Apple Bans Phone Story App, Game That Shows the "Dark Side" of Smartphones

Phone Story photo

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A game called Phone Story, released this week, is designed to allow players to see the dark sides of the technologies we use everyday—from coltan mining in central Africa to high suicide rates at factories in China. But Apple pulled the app from iTunes just hours after its official release, after first giving the developer the option, according to, to make a new version that removed forced child labor from the game. The company behind the app, Molleindustria, describes Phone Story as a game for smartphones that enables critical reflection of its own technological platform:

Phone Story represents this process with four educational games that make the player symbolically complicit in coltan extraction in Congo, outsourced labor in China, e-waste in Pakistan and gadget consumerism in the West.

In Phone Story, one of the mini-games allows a player to force Congolese workers at gunpoint to mine for minerals, such as coltan, needed to assemble a smartphone. The other mini-games are "Suicide," "eWaste," and "Obsolescence," the last of which is meant to illustrate the levels of consumption popular in developed countries.

Molleindustria says that all of the revenues raised from the game (70 percent of app store revenues go to the developers) will go directly to workers' organizations and nonprofits fighting the issues represented in the game.

Apple said the game violates four of its guidelines. The game is still available for Android phones (and jailbroken iPhones/iTouches).

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More on electronics and conflict minerals:
Conflict Minerals 101: Coltan, the Congo Act, and How You Can Help
As New Conflict Mineral Regulations Go Into Effect, Are Companies And Countries Ready?
The Incredible Story of Conflict Mineral Mining (Slideshow)

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