Attempting to impress nearby people by talking on a cell phone in an animated, theatrical manner.
Frequently seen in cafes, coffeehouses and airports, the Dealmaker speaks loudly and appears to prefer captive audiences. He may engage in what researcher Sadie Plant, author of the Motorola report, refers to as "stage-phoning," in which the caller is effectively performing for innocent bystanders.
—Nara Schoenberg, "The legions of Chicagoans who walk around with cellphones glued to their ears fall into several categories, but they're all a bunch of; Cell jerks," Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2002
Some mobile users tend to make a virtue of the lack of privacy, enjoying and exploiting the presence of third parties as a unique opportunity to put something of themselves on display by stage-phoning. On a train, for example, a mobile can be used as a way of broadcasting a great deal of information to a pretty much captive audience. . . . Calls can be invented for the purpose, in which case the mobile can communicate even when it is not in use. On the elevated train in Chicago, a young man talks on a mobile in some style. He's discussing an important deal and at the same time trying to impress a group of girls in the same part of the train. It all goes well until disaster strikes: his phone goes off and interrupts him in mid-sentence, and his fictional deal is exposed.
—Sadie Plant, "On the mobile: The effects of mobile telephones on social and individual life," Motorola Inc, October 28, 2001
With cell phones now omnipresent in the social landscape, and would-be thespians appearing on every street corner, coffee shop, and airport waiting lounge, we see that, indeed, all the world really is a stage. After a few minutes of their verbal histrionics and mobile melodrama, we suppress an urge to offer them the traditional actor's send-off "break a leg" because, well, this time we actually mean it.
Today's phrase was coined by British researcher Sadie Plant in a report she wrote for Motorola last year (see the first use).
Many thanks to lexicographer extraordinaire Erin McKean for giving me the heads-up on today's phrase.