Spatial light modulators (SLM) are devices used to modulate amplitude, phase or polarization of a light wave in space and time. Current SLMs are based either on MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system) or LCD (liquid crystal display) technology. Here we report on the parameters, trends in development and applications of phase SLMs based on liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) technology. LCoS technology was developed for front and rear projection systems competing with AMLCD (active matrix LCD) and DMD (Digital Mirror Device) SLM. The reflective arrangement due to silicon backplane allows to put a high number of pixels in a small panel, keeping the fill-factor ratio high even for micron-sized pixels. For coherent photonics applications the most important type of LCoS SLM is a phase modulator. In the paper at first we describe the typical parameters of this device and the methods for its calibration. Later we present a review of applications of phase LCoS SLMs in imaging, metrology and beam manipulation, developed by the authors as well as known from the literature. These include active and adaptive interferometers, a smart holographic camera and holographic display, microscopy modified in illuminating and imaging paths and active sensors.