The "no connection" thing is a fact of life, and I've been there many, many times, but yeah - in horror, it's sort of a cliche, and as a cliche, it's best used with care, or at least with some sort of surprise twist attached to it.
For my part, as a player I've used horror cliches like the car that won't start, the flashlight that won't stay on, or the phone that won't get reception more often than I ever have as a keeper or GM; I actually don't mind the cliches too much as a horror fan, and sometimes they just feel right in a story to me (I like making things rough on my own characters), but in my experience I get a lot more as Keeper/GM from letting other players use their gadgets and other assets if they want to - the old "yes, and..." thing and all.
I don't remember if it was touched on in this discussion already or not, but, although comparing cell/smart phones with traditional library research is a fair comparison, it's perhaps not the best comparison. A better comparison for cell phones might be to any investigator friends or allies listed on character sheets - and, as that comparison implies, a cell phone listed on a character sheet is as much an asset to the Keeper's game as it is to the player's, with much of the same emotional attachment and potential for horror and other kinds of storytelling involved in characters' cell phones as there is in their family, friends, allies, and such. (In this light, it is, perhaps, no surprise that modern horror movies, "creepy pasta", urban legends, and such are loaded with horror stories involving cell phones!) It's not something you want to abuse with over-use, but it's an opportunity: find out who is on the character's speed-dial, who the character sends texts to regularly, what websites the character is addicted to, what apps the character depends on regularly... and find different and colorful ways to work that kind of information into the horror stories, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and adventure stories you write and tell about the investigators. I bet you would gain more from one mundane phone call from an NPC college professor to his colleague, the party's college professor, asking for advice or inviting the PC and his wife over for a faculty dinner party, interrupting the party at an odd point in your story (like while the investigators are preparing to interrogate a cultist or burn down a police station or whatever it is that investigators normally do), than you'd ever lose from letting your players consult the phone for information or use it to try to call for help - and that's before you even introduce a real plot element involving the phone.
Edited by yronimoswhateley, 12 October 2017 - 11:04 PM.