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You Can Play This Surprisingly Popular iPhone Game Without Unlocking Your Phone

Perfect for bored children and FBI agents.

Oh, man. I have all these games on my iPhone, but typing in my password is so much work!

If you think no one has ever thought those thoughts, then take a look at the iPhone charts right now. Currently coming in at No. 37 at the time of this writing, more popular in the “free” category than Skype, Google Chrome or Yelp, is an app called Steve – The Jumping Dinosaur Widget Game. Its key virtue: You can play it without unlocking your phone.

After you install the app, it walks you through how to add Steve to your iPhone or iPad’s Notification Center, the menu of mini-apps that appears when you swipe from the top of the phone down. What that means in practical terms is that you can go from looking at a locked phone to playing the game in about two seconds.

Iván De Cabo, who developed Steve over the course of one weekend, called it “ultra-casual.”

On the one hand, Steve seems perfect for bored children and FBI agents who don’t have the device’s passcode in the first place. But its rave reviews on the App Store also point to other benefits.

“So convenient when you’re supposed to be being productive,” one reviewer wrote.

“When I am watching a video I can play this while it buffers,” said another.

The game itself is pretty simple: Steve is a dinosaur constantly running from left to right who has to jump over obstacles such as cacti. De Cabo makes money (though he won’t say how much, exactly) by selling different skins for the game so that, instead of a running dinosaur, Steve becomes a near-beer version of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a Pokémon character or a Nyan Cat.

And the game itself may sound familiar if you are a savvy user of Google Chrome. When that Web browser is unable to connect to the Internet, it displays an error message with a little black-and-white dinosaur. Pressing spacebar on that error page turns the cute dinosaur into the character of a hidden game in which it — wait for it — runs from left to right, jumping over obstacles such as cacti.

De Cabo calls Steve a “tribute” to the Google Chrome easter egg and made a point of noting that his game was made for fun, “without intention of plagiarism or authorship attribution.” He says the popularity of the novelty iPhone version came as a surprise, and, because he has done no marketing, he chalks its success up to strong word-of-mouth.

“I’m receiving thousands and thousands of emails requesting new characters,” De Cabo said. “It’s really fun since you can’t imagine the kind of stuff they want me to add. It’s also motivating since a lot of emails are just saying how much they love the idea and the game.”

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