iHobo app brings homelessness to the iPhone

Apple iPad owners have been challenged to ponder life without enough money to pay for a night in a bed, let alone to buy dandified laptop computers.

Homeless charity Depaul UK has released a game onto iTunes that gives players responsibility for a homeless person. It's intended to raise awareness and encourage users to donate money for homeless young people.

In a setup bizarrely reminiscent of children’s virtual tamagotchi pets, users must provide food, warmth and support for a virtual homeless person on their iDevice. A dashboard provides information on the young man's body temperature and calorie intake. Users are challenged to look after their virtual friend for three days. If they don't take good care, their iHobo will descend into hopeless, drug-addicted oblivion. It's what would have resulted if Ken Loach had been commissioned to produce Pokemon.

The game's promotional blurb says iHobos tug their iPad users' sleeves when the need help because they need shelter, food, money or emotional support because of the distress caused in homeless people by loneliness, drug use, crime and physical and mental abuse.

"A young homeless person lives on your iPhone for three days," says Depaul. "Take care of him, or his life could spiral out of control...your response could be the difference between him making it through in one piece, or becoming addicted to drugs."

iPad enough
The game, which is free, will deliver its dose of social realism to owners of Apple's stylised iPad netbook computer. The device will retail for between £429 and £699 when it is released in the UK on 28 May, plus up to £25 a month to connect it to the Internet for which it was made.

The iPad, which will typically cost more than the average person living in the UK earns in a week, is a device supremely suited to the lifestyles of microserfs swanning around the drive-in cafes and office lounges of Californian Silicon Valley.

Yet Apple has plans to sell the iPad at a higher price in the UK than the US. The iPad is priced between $499 (£337) and $829 (£561) in the US.

Apple has promoted the iPad as, "A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price."

Similar might be said of the fortune amassed by Steve Jobs, Apple's head honcho. Jobs sits on a treasure hoard worth $5.5 billion, according to Forbes' list of Billionaires. Jobs has become 136th richest of the world's 6.9 billion people. He effectively possesses more than 75 cents for every person on the planet. More than a billion people earn close to that in a day.

Depaul is the largest homeless charity in the UK but its average donor is over 65 years old, according to a film promoting the game.

"They need to attract a new generation of young, affluent donors," it said.