Penn and Teller iPhone App Is as Magical as It Is Doomed

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Noted Vegas performers, pop skeptics and magician-angerers Penn and Teller have turned their sights to the App Store, demoing their first attempt iPhonery at the TechCrunch50 today. Surprise! It's a cool, iPhone-catered magic trick—but probably unapprovable.

Here's the trick: You ask a friend for a card, any card, which Penn and Teller will guess via SMS. It seems impossible, even more so than your average card guessing trick, but since this is Penn and Teller we're talking about, so the trick will be ruined.

The way it works is conceptually simple, but definitely convincing: You start the app, which opens a lookalike iPhone interface, complete with fake app icons-each one representing a card—and a fake icon dock, full of suits. When your friend gives you a card, you press two icons—one for the card's rank, like 5, Ace, King, etc., and one of the dock icons for the suit. The app then automatically opens a fake SMS interface, which lets you carry out a fake SMS conversation with Penn and Teller, during which "they" invariably get the guess right, because you've entered it into the app. There's a runthrough video on their site. It's a neat gag.


But the very thing that makes it cool will probably doom it to a marginal life in the Cydia store: It mimics or "replaces" Apple's interfaces and functions, posing as a homescreen as well as the native SMS client—something which has pretty much guaranteed a rejection in the past. It's harmless, to be sure, but could well sound a few alarms in Apple's app store approval dungeon. Penn and Teller hope to have it in the store soon, priced at $2. [Penn and Teller via Techcrunch]