There was a time when New York City area codes carried prestige. When someone received a call from a 718 or 212 number, it meant a true New Yorker was waiting on the other end.
In 2017, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and general expat pride, that three-digit pride seems to be a thing of the past.
As the city rolls out its newest area code, 332, next month — the fifth in 25 years, reserved mainly for Manhattan residents — don’t expect to see a massive rush to claim a new number. In fact, many New Yorkers think an outside area code helps them stand out among the city’s masses.
“It’s a good conversation starter,” said Stephanie Goulstone, 36, an attorney from Gramercy who has a New Jersey 732 area code on her phone. “When you’re not from New York, people will see your number and start asking questions about where you’re from.”
The new area code will be activated on June 10 and was created to meet the growing demand of phone coverage for the tri-state area. New York State’s Public Service Commission, which regulates telecommunications, said there were over 20 million 212, 646 and 917 codes already assigned to customers, but couldn’t provide data on the other digits used in the city: 718, 347 and 929. It also couldn’t determine how many New York residents use phone numbers with outside area codes.
Paul Levinson, a professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University, who has a Westchester County 914 area code, said smartphones have become so intrinsically entwined with their owners that other considerations matter more than geography.
“People appreciate being known by their personal identity of their phone, the place no longer is important,” he said.
Sophia Bock, 20, who has a 650 area code from the San Francisco Bay area, doesn’t plan on changing it while she studies at Columbia University.
“I plan on being here for a long time, but definitely don’t want a New York number,” she said. “I don’t think there is any value in getting one.”
Levinson said perspectives on area codes often split along generational lines.
Frank Holland, 56, of Murray Hill, has kept his 212 area code for his landline for years, and said he would make sure it stays that way. He did wonder if it was worth it, though, because he usually calls people that he knows and they’ve got his number saved.
“Nobody sees the number when I call them anyway,” he said.
Jeff Price, 33, of Flatiron, who has a New Jersey 201 number, said that other communication media like Snapchat and Facebook will only make the concept of area code prestige more obsolete.
“I’m surprised the demand for phone numbers is already this big to begin with,” he said.
The first area code was distributed to New York City in 1947 and grew as more people acquired phone numbers. Here is a timeline of all of the codes.
212: 1947 (originally served all 5 boroughs)
718: 1984 (for the outer boroughs)
What you need to know
— Starting June 10, any individual or business wanting to set up a new phone number may be assigned the new area code 332 by their phone provider.
-The digits will mostly be given to customers in the “212, 646 and 917 Manhattan area code region,” according to the state’s Public Service Commission.
“An overlay area code is the most effective possible use of numbering resources in Manhattan and results in long-term relief, with the least expense, and the least amount of disruption and frustration to consumers as possible,” it said in a statement.
— Calls made between 332 and the other metropolitan area codes will count as local calls on a customer’s bill, according to the PSC.