Phones are essential tools of communication and socialization in The Sims series.
Phones in The Sims are very simplistic compared to phones in later games or expansions. The original phone could make outgoing calls, but doing so would only result in the option to invite a Sim over - Sims could not have a conversation with another Sim over the phone. Phones could be used to hire service workers such as maids or gardeners, or to call the Police or Fire Department in case of an emergency. Friends would often call the house as a warning to the player that a friendship was about to end (the relationship score was dropping too low); these calls always took place at 4:00 pm. Random calls would often take place throughout the day (and night). They could sometimes result in cash rewards, but they could also be prank calls. Later expansions changed the phone menu multiple times, and added various features. Until Unleashed, a Sim's phonebook used the standard pie menu, and players would often have to press the Tab key to page through the menu in order to find the family they wanted the Sim to call. Starting with Unleashed, the phonebook became a dialog box which listed families on the left, and known members of the selected family on the right.
Hot Date gave Sims the ability to talk on the phone instead of simply inviting other Sims over, though players had no control over what the Sims would talk about. With the introduction of community areas and community lots in Hot Date, Sims became able to use the phone to call a cab and go somewhere else for a while. Additionally, some custom content creators made "phone plugins", which added features to the phone. Different models of phones were introduced over the course of the game, but cell phones were never introduced.
The Sims 2
In The Sims 2, phones are white-ish tan and can be either table phones or wall phones. As expansion packs are added, the call menu remains largely the same as in the base game - categories are added as needed, but the layout of the menu is unaltered. In University, Sims can have cell phones. Pets and FreeTime each add a new style of phone. In FreeTime, 3-way calling is introduced as an aspiration benefit for Sims who have Popularity as a primary or secondary aspiration. When a Sim with this benefit is on the phone, the player can click on the phone (or on the Sim, if he or she is using a cell phone) and select "Make 3-way call". The Sim's phone book will open, and the player can then decide which Sim in the book will receive the second call.
Even without FreeTime, more than two Sims can be involved in a phone conversation if a house has at least two table or wall phones. If a Sim is told to use a table or wall phone while another Sim is talking on one, the player will be asked whether to let that Sim join the conversation, or to have them hang up.
Sims can talk to other Sims on the phone, and other Sims may call to talk to a specific household member. This has been improved over what was possible in The Sims; players can now use the "Change Topic" interaction to affect what the Sims talk about, and phone conversations can have more than a minimal effect on the Sims' relationship with one another. The phone can be used to invite Sims over, and even to throw parties. Pets added an 'Invite household' option, which will not appear when calling a Townie or a Sim who lives alone. When using this option, the player will be presented with a dialog which shows all other members of the called Sim's household, except for babies and toddlers, even if the caller hasn't met them.
Sims can call a taxi. A Sim can invite another Sim to meet him or her on a community lot, and, with Nightlife, can arrange outings and even dates. Sims can hire services, and order deliveries. If the appropriate expansion packs are present, a Sim can apply for scholarships, start a home business, buy real estate, book a vacation, etc.
The cell phones (NOYIN 2680) can be bought for §149 from a Sellafone Gadget vending machine. Once bought, the phone stays in a Sim's inventory and can be used by left-clicking the Sim. The phone can also be put anywhere in the Sim's home. A Sim who has a cell phone can call other Sims from a community lot, and can invite them to the lot. In University, a Sim with a cell phone could not always use it when another Sim in the house was on the phone. However, in later expansion packs, Sims with cell phones can make or receive calls even if other Sims in the house are using their phones.
A bug in Apartment Life may cause a cell phone to disappear from inventory after it has been used for a while, at least for Sims who are living in apartments.  This was fixed in the Apartment Life patch, though it is not mentioned in the list of fixes.
A crank call is an interaction in The Sims 2 that a Sim with few or no niceness points can do with a telephone. When a grouchy Sim is directed to make a crank call, the phonebook will pop up, as with other phone calls. After the player selects which Sim to call, the Sim using the phone will place the call and yell into the receiver. A few minutes later, the victim of the crank call may come to the caller's lot. The victim's reaction will vary, possibly depending on the relationship between the two sims; he or she may shove, poke or slap your sim, then yell about college(even if University isn't installed) or simply greet the grouchy sim. This interaction can be used to effectively 'invite' an acquaintance over, allowing a grouchy sim to build a relationship more quickly, but it runs the risk of damaging a relationship and causing both sims to be furious with each other for a long time.
A feature of phones in The Sims 2 is that the Sim on the other end of the call is, to some extent, considered to be on the lot. If that Sim is a child, this can result in one of his or her parents appearing on the lot to bring the kid home, even after the call has ended. The player will need to watch for this, as the parent will not need to be greeted, and will not leave unless the Ask to Leave/Say Goodbye interaction is used.
The Sims Castaway Stories
Telephones in The Sims Castaway Stories are replaced with Shell Phones. They are basically the same as the ones from The Sims 2, only in the shape of a large shell. They are only available as a story reward object. Their purpose is more similar to mobile phones than telephones, since they're usually carried in the Sim's inventory and can be used clicking on the Sim and using the option "Call...". Unlike the phones from The Sims 2 they can only be placed vertically.
The console versions of The Sims 2 have very similar phones, however they are black instead of the white-ish tan color. Given the limitations of a console, not as many options are available:
- Call: (Anyone in the Sim's social web): 'Invite over' or 'just talk'
- Services: SimCity Cleaning Service, SimCity Fire Department, SimCity Police Department, Repairman, Gardener and Therapist.
- Prank phone call: Fake names, Fake sweepstakes or Fart on phone.
- Throw a party: Invite everyone the Sim knows over to their house for a party (only requires one call.)
As in The Sims, Sims can receive prank calls and calls that give cash rewards.
The Sims 3
In The Sims 3 all Sims (except babies and toddlers) have a cellphone in their inventory from the beginning. The cellphones can be used to talk to friends, invite them over, ask someone on a date, check real estate, chat long distance, call a Taxicab, plan parties, call services, move, and make plans or plan for holidays. Players can also change a Sim's ringtone and take pictures with the cellphone.
To call services the Sim must be on their home lot or the option will be greyed out.
Sims who have a teleportation pad at home can use the cell phone to teleport back to the pad.