Would You Let A Random Stranger Use Your Smartphone? [Discussion and Poll]


I think we’ve all been there at some point. A random stranger in dire straights asks to borrow your $700 smartphone to make a quick call. But really — what do you do? Is it polite to decline? More than often, you help out your fellow man and hope for the best. But what if… What if things turn sour, and that person supposedly looking for help turns out to be nothing more than a thief, taking off with your now unlocked smartphone, and all the vital contents held within?

Some brave dudes on YouTube set to find out exactly how people would react in just such a situation, filming their hijinks with hilarious results. You’ll notice in the video, most people attempted to act nonchalant, but you could see by the expression on their face — and the way they always kept one eye on the borrower — what was going on in the back of their head. Thankfully, this was filmed on the BYU campus because lord knows if this was filmed in my hood, things would have gotten messy.

Phandroid staffers and friends also weighed in on this question. Here’s what they had to say:


“I wouldn’t let someone use my phone unless it’s for an urgent emergency, but I’m not naturally cynical — let’s just say I’ve had a bad experience letting someone loan my phone in the past.”


“Though I may seem like a cold-hearted person, I never let any stranger borrow my phone. I have had bad experiences and my phone contains too much private information for me to risk it. I usually say I have no money on my ‘prepaid phone,’ or give them a bit of money for a payphone call if I feel like it is a real emergency. I once lent a random girl my smartphone and she just ended up arguing with her man saying things like, ‘Quit that sh*t, it is just a random guy’s phone! I don’t know him. I’ve never met him!'”


“There was a string of similar crimes happening at UB. Really, don’t be an idiot and hand your phone to a stranger on the streets of Baltimore.”

Joe (From WinSource)

“Whenever someone asks to use my phone for it’s ultimate purpose I usually am glad to help. I just open up the dialer for them and I don’t have to worry about them rifling through all my stuff.”


“If I thought the person looked like a reasonable/friendly person and they legitimately needed my phone? Sure. I’ve been in similar situations and people have helped me out. Pay it back, pay it forward, etc… If they steal my phone? Karma isn’t fun.”

My thoughts? I will ultimately lend it out although I always find it an extremely uncomfortable situation. It’s like someone asking to borrow your car… or woman. I just make sure that I do several leg stretches beforehand, mentioning that I was at the top of my league in long distance track racing. That, or I ask for their ID in exchange.

So I guess the next question I have for you, our readers, is — if/when asked, do you lend out your beloved Android smartphone to random strangers in order to make a quick call? If so, are their certain criteria that need to be met? Only in broad daylight? Only in a busy public area? Only when around friends who can quickly dial 911 in the event things go south? For those that have no problem declining someone’s request — how do you go about doing so in a polite manner?

[polldaddy poll=6616995]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. lol no ill give them a quarter or two to use a pay phone

    1. You better also give them cab fare so they can get to the closest one within a few hours. :p

      1. lol there not as rare as you think we just don’t notice the as often. at least in NYC

        1. Oh, well NYC makes more sense. It makes more sense there because of the large volume of people. I live in a town with around 40,000 people and I know where one is. Ironically next to an At&t store.

          1. just tell them you got cooties lol

      2. Ha! Ben’s on fire. The thought of using a pay phone kind of disgusts me on both technological and disease oriented levels.

        1. My OCD has prevented me from touching pay phones for years. That, and most of them have actually been removed in our city.

        2. Haha. Thanks, Rob.

  2. Only if she’s hot

    1. Pretty much my answer to any situation. Hahaha..

    2. Giggity

    3. Best answer

    4. agreed. hot chick is the only safe bet. you can catch her if she runs, and bang her if she stays

  3. Things you can say to avoid letting others use (and possibly steal) your phone:

    1. It’s out of battery.

    2. I don’t have a phone *Ringing from pocket*

    3. Sorry, I’m really late for this thing…

    4. Inform them that you don’t speak English. Make sure to tell them in English so they understand you.

    5. RUN!

    1. New poll. Which one is the funniest?
      I can’t choose between 2 and 4. But if I MUST choose, I say 4.

      1. Lol, thanks. I think 4 is my favorite too.

      2. 5. Don’t respond, just run away from them.

        1. the no “prepaid minutes left” works best ive found

    2. yo no hablo ingles, i actually have used number 4 a few times but it it failed once cause the dude actually knew Spanish and i only know those 4 words.

      1. That actually made me laugh. Next time try Russian or Czech. I guess too many people speak Spanish.

        1. ill look up on google translate how to say ” i dont speak English” in Russian, its where i learned how to say yo no hablo ingles lol

          1. hey if the guy starts speaking in spanish just say ” perdon tengo mucha prisa” ( excuse me im in a hurry) and flee xDD

          2. thanks, my Spanish dictionary just expanded by two folds

      2. je ne parle pas l’anglais. There you go, it’s your rebuttle if they know Spanish…. It’s French.

      3. Damn he was on to your game lol

    3. lo siendo señorita , no hablo ingles , quiere tener sexo conmigo ?

    4. Lo siento señorita pero no hablo ingles, le gustaria tener sexo conimgo ? xDDD

    5. lol

    6. I’ve told someone in English that I didn’t speak English before. They nodded and left… but that’s cause they didn’t speak English and had no idea what I said. :-) I meant to say either “I don’t speak Russian” or “I only know English”, but ended up cramming the two sentences together…

  4. Yea. It depends. I mean my phone has weird things going on with it, so they wouldn’t know how to use it even if they stole it. LoL!!

    And they can’t escape. Cereberus is installed as as system app, so even if my phone get’s reset, the device profile is still saved so I can still track it.

    1. Yeah, thieves should never mess with hardcore Androids. “We will find you. And we will kill you.” O_O

      1. Love that movie

      2. LOL now I kind of want someone to steal my phone and I can call them and run off that entire speech. I would probably never get it back but it would still be fun.

      3. ROFL! We have “a particular skill set….”

  5. I have before on occasion and although it’s never been stolen like that, they always just ended up arguing with their boyfriend. I would just say I was out of minutes. Asking for their ID in exchange is genius, though. That and opening up the emergency dialer.

    1. I’ll be using the ID method I think. I haven’t tinkered with the emergency dialer, but that’s a good idea

    2. That is EXACTLY what I do. Open up the emergency dial. Then all they can do is make a call. No go through my stuff or screw something up.

      1. My EVO 4G LTE will only let you dial emergency numbers with emergency dial.

  6. Yes, gladly. I’ll find you ;)

  7. Where’s the video?

    1. Right in the middle.. above quotes from the team. The one with the big arrow in the middle!

      1. it’s a play button…. O_o

  8. I just say NO. Without giving some stupid reason, I’m honest with poeple. I just tell them that I don’t let people use my phone.

    1. im always on my headphones so i just keep walking like i didnt hear xD

    2. Great reply nightscout13. Nice to see their are still honest people in this world.
      just be straight up with people instead of coming up with some pathetic excuse.

  9. I carry…. so I don’t really mind it lol.

    1. Yeah because shooting someone for $700 isn’t drastic at all…

      1. it’s $700 and totally justified

        1. Unless they took your phone and are beating you to death with it (perhaps break off a shard of glass off the screen) then no, you will deservedly go to jail for an infraction like that.

    2. If someone even asks to use ur phone u should shoot them

  10. For those of you who don’t recognize the guy, he has a cool series on YouTube where he does things to make people uncomfortable. He’s actually a really nice guy and I think his first videos are still his best. They’re called “Almost picking up chicks” and it’s hilarious. His other ones are sometimes hard to watch because they are so awkward and I fear for his safety in some of them.

  11. In the past I had to use someones phone while at college since I did not have one and class got out several hours early and since the class was a late one during the week had to call my ride to come get me early. That was before I got a basic tracphone before I got a smartphone lol.

