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A Gadget That Makes Your Smartphone Smell Like Popcorn -- For Charity

David Pogue
December 27, 2013

Our phones’ screens, speakers, and vibrations already engage our senses of vision, sound, and touch. What’s next—phones that emit smells?!

Well, yes. Don’t look now, but what its maker is calling the world’s first smell-O-vision phone accessory is now available.

It’s called the Pop Dongle: a plastic, cheap-feeling, golf ball-sized, popcorn-shaped attachment for an iPhone’s headphone jack that can emit whiffs of scent.

Right now, it works with only one app: a simple game called Poptopia. In this game, a giant animated mouth in the sky grows angrier and darker the longer it goes unfed (not unlike a typical four-year-old). You feed it by tapping hopping popcorn kernels and pats of butter that somehow emerge from the landscape.

Pay special attention to the butter. When you feed it to the Skymouth, the plastic Pop Dongle emits a little puff of artificial buttered-popcorn smell. (It’s a good thing the Skymouth has no heart or arteries. Its diet would need some serious reevaluation.)

All of this is brought to you by Pop Secret, a pillar of the popcorn-industrial complex. And since the Pop Dongle is just a marketing stunt, I would never dream of giving it any ink—er, pixels—except that the ultimate beneficiary of this effort is the American Red Cross.

You see, only 30 Pop Dongles were made, and only three of them will be available to the public—via eBay auctions, one every few weeks. The first Pop Dongle’s auction wraps up tomorrow night (December 13); you have two more chances to get your mitts on one of these chemically scented collectibles. (The second auction runs December 13–23; the third is December 23–January 2.)

The game itself is, ahem, no Xbox One. It’s available for free, so you can try it out for yourself; without the dongle, however, you won’t smell any popcorn unless you make some yourself.

And to be honest, the buttered-popcorn scent is borderline queasy-making from the very first puff. After several hours of vigorous play, you may never want to eat popcorn again—unless Pop Secret comes up with an unscented variety.

In other words, if you decide to participate in the auction for the three Pop Dongles, do it because it’s a good cause, and possibly for the novelty (which may well wear off before the chemicals in the dongle do—between 500 and 1,000 puffs). Because no matter how lame the game and how cheesy the smell, this scent-enabled game is a first—and this chance for you to get it will be your last.