Spider-Man and I have a few things in common. We both live in New York City, both deal with New York City problems like relying on the MTA to get us around and both of us can’t stop playing with our phones.
Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man stars a modern-day web-slinging superhero, which means Peter Parker is addicted to his smartphone. There are multiple points in the game where Parker is texting friends like Mary Jane (albeit from the top of a skyscraper) or scrolling through his phone on the subway. He’s also an avid Twitter user, like many of us unfortunately are in 2018.
I have an obsession with phones in entertainment. Games, television and bad horror movies all use these tiny devices we carry in our pockets to spin different narratives; to accentuate a story by incorporating technology that many of us use every single day. Spider-Man’s phone is important to him, and that means designing a suit that allows him to carry his phone and use it on the go. It also means relying on a phone that’s waterproof (obviously), and a phone with a good battery life. It seems unlikely that Spider-Man is swinging around New York City with a battery pack and cable.
This leads to important questions, like: Which phone is Peter Parker using? Is he an Apple fanboy, or is he sticking to an Android device? Can he even use an iPhone X with his mask, or will Face ID fail? I reached out to both Apple, Sony and Insomniac representatives for comment, but to no avail. Instead, I asked Polygon guides editor Dave Tach to help me on my silly journey to discover what type of phone Spider-Man uses, and whether or not his suit could actually work with a capacitive touchscreen.
Let’s get the big question out of the way.
It’s probably an iPhone
There are a number of screenshots that all but confirm Spider-Man is supposed to be using an iPhone (or Spider-Man’s alternate universe version of Apple’s groundbreaking mobile device).
Let’s start with this conversation Spider-Man is having with Mary Jane. The bubbles are blue and grey, suggesting that both Spider-Man and MJ are using iPhones and it’s an iMessage conversation. Notice the keyboard at the bottom of the phone? Looks identical to an iPhone’s digital keyboard, except blue instead of the typical white. Although Sony Xperia phones — the phones we’ve seen Spider-Man use in other media — also come with blue and white messaging, the text bubbles often display the time and date of the message just about the bubble.
That’s different from the version of texting seen below. Even the receiver and front microphone of the phone looks identical to an iPhone 7 or 8.
Proof that Spider-Man is using an off-brand iPhone in the game doesn’t stop there. Look at the image below.
Mayor Norman Osborn is staring at his off-brand iPhone, possibly contemplating why the Mayor of New York City would have to use something picked up on Canal Street. His disturbed facial expression doesn’t matter, really; the iPhone’s interface does. Anyone who uses an iPhone has seen that exact interface. It’s nearly identical to an actual iPhone, also seen below. Although this is Osborne’s phone, it’s further proof that there is a ubiquitous model present throughout the game — much like our own lives, everyone in Spider-Man has an “iPhone.”
Another bit of proof we have that this is an iPhone is also the subtlest nod. It’s the etchings on the back of the phone, found at the bottom of the device. Look at the comparison shot between the bottom of Spider-Man’s iPhone — including that ridiculous bezel — and an actual iPhone, seen just below.
And finally, there’s this:
The top portion of Spider-Man’s phone UI is nearly identical to that of the iPhone. (His cell phone provider, Colexco, may be a reference to an older Sony-owned brand used for entertainment distribution.)
We also have to acknowledge that Spider-Man has two phones. One phone is purely devoted to his superhero activities; the other is Peter Parker’s standard device. Parker doesn’t have a fortune, unlike Tony Stark, and sticking to one phone could endanger his secret identity. It seems unlikely that he’d invest money in two iPhones — or any two brand-name phones — especially if one has the potential to break whenever Spider-Man is out solving crimes. It’s not like Apple is out here donating phones to New York’s friendly neighborhood vigilante, either.
There’s no question that at least one of Spider-Man’s phones is supposed to be an iPhone, but the real question is why Insomniac Games didn’t incorporate a Sony Xperia into its game. Spider-Man is exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation 4; the game could have acted as marketing for the company’s flagship smartphone series.