  12. I’ll decide right after I’m done profiling them.

  13. Nope. They need help I will call 911 beyond that if they just ask to use a phone I will say I dont have mine on me.

  14. I def agree with Rob here. I can think of at least 2 occasions where my phone died and I needed to borrow a strangers phone to find my friends/ride home. Everyone saying no seems like a pusy ass b!tch imo.

    1. Or maybe they can think of at least 1 occasion where their phone got stolen this way.
      It’s so easy to judge people, and so stupid to insult them without knowing anything about them.

      1. I’m reading the comments here, these people are stingy faaaags.

        1. why even use that word? :O

  15. “I don’t own a smartphone (iPhone)”
    Naughty, cos it;s true :D

  16. It it was a true emergency, then they would have no problem with me dialing the number and relaying the message…problem solved.

  17. It’s happened to me, I let the person borrow it. We were in Halloween Horror Nights and his had died. Turns out as I tried to let him borrow it my phone decided to reboot 3 times and ultimately drained the battery. He was able to make his calls and I was left with a dying phone. I’m glad I was able to help though because the guy was in a bit of a bind.

  18. Sure…here is the emergency dialer. The only reason why someone would be using my phone.

  19. I would dial the number for them and hand them the phone.

  20. If it’s really an emergency, I would consider making the call for them (and NO 900 calls please!)
    and putting the call on speakerphone so they can converse with the
    person on the other end. If they’re uncomfortable with that, tough sh*t!
    I’m helping you in an “emergency situation” so why would you have a
    problem accepting my generosity under minimal conditions?

  21. Its actually only happened to me once. I was at a busy restarurant and an old lady asked to use my phone to call her daughter because hers didn’t have service (AT&T) in a rural area. She clearly had no intentions of stealing, I dialed the number for her because she wouldn’t even know how to do it.

  22. If it was a true emergency and they don’t have a phone or its dead the emergency would probably be related to them so they should be bleeding lol

  23. its not really a big deal to me, but i have to have something of yours as collateral. thats about it.

  24. A person asked to use my phone as soon as I gave it to him he took off. Minding yall im a receiver running a 4.3 in the 40. I literally ran him down n a couple of seconds and beat him down right on the side of the street. Police got involved and both of us was arrested(f##k the police). I still got my phone back. I bet I will never let someone use gs3 again. Haha

    1. U did the right thing, u should have killed him tho

      1. Dayum. Android users go hard in the paint O_o

      2. and rape him

        1. What the hell is wrong with you people!??! :O

          1. You guys got me laughing some good humor rite here….

          2. lol my thoughts exactly crhis (these peeps be cray)

    2. Better get ready for the next NFL draft combine if you’re running 4.3s and have any ball skills…

  25. Easy answer: my corporate security policy does not allow me to loan an unlocked device. Bonus is, it’s true.

  26. I had a teenage girl approach me in a mall parking lot one time with some story and a request to use my phone. I let her, but I could tell she was trying to hide something. She finished her call, and I went into the mall. At the door was a security guard and a police officer with two other girls. I overheard them telling the officers that their friend was in the parking lot trying to get away.

    Apparently she was the one to get to try to find a getaway after the three carried out a shoplifting attempt. I informed them of her location in the parking lot and left.

    In the future, would I let someone borrow it? Chances are slim, but it would depend on the situation.

    1. Not just this, but it’s a great way for someone looking to score calling their dealer without using their own phone.

      1. How is this beneficial? I feel like I am in an episode of The Twilight Zone right now. I wake up this morning to find every young man in America is a wuss.

    2. was she hot?

    3. Wait. You snitched on the girl? For shoplifting? And her friends were snitching on her too? She had gotten away, and they still felt compelled to tell the police? Shoplifting? Nobody was hurt, and nothing was going to be gained by getting their other friend in trouble, right? And you told the police where she was? I have been a long-time follower of this site — since its infancy — but I have never felt compelled to comment until this poll. A majority of the responses have been alarming. I am genuinely concerned about our youth.

      1. Don’t be obtuse. But I do agree- concern for today’s youth is justified. Knowing to not take stuff that isn’t yours is a pretty fundamental aspect of living in civilized society.

