Fact Check

Will Holding a Smartphone Cause a Finger Deformity?

Rumor: Holding a smartphone incorrectly will cause a finger deformity known as 'smartphone pinky.'

Published Mar 15, 2015


Claim: Holding a smartphone incorrectly will result in a finger deformity known as "smartphone pinky."


Example: [Collected via twitter, February 2015]

Origins: On 4 March February 2015, NTT DOCOMO, Japan's largest mobile service provider, posted a photograph to their Twitter account warning customers about a potential finger deformity known as "smartphone pinky":

DOCOMO did not provide any links to a medical source nor any information about the origins of the hand photo shown in the above-displayed image. Still, the warning (which roughly translates to "Finger deformation! Damage by holding the Smartphone ... Do not put all of the burden on certain fingers, occasionally change the hold or take a break") quickly went viral, and soon Twitter users were posting photos of their own "smartphone pinky" deformities:

It's possible that some smartphone users have experienced pinky pain from overusing their devices (this type of injury is referred to as a repetitive strain injury [RSI] and has been used to describe technology-related traumas such as "BlackBerry thumb" and "Nintendinitis"); but it is highly unlikely that holding a smartphone could result in the creation of such a large indentation in the pinky. As Alastair J. M. Key, a Palaeolithic archaeologist and Ph.D. researcher at Kent University points out, humans have been using their pinkies to hold stuff since long before the invention of smartphones:

"The smartphone grip is quite similar to when you hold a small stone core or handaxe, so it's essentially doing the same job."

So where did all the photographic examples of "smartphone pinky" come from? The most likely answer is that these pictures do not show finger deformities caused by holding cellphones; instead, these images likely depict a condition known as clinodactyly, which is identified by a slight curvature of the fingers. This condition often goes undiagnosed since only severe cases interfere with normal function.

Last updated: 19 March 2015


      "Smartphone Thumb: When the Toys We Love Don't Love Us Back"

    Advancing Your Health.   11 May 2012.

    Leung, Alexander and Pion Kao.   "Familial Clinodactyly of the Fifth Finger."

    Journal of The National Medical Association.   December 2003.

    Marzke, Mary.   "EMG Study of Hand Muscle Recruitment During Hard Hammer Percussion

Manufacture of Oldowan Tools."

    Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.   2001.

    Kelly, Murphy.   "The Finger Your Phone Can't Live Without (It's Not Your Thumb)."

    Mashable.   6 July 2014.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags