John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
There's a good reason that "Send Me To Heaven" has been banned from the Apple Store.
The way SMTH works is so simple it's as if a child designed it (although in reality it was Norway's Carrot Pop, which has also debuted a game that promotes screaming). You load the app and then hurl the phone as high into the air as you can; the accelerometer calculates its apex, and you get to see how your throw measured up against other tosses throughout the world. That's if you caught it and didn't make a Herman Long-class error, allowing your phone to shatter into a million jagged shards on the pavement. In retrospect, you probably should've done this over the grass.
The developers of S.M.T.H. – available on Google Play and, beginning last Friday, on Facebook – offer a few strategies to avoid such a calamity. "Be always aware that there is enough space above you and around you," they say. "Do some training to learn right skills to get best results." Naturally, they've posted a disclaimer on their website warning they're "not liable for any damages or injuries arising out of playing the S.M.T.H. game." It makes you wonder how many complaints and threats they get from players who find themselves suddenly phoneless. This is an actual photo posted to the game's Facebook page:
So who are the Olympic athletes of this dumb sport? The developers have received photos from people who claim to have reached 130 feet, although hypocritically they don't recommend folks trying that hard – "It's not a safe practice." Some videos on YouTube show scores as high as 145 feet. Whoever is doing these insane throws must have either juiced worse than Barry Bonds or is using some kind of catapult or trebuchet. That's equivalent to throwing a phone over Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue.
Incredibly enough, this isn't the first game promoting a sneaky way to destroy your $400 mobile device. Before SMTH came out there was a similar one called HeightScore, which is still available at Apple if anybody wants to play iPhone Russian Roulette.
Top image: Bridget.Mahan / Flickr