        She didn’t help by deceiving me to gain access to my phone to make me an accessory to her foolishness :shrug:

  27. In the event of an emergency I would. If they run they better be prepared to take a 40. cal round to the leg. I can’t run any longer do to injuries from Afghanistan but I can still shoot straight;-)

    1. It’s legal to carry a gun out in public? What state is this?
      Either way, shooting someone in the leg because they took your smartphone sounds illegal and it also sounds irresponsible. If they ask to use your phone, and you hand it to them, and then they run away from your body, then obviously you are in no physical harm and thus in no need to protect yourself by shooting someone.
      You sound like someone who shouldn’t own a gun.

          1. correction, Chris as I am from this great state I hope you don’t mind…

            “nuff said, yall”

      1. Yes, it’s legal in most states for the general public to carry after passing a simple test and proving competency. Since it’s a constitutional right, I don’t understand how this is surprising.

        And no, it’s not legal to shoot them for it, even in Florida with it’s “stand your ground” law, I doubt you could persuade anyone into seeing you as being anything but a sociopath.

        Obviously deh is joking, or at least I would assume so.

        1. I think you need to review “open carry” and “concealed carry” laws.
          Just because you can purchase and own a gun doesn’t mean you can carry that gun around everywhere you choose. At least that is how it works in California, your state may differ.

          Then again I’m no expert, so who knows.

          1. Yeah, California’s gun laws make no sense. You can purchase a gun without any training. I specifically mentioned training and a simple test. That will get you a license in 40+ states. Some states, such as Vermont and Alaska don’t require a permit at all to carry concealed. Many states do allow for “open carry”.They vary greatly from state to state, and even within counties/cities within those states.

            Crime rates are typically lower in states that allow for concealed carry, and concealed carry holders are less likely to commit homocide than even police officers, making them one of the safest groups in America.

  28. I highly doubt I would ever let someone use it. I have trouble allowing classmates to check out my phone if they ask. I’ve let people borrow my devices before and had them dropped or thrown around as if they owned them so it’s just difficult for me now lol

  29. I’ve helped people twice. One was a woman from out of town and her phone died. She was having a hard time locating her friend’s address. Another was in San Francisco, where a woman was asking for directions to some place. Those are the only two times I can recall anyone asking for help with my phone.

  30. Need an additional category for I will make the call for them

  31. Chavez is back !!!! YES !!! Missed ya bro.

      1. Where the heck is Rob ? Since the Ravens season is done…tell him to come back to work ;)

        1. Ha! He’ll be around trolling the comments a little more these days :p

  32. I tell them get a metro there cheap lol no one using my nexus

  33. The people who are saying they don’t let anyone use their phone are lame.
    Obvoiusly if some teenager or punk looking guy or girl comes up to you asking to use your phone you say NO. (offer to call 911 for them if they pretend its a real emergency)
    But if someone middle aged or older appears to be in distress and needs help then why not be a decent human being and help them. Use your gut instinct and gauge the situation on an invididual bases.

    1. I let a middle aged person use my phone before, Never Again. Luckily Asurion only charged me $130 for a new one

      1. I call BS on your story, probably never happened.

        1. Not at all theres more to it.. I will say that but it most certainly did happen

  34. Wow! I might want to get one of those dumb phones. This smartphone is kind of expensive

  35. HELL NO. i don’t even let my immediate family touch my phone.

  36. Hell no ….. there still are pay phones. Go use one. I’ve been in this situation numerous times. My answer has always been the same. NO SORRY and I keep it moving.

    NYC, L.E.S.

  37. I have insurance on my phone. But once I get my galaxy note 2 I’m not handing it to anyone, insurance or not.

    1. especially if they have tiny hands 8( *drop*

  38. I feel more uncomfortable of having someone put their nasty hands and faces on my phone than them stealing it

    1. the screed ends up really oily

      1. screen

        1. “Germs… germs are everywhere… *tic* germsgermsgermsgerms… unclean… must cleanse the impure… *tic* cleansing fire, yes, yes. We will use the cleansing fire to stop the germs!”

