketed specifically to prisoners, with claims of being 100 percent plastic and ‘beat the Boss’ taglines, which means that they are undetectable by B.O.S.S. body orifice security scanners. And if the obvious description aren’t proof enough for their intended use, the online customer reviews definitely are.

As one ‘customer’ aptly points out, the phone is “very small and easy/painless to hide.” The same buyer, however, claims that the model isn’t 100 percent plastic as claimed, so it can’t actually “beat the boss”. Another happy customer says that the Zanco Fly is a “great little phone that does exactly what it’s intended for and for who it’s intended for 😊”

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Photo: Alibaba

Another indication that phones like the Zanco Fly are specifically designed to be used for shady business is the obscurity of manufacturers and online resellers, both of which are very hard to track down. Peter Robinson of VICE.com says “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. Other online sources claim Zini employ, or employed, over 300 people.”

Robinson managed to get in touch with one UK reseller, who, when asked about the Zanco Fly’s popularity as a device easy to snick into prisons in tight cavities, said “We don’t say nothing to nobody about that. 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.”

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Photo: Alibaba

“If someone rang me and said, ‘I’m going to put one of these up my arsehole,’ I’d say don’t,” he added. “I’ve heard of people saying they’ve had some of these small phones on charge and they’ve blown up. But it won’t make a big explosion.” Yeah, that’s very reassuring.

According to former inmate Carl Cattermole, who is famous for writing the ultimate prison survival guide, bumholes aren’t the most practical way to bring phones into prison because cavity searches are almost always conducted. But with a phone so small, it can be brought in a thousand other ways, including just having someone chuck it over a wall from the outside.

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Photo: Alibaba

“Phones are everywhere,” he told VICE. “Staff bring them in, or you could buy one from another inmate by doing them a favor or giving them something, or you could 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 changing rooms for the gym like it’s the outside world.”

In a bid to find out if Zanco Fly phones – apart from fitting snugly up a rear end – actually work, Robinson actually bought one off Amazon and tested it on various networks, concluding that it works on “all networks except Three.”  He also attempted to hide the phone in several other places that sort of resemble human bumholes, with varying degrees of success. The hole of a chocolate donut provided “ample room for maneuver,” and it fit snugly inside a whole chicken, “the classic of the cavity world.”