Spider-Man properties have done that in the past. Peter Parker uses a Sony Xperia in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the film also includes a couple of Sony TV sets. Although Homecoming sported Dell laptops, there were enough Sony product placements to reiterate this was a Sony movie. Even if Disney did manage to bring in Tony Stark and a Star Wars Lego set.
Now that we’ve established what kind of phone he’s using, I tried to nail down the specific model.
My closest bet is that it’s an iPhone 8. It’s water-resistant, with a decent battery life, and Spider-Man doesn’t have to worry about Face ID. Although there are tricks that Spider-Man could use to bypass Apple’s Face ID securities, it seems more likely he’d settle for an easier phone to use than have to worry about getting the placement of his face just right every single time. Especially as he’s swinging through New York.
This does lead to other questions, though. For example:
How is Spider-Man swiping?
Look, I’m well aware that there are special gloves with padding on the fingertips you can pick up for $15 at a winter market that allow you to text with your gloves on. This is crucial to living anywhere where even taking your glove off for a second to ask your friend which bar you’re meeting at can result in frostbite. To answer the question, we have to know more about the suit.
For example, this isn’t a traditional spandex suit. Jacinda Chew, art director on Spider-Man, told Variety in July that they killed the spandex in favor of modern sportswear. Think Under Armour.
“Even the fabric is formed by athletic wear,” Chew told Variety. “The blue is the flexibility, the red is thicker so if he scrapes up against a building he has protection. The white is like a flexible carbon fiber. It’s almost like a wetsuit, it’s stretchy and still has flexibility. It’s not super shiny. There is definitely a texture to it.”
Chew acknowledging that Spider-Man’s gloves are a thicker material and texture than the rest of the suits certainly seems to imply that he’s using some type of glove. Insomniac didn’t respond to our request for confirmation.
The most likely bet is that Spider-Man is using something akin to Under Armour’s Tech Touch, which is the “print on thumbs & fingers allow you to use touch screen devices without taking your gloves off,” according to the company’s website. It’s also likely that Parker used a company like Under Armour for inspiration considering he went through multiple costume designs before landing on the one he liked best.
“We had to incorporate him designing suits in the story,” Chew said. “So we had one of our artists draw sketches that are supposed to look like they weren’t drawn by an artist.”
That means, unfortunately, that while Iron Man certainly exists within Insomniac’s Spider-Man universe, Tony Stark isn’t creating an ultra cool suit like he did for Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming. But that does raise another question: If Stark Technology exists in Spider-Man, then wouldn’t Parker’s phone be a Stark Tech device?
These are all questions that I’ve asked reps at Sony and Insomniac about, but there’s one area I still need clarity on.
What is Spider-Man doing with his phone on the subway?
There are a few screenshots from the gaming going around that feature Spider-Man hanging out on the subway, scrolling through his phone. Like this one.
And this one.
These screenshots tell us a couple of things. One, Spider-Man is a rude commuter who leans up against a pole, but we’ll forgive him because the train doesn’t look like it’s full.
More importantly, it tells us that Spider-Man is doing something on his phone while underground, based on the pitch-black tunnels we can see through the windows. What is Spider-Man doing on his phone? Is he using the MTA’s public Wi-Fi to tweet about MTA problems, like a true New Yorker?
Or, is Spider-Man loading up Instagram photos and tweets between stations and just scrolling through until he can get enough connection to reload all of his timelines? Maybe he’s playing Pokémon Go in-between stops, but that seems like a waste of battery considering how often he uses his phone in the game to communicate with people while fighting crime.
I have to believe that Peter Parker, science genius extraordinaire and friend of Tony Stark, knows not to use the MTA’s public Wi-Fi — unless he’s doing it to demonstrate security vulnerabilities for research purposes.
No one really knows! I’ve asked Insomniac about it, and will hopefully get an answer clarifying this inscrutable issue.
For now, we can debate the merits of Peter Parker using an iPhone without a case, which as we know from Spider-Man: Homecoming set photos, isn’t a smart move.