An app that can predict the date and time of your death may have been too much for Apple to stomach: The iPhone maker removed a viral app inspired by the upcoming horror movie “Countdown” a few days ago, putting an end to its meteoric rise. Before its removal, “Countdown” had surpassed TikTok, YouTube and Instagram to become the No. 1 free app on the App Store.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment; the app’s developer told Variety that the iPhone maker’s stated reason for removing the app had been that it was “too minimalistic.”
The “Countdown” app was inspired by “Countdown,” STX Films’ horror movie starring Elizabeth Lail. In the movie, a mysterious app predicts the date and time of death of its users — and anyone who installs it actually does die at the predicted time, under mysterious circumstances. As the movie’s promotional campaign puts it: “Death? There’s an app for that.”
Except, initially, there wasn’t. Making an actual “Countdown” app wasn’t part of the official campaign for the movie. The app was instead the work of Ryan Boyling, a young British developer who was inspired by the movie’s trailer. After uploading it to the App Store at the end of September, it quickly gained traction, with users on Twitter and TikTok posting screenshots and videos of their supposed future time of death.
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For further effect, the app could also control a phone’s flashlight, vibrate, and play music. And it came with a clear disclaimer: “This app is for entertainment purposes. Results should not be taken seriously.”
The viral success of the app quickly caught the eye of STX executives, who initially didn’t know how to respond. On the one hand, the app seemed like a case of copyright infringement. On the other hand, it was promoting the movie, and clearly doing so successfully: App Analytics company Sensor Tower estimated Tuesday that the app may have been downloaded more than 800,000 times before its removal.
The app had been the No. 1 free app in the U.S. for two days before its removal, according to Sensor Tower. It also claimed the No. 1 spot in the App Store charts in Australia, Canada, Finland, Ireland and Norway. A source close to the studio told Variety that actual download numbers were in the millions. Images and videos featuring the app likely reached many more eyeballs.
In the end, STX decided to capitalize on this type of viral success. The studio acquired the app from its developer a few days ago, and cooperated with him to release an Android version over the weekend. Boyling told Variety that he was working hard to bring the app back to the App Store as well.