The Phone-A-Friend lifeline on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is one of four different lifelines contestants can use to help them answer a question. After the question and four possible answers are revealed, the contestant can then choose to use a lifeline to aid him or her in getting the correct answer.
In Phone-A-Friend, up to three friends, relatives, or other acquaintances are available to the contestant for consultation. These three people are pre-selected, and producers arrange to have them standing by in case they are needed during the taping of the show.
When a contestant selects the Phone-A-Friend lifeline, game play is stopped. The contestant then selects the person he or she would like to help out, and that person is contacted by telephone. It's important to note that Millionaire does not allow the use of cell phones for this purpose.
Once the friend answers the phone and the host of the show explains where the contestant is on the money ladder, the contestant then has 30 seconds to read the question and possible answers to his or her friend, and solicit an answer. If time runs out, the call is cut off.
Since the Phone-A-Friend folks are contacted only by telephone, they often have an open web browser at the ready, and will search Google for the correct answer. Many savvy contestants have learned to only provide the key details in the question, giving their friend as much time as possible to find the right answer.
After the call, the game clock resumes and the contestant can then either provide an answer, use another lifeline, or walk away with the money he or she has earned to that point.
As of January 2010, the Phone-A-Friend lifeline will no longer be available to contestants. No new lifelines have been introduced to replace it.
The most famous example of the Phone-A-Friend lifeline in action came when the show's first million dollar winner, John Carpenter, phoned his father on the final question of his game. Carpenter didn't ask his dad for advice, however. He only called to say that he was about to win a million dollars because he knew the answer to the question. He was right!