          Just quote that when anyone asks to use you phone. Problem solved, no one will want to touch your phone.

  39. Hell no. Here’s 55 cents, good luck finding a pay phone. In reality, I’d just ignore them like the hobo they probably are.

  40. NEVER! not even to my girlfriend xD, once a really upset old woman came to me crying that she was mug and she needed to call her doughter, i said NO and keep walking lol XDDD

    1. REALLY?? I guess that made you feel like a real man huh? What a tool! Some of these comments are really pathetic. A simple “no, sorry” will suffice. Why bother lying to someone? Just be straight up and if you feel uncomfortable loaning your phone to a stranger, you don’t need to come up with some elaborate excuse. You’re not obligated in any way, so grow a pair and be straight up with people. I’ve loaned my phone to a couple of people in emergency situations. (auto accident, car broke down, etc) Just hand it to them with the dialer already up and ready and stand right next to them. Most of you seem like the same type of people that will drive right past somebody when their sitting on the side of the road clearly broken down, or their car is stalled in the middle of the road. When did we stop helping our neighbors and only be concerned with ourselves. No wonder the rest of the world hates Americans. It’s time to change our way of thinking. (climbs off soapbox)

      1. Yeah, cause saying, “No, I don’t feel comfortable with that” doesn’t make you sound like an asshat.

      2. Talk about no sense of humor

    2. lol lol tell you story walking lady..I need to change my wallpaper

  41. hell no

  42. most times unless someone has a good enough story i usually just say “im using it” and go on with my day

  43. how about instead of taking a poll on if we should let other people use our phones, we make a list of how to avoid situations like this.

  44. Never ever never, no way. It’s out of battery, always.

    Even if they don’t steal it, i don’t know what kind of transaction they are going to make even if they don’t steal it.

  45. Question: Would You Let A Random Stranger Use Your Smartphone?

    Answer: (insert generic Ebonics) Hale to tha naw!

  46. I’m NOT going to make up excuses for why someone cannot use my phone. No is a very simple answer. I’ve seen too many “runners” and if I have to give chase it’s not going to be very pretty for me…some of us cant run fast.

  47. i don’t even let my closest friends touch my phone… hell no

  48. I usually have my bluetooth headset connected to my phone. Depending on the situation if this person asked to borrow my phone, I’ll dial the number for them and give them the headset to call.
    In any case, I also carry an always-on spare low-end Android smartphone with another SIM card. They can always use that one.

  49. I tell them I have no credit – and if they say “but you were just on the phone” I say sorry mate that was an Incoming call.

    1. Too complicated. “No” works.

  50. Cell phone theft in DC is ridic. Kids (and adults) will come up to me and ask for the time. Who does that seeing I have no watch on? Ugh, the punks who want me to pull out my phone and snatch it.
    Never ever would I let someone use my phone.

  51. More than likely no. They could drop it and shatter my screen or just sprint off with it. Naaaaah…

  52. Would you let a random stranger use your toothbrush? Only if they said it was an emergency?

    Only if they didn’t look like a thief? (Clue: a thief might go out of their way to dress well, look clean, sincere, etc.)

    Only if the dude was hot? (See clue about thieves above. Okay, only if I can hold your junk while you hold my phone.)

    Or how about this, IF for some reason, I decide to let you use my phone, I’ll call your party, if they answer and know you, then maybe. Or maybe I’ll hold the phone and put it on speakerphone. Or I’ll hold the phone and you can borrow my headset.

  53. Not in a million years. Only if it’s a hot chick, may be.
    It’s equal to handling someone your wallet and asking not to use any credit cards in it. Or worse – what if that person is an iSheep, and I catch that horrible iBug.

  54. No you may not use my Phone, and yes I am lawfully armed at the moment.

  55. Generally speaking no, I’ve refused people before, generally I either tell them I don’t have my phone on me, if it’s in my pocket. that my battery is dead or that I’m in a rush and don’t have time.

    That said most of the people who have asked to use my phone have been male, in a different situation with a woman asking, I’d probably be more likely to comply, especially if she was cute lol.

