Apple pulls Phone Story from the App Store: an iOS game about the dark side of your phone

Apple pulls Phone Story from the App Store: an iOS game about the dark side of your phone
For three hours on the App Store there was Molleindustria’s Phone Story, an iOS game depicting the dark side of your smartphone - suicides at Foxconn, the Coltan mineral war in Congo, electronic waste. Now, that game is gone. Apple pulled the application for a yet undisclosed reason, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the possibilities. 

Phone Story has taken on the task of educating smartphone users about how their precious device was made, starting with the materials. And those are the rare minerals like coltan, tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, some of which are used in a phone. Coincidentally, a huge part of those resources come from mining in Congo, a slavery-like business fueling a war yielding so many deaths in the Central African republic that it could only be compared to World War II in scale. Back to the game, in the first part of it, you have to yell at workers to keep productivity high. If for some reason you stop, the game warns you that you can’t stay idle as you’re already participating by owning a smartphone.

The second step brings you to Foxconn’s manufacturing facilities where you have to control a safety net, which saves employees jumping out to end their lives. Foxconn is the Chinese subsidiary of Chinese Hon Hai, and is the very company assembling the iPhone and associated with numerous reports about suicides and sub-par working condition. Last year, the company installed safety net to catch suicide jumpers. Really.

In the third step, you impersonate an Apple Store worker giving away smartphones to a horde of customers storming the store. This mocks the hype and often instilled perception of the quick obsolescence of gadgets, which is in the core of a company’s strategy, Phone Story says.

Finally, you get to see what happens when the phone goes out of use and all of the waste that is generated. The sad reality is that with the rapid pace at which gadgets grow antique, most of them won’t be recycled properly but rather shipped to underdeveloped countries like Ghana or Pakistan, where the toxic material containing devices would be simply dumped.

A sobering look for many people, the game seems to have gotten Apple’s attention and we’re curious to hear Cupertino’s explanation of why it pulled Phone Story. 

UPDATE 2: While the app is still banned on the App Store, it's not impossible to download as it's now been made available on Installous for iOS devices. Phone Story is also on the Android Market. Thanks, Donovan!

UPDATE: In an interview for Gamasutra, Paolo Pedercini of Molleindustria says: "This morning, a dry and polite Apple employee called me personally to talk about the specific violations of Phone Story. When I asked if I can submit a new version, there was a moment of silence and then he answered, 'Yes, if you can make it compliant to the guidelines.' But the truth is that there is no way to know what's 'excessive' and 'objectionable' in Cupertino." Apple says that Phone Story violates app store guidelines number 15.2 (child abuse), 16.1 (objectionable or crude content), 21.1, 21.2 (charity). 

That's strange as the last two apply for users making in-app donations and that's not the case for Phone Story. The first one also seems questionable as crude content is prevalent in video games on the App Store, while for the child abuse accusation Pedercini says: "What makes these depictions disturbing is the connection the player makes with the real-world situation."

The game mocks the visuals of popular titles like Game Dev Story and was sure to appear close to it in some App Store searches. It has also pledged to give developer revenue (Apple takes 30% of the total, the rest goes to devs) to grassroots organizations. Molleindustria has taken on serious subjects previously - attacking the Catholic church with its Operation Pedopriest, McDonalds with McDonalds Video Game and Big Oil with Oiligarchy.

Finally, the game often warns you: "You didn't meet the goal. Don't pretend you are not complicit." So while this wouldn’t stop us from using smartphones, it does raise awareness about the whole Phone Story. Just as was the case with Foxconn, more publicity pressures companies to tighten their standards and better control their suppliers. And banning the game, doesn’t seem to be the solution.



1. Leyjee

Posts: 47; Member since: Feb 25, 2011

bloody Apple.. mind you though all the manufacturers probably have their secrets..

15. PhoneLuver

Posts: 481; Member since: Jul 05, 2010

While this might be true to some degree with respect to underpaid workers the war in Congo is pretty much over! It has had a stable government for some time now. This is insulting to Apple. It's not as if Apple is solely responsible for this, yet "Phone Story" would like you to believe that.. We know what damage is done to the environment every time we start our cars, yet that doesn't stop a Billion people from driving to work!

18. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

while apple is not soley responcible for the congo part, as most of the manufacturers get their rare earth metals from the same place, they are responcible for the foxconn part. That part is strictly apple. Apple keeps such a tight control on its supply chain it knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. They still dont. between the jumpers and the factories built without ventillation that explode, its one of the biggest issues I have with apple.

27. GH unregistered

The real problem here is Apple's censorship. We're not living in China.

22. shafboy

Posts: 179; Member since: Sep 26, 2010

I guess the world is corrupted and stuff like this won't stop happening. Ever. Even though people know this the majority won't stop using their phones.

2. ivanko34

Posts: 617; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

Apple = money, more money ...

3. ledbetterp3

Posts: 467; Member since: Aug 31, 2011


4. niptuck. unregistered

apple supports slavery! Here Here!

11. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

So did America. How you think we got here?

20. DMan unregistered

Oh! That justifies it!! *Facepalm*

25. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

did not say it did. *face slap* Wake up

26. hahah.... unregistered

you funny, Dman!

5. Mooooo

Posts: 212; Member since: Aug 27, 2011

I did not think a game could beat the old "Custers Revenge" on atari 2600 but this one does. Rofl

6. andro. unregistered

Apple supports slavery in production of its products and mental and financial slaves with its 'customers' An APPLE can be rotten and have worms inside.....islaves will still eat it anyhow!!

12. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011


7. Man2006 unregistered

I also think that other manufacturers have dirty secrets like that, not only Apple. I JailBroke my iDevice, so I hope I can get that game from Installous to find out.

17. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

let me know if its in install0us

8. Mooooo

Posts: 212; Member since: Aug 27, 2011

Where can I buy one these iSlaves? I will camp out overnight to get one.

9. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

It's funny the game actually made it to the App Store. They are mad that they didn't catch it I guess. This game Phone Story depicts real life situations. These things ARE happening in the world. People will keep buying phones, just like people buy those blood diamonds. It it’s sad but sometimes it takes something like Phone Story to see what is really happening in the world out there. To me the real shame is the waste. You would think that if they were to recycle the phones it would bring down some of the production costs & maybe the phone companies don’t have to mine as much & put so much stress on the workers of Foxconn & so on & so forth. I think that would alleviate a lot of the horrors. It won’t stop it completely but it will help a lot. This is real this is happening. I have been reading on this for years now & I am happy this is actually being brought out into the light. Hopefully this brings awareness to the plight of these people affected by those horrors!

23. xman unregistered

Building an App that will last less than 24 hours shows true dedication. I find it very amusing how iFans posts claim apple has no complicity in the issues raised by this App.

10. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

This is like blood diamonds. Sucks to be 3rd world. SMH. All for money that is messed up Apple to pull the app. I thought this was a democracy. I want this app back in the apple store by the time i get my i5

19. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

there is no democracy in apple. they retain sole rights to every app for your phone and can/will pull them at any time for any reason. if you want a democracy you need to go to another OS.

13. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

If the devs are reading this, bring to Android. Google doesnt censor its platform like Apple, eff Apple!

14. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

Im sure they are not reading this.

33. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

Its is on the Android market. Plus it is on installous. We were reading.

16. Hmm unregistered

Maybe Apple's leaning more to the authoritarian side than democracy? I dunno, looks like it. Afterall freedom of speech is what separates the US from other countries. Not sure, but Apple needs a remake of their image. Maybe it won't hinder apple sales due to their fanbase but I bet it does make one wonder when they want to buy their products. I for one, wanted an IPhone5 but I'm kinda wavering right now and would perhaps settle on a Droid bionic or a Nexus Prime.

21. ivanko34

Posts: 617; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

A new version of the game must include : you are an apple lawyer suing all other manufacturers

24. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

oh yea that too. And world domination

28. BZrad unregistered


29. BZrad unregistered

Censorship. too.

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