Tech Devices the “House of Cards” Characters Use


“House of Cards” is one of the most popular TV shows going these days. It’s not one of my favorites, but is for many people I know. One of the main topics of discussion among those people is about the mobile devices that are used by the show’s characters. I took a little bit of time and did some research to see if I could find out which devices Francis Underwood and the other “Cards” characters use on a regular basis. This is what I’ve found out: They use quite a few Apple devices on the show.

Product Placement is Important These Days

“Once upon a time” we viewers would be treated (?) to very view product placement opportunities in our TV and viewing. Sure, we’d see tons of Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and other cars and be able to readily identify them by make and model. However, we were much less malleable back then, much less likely to make a purchase decision based upon something we saw on TV or in a movie. These days though, there are people that will run out and buy something if they see a character in a favorite show or movie using it.

“House of Cards” Takes “Product Placement” to New Levels

I watched an episode while I was preparing to write this, just so I could get a handle on what the show is and what it does. I have to say that to me, it looks like an ad for the devices made by certain companies, and one in particular (Can you hear me Cupertino?) built around a TV show. For example, in one scene set in Underwood’s office, Underwood has five Apple devices that appear to be his-three iPads and two iPhones. Another three Apple devices are used by one of his assistants. Each of these devices is captured on film in such a way as to facilitate the identification of the device and not so much to allow the character to use the device.

What’s even stranger to me, and a few of my friends, is that it appears that only one company and its products are represented in any given scene. There never seems to be a time when two characters use devices from more than one sponsor, uh, manufacturer. This even though Underwood is shown several times using a Blackberry phone. The only time I’ve seen such a proliferation of devices from one manufacturer and none others, I was in a store owned by the company or, once when I visited the Cupertino giant’s campus.

Kevin Spacey/Francis Underwood Prefers Apple Products

When the camera covering the scene above pans to watch Underwood’s henchman move away from the conference table we also see that Underwood’s primary computer appears to be an iMac, prominently displayed so there can be no mistaking it for something else. In another scene during the same episode, we see Kevin Spacey opening up a MacBook Pro. The funny thing is, we also see him riding in a car with a “car phone” almost straight out of the Eighties.

Underwood Isn’t the Only Apple User on the Show

Spacey’s Underwood isn’t the only Appolyte in the show. Claire, unless the device is a gift, also seems to prefer Apple, sporting an iPhone 5 in several scenes. Her main exception? Someone gave her a Nokia Lumia 720 to use and we see it a few times throughout the season. Marion is also shown as using a Nokia Lumia 720.

Doug Has Devices from a Variety of Companies

Doug seems to be one of the few “Cards” characters that breaks the Apple mold. Besides his wired landline phone (looks like it’s a Uniden), he’s also got a Blackberry. In fact, Doug’s Blackberry is one of only two such devices that make regular appearances on the show. He’s also shown several times using, and then destroying, his Acer laptop.

Samsung Makes a Rare Appearance on the Show

My reading, episode watching, and talking with friends has revealed something somewhat surprising. There’s only one Samsung phone, a Galaxy S4, used during the whole of Season 3. However, it isn’t the only Samsung device used during the show. There are some Samsung tablets, too. Samsung’s product placements come in the big ticket, high dollar arena instead of the mobile device arena. I see a videoconference taking place on a Samsung Smart TV and someone heating something up in a Samsung microwave.

Other Devices and Manufacturers Prominently Displayed During Season 3

Apple and Samsung aren’t the only companies with products prominently displayed on the show. There’s a couple of Dell laptops used by characters. There’s also a conference or meeting scene where I can identify a few Microsoft Surface tablets being used.

“House of Cards” Also Gets Some Tech Wrong

Every director and producer has an idea of how they want things to appear during a show or movie. Some of this is to help the audience understand what’s going on. For example, we see the text messages characters are sending and receiving displayed on screen.

However, we sometimes see them displayed incorrectly. Once, we see two people exchanging text messages on Apple dives using Apple’s messaging service but the messages appear on our screens looking like they were sent via Snapchat, not like Apple’s iMessage service.

Another mistake we see is when Underwood tells a reporter to delete his contact information and their text messages because he doesn’t want anyone knowing about their affair. What he forgets is that even though the messages and contacts may be deleted visually from the phone, there are still several places, especially with Apple, where they will remain indefinitely.

There’s more, and that’s to be expected. It would just be nice if they didn’t be expected to make these kinds of errors.

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