iPhoneception Mobile

An iOS prank app reached by over 1.5 million visitors around the world

It began as an experiment, to build the iOS home screen interface as a web app, with the basic front-end technologies of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I covered every little detail, from the feel of the swipe transitions down to the timing of when the page indicators turned on and off. Because this was essentially a webpage, you could add it to your home screen as a web app, launch it, and fool others to believe this was the real thing.

Without any real utility, the idea was then to turn this into a prank app: to covertly install this on your friend's phone, confuse them with an altered home screen, and when they attempt to open an app, hit them with a fun surprise.

Ideas ranged from exploding app icons to a zombie scare jump. I made use of my simple home-grown sprite animation code for the explosions and other sprite-based animations, and the zombie scare even included a loud scream.

Because this was not a native app, you didn't need to know your victim's Apple ID or password. You just needed to gain access to their unlocked phone for less than 30 seconds, simply opening up their browser, visiting iphoneception.com, and then following the brief instructions to install and launch the web app.

Install in less than 30 seconds.

Tap to explode.

Jump scare!

Tap to explode.

Jump scare!

I launched the site in the months approaching April Fools Day. As the day came close, I shared the link across a multitude of media sites and was fortuitously picked up by TUAW, the largest Apple news blog at the time. Site visits exploded to the hundreds of thousands as people across the globe tweeted and shared it and media sites from Europe to Asia spread the news.

The TUAW story that made it go viral

Featured on FWA Mobile Site of the Day

Variety of media sites that picked up the story.

The final tally came in at over 1.5 million unique visitors of pranksters and their unsuspecting victims, all from a simple experiment with a little bit of fun and mischievousness added in.

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