  56. I’m on Sprint so they can run off if they want. A quick call to Sprint to report my phone stolen and boom they have a GS3 MP3 player. But they have to load the music on themselves because I don’t store music on my phone. And I have insurance.

  57. Never. And why do you have to decline politely? I can’t believe what a bunch of pussies this site’s audience is. This is all a joke right? People actually lie instead of just saying no?

    1. Why even respond? Just stare them down. Talking is for pussies.

  58. not only are the days of lending your phone to strangers over, but i think the days of letting your friends look at your phone are also over.

    when i got a GS3 a couple months ago, i just didn’t tell any of my friends, and no one even noticed. why? because people always react the same way when you tell them you got a new phone: “Oh! let me see it”

    but there are just too many private things on a phone at this point. your apps can tell someone a LOT about you. it’s almost as intrusive as letting someone look through your web history or just read through your email.

    for example, on my phone i have apps for job searches, dating sites, IM apps, numerous email accounts, and most embarrassing: a Fox News app.

    a smartphone today contains a minefield of personal info. if you just randomly press your finger all over your screen for a few seconds you’ll probably open up at least 5 personal things. so why give all of that information to another person? keep your phone out of site and out of mind (of your friends)

  59. Hey Chris, you can’t lend out women, they’re people. Now go make me a sandwich.

    1. You can if your name is “bubba the love sponge”..apparently!!!

  60. If the person looks shady then they may rob you anyway so keep walking. If not and you are in a safe place then an easy solution would be to dial the number yourself and turn on speaker phone. If that’s unacceptable for them then walk away.


  62. “What’s the number? I’ll call it for you.”

  63. Sorry, I don’t watch ads on videos. Not even for five seconds.

    1. You must lead a boring life then. It’s freaking youtube, relax.

  64. Why not have the person sit on the ground while they call. If they try to get up you snatch your phone back or at least have time to react.

    Bonus: The borrower accidentally dropping the phone probably won’t break it.

  65. NOPE and some guy ask if i had a phone when i was on the bus but he saw my head phones showed him it was my WALKMAN Z android player NOT A PHONE. i NEVER LET a stranger USE MY PHONE PERIOD.

  66. How can one of the vote-choices be “I don’t own a smartphone (iPhone)”?

    A “smartphone” is only an “iphone”?

    Who makes this surveys?

  67. Never.

    It has nothing to do with “using my phone”… it’s about “I’m not handing you my $750 device, so you can walk/run off with it”.

    If you need 911… give me your name… and I’ll be more than happy to call it for you.

  68. Maybe we should all carry a 2nd “mugger phone”. I cheap (or non-working) device that we can hand to someone… and then just run.

    … or “accidentally” drop the phone while handing it to someone… and tell them that they now owe you $750.

  69. Didn’t see it mentioned, but a Bluetooth headset would be an excellent alternative to just handing your phone over to a stranger. Worst case scenario is you lose a bt headset.

    If you don’t use one, then just ask for their wallet/purse and one shoe. If they try to run then they will be off balance and much easier to take down being the body shuts down their resistance reflex if the spine is off balance.

    1. That’s just gross… I don’t want my earpiece in some random strangers crusty ears. And I wouldn’t want to put someone else’s earpiece in my ear either. Makes me shudder just thinking about it.

  70. ummm, i have no idea where this pansie ass place is that this was recorded at. But I can promise you try that around where I live and 9 out of 10 ppl are gonna chase you down and beat your ass. wouldnt be any of that smiling while chasing you crap. I mean did that one guy really say “i didnt need it that bad”.

  71. I wont even take out my phone in order to tell some one the time, because it just gives them the chance to identify whether or not I’m carrying anything of value and opportunity to steal it. Really, anybody who gives their phone to anyone else is just asking to be robbed.

  72. Only in an emergency and only if I could be sure to stop them, if they really tried to steal it ;-)

  73. I like Chris’s idea of asking for their ID in return. I mean it’ll make the situation more uncomfortable but if they really need to use it, they’ll probably oblige.

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