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Wayne Kawamoto

iPhone Magic is Lacking. Here's Why

By July 26, 2010

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There are numerous iPhone apps that are magic tricks. I recently evaluated a collection of ten apps called "Virtual Magic Pro" that was good (you can read my review), but it left me concluding that magic on the iPhone is, in general, lacking. And no matter what the skill of the magician or the presentation, I think that this will always be the case. Here's why.

All iPhone
The problem with using an iPhone (or iTouch) to perform a magic trick is that the sophisticated electronic gadget appears to do all of the work, even when it isn't. Although a magician may need to master and apply sleights in the course of performing an iPhone magic trick, the iPhone gets the credit.

Worse, when the iPhone steals credit for a magic trick, the magician is held in lesser regard. The implication is, anyone with an iPhone and the magic app can do the trick. It's the old assumption that the only things that separates magicians from lay people are secrets and magic props. And this can't be further from the truth.

One more consideration, when you employ an iPhone in your magic, what theme can you use beyond "technology?" By employing a "technology" theme, I maintain that you're supporting the notion that the iPhone is doing the work.

In the Know?
Of course, simply knowing a secret or owning a magic prop does not make a magician. Beyond secrets, a successful magician has to possess magic skills, and abilities to connect with spectators, command attention and entertain, which definitely separates magicians from lay people.

So while some iPhone magic apps do incorporate clever ideas and handlings, I have yet to come across one that qualifies as the type of magic that I want to present at my shows and gigs. I want my magic to be respected for my skills, character, presentation and entertainment value, and not because I happen to own an iPhone.

More Reading:
Virtual Magic Pro by Benjamin Vianney
Reader Stories: Tell us about your favorite iPhone Magic Tricks and Apps


August 3, 2010 at 11:27 am
(1) TimArends1 says:

I agree 100%.

Keep in mind this quote by Henning Nelms: “Spectators today live in a world of magic gadgets that are infinitely more amazing than anything a conjurer can offer. The woman with a pocket radio knows that it works by batteries. Why should she marvel when you show her another magic box?”

Already, many laymen have the idea that magic is due to tricky gimmicked props. Do we really want a complex electronic device to get all the credit? Besides all that, from a purely practical viewpoint, I don’t want somebody handling my $200 iPod touch (much less a $600 iPhone) and possibly dropping it, or even trying to shake it, as some tricks require, and due to a faulty grip, sending it flying across the room!

iPhone magic is fun to fool around with at home or to show to friends as a mere novelty, but I wouldn’t try to present it to laymen as magic.

August 3, 2010 at 12:58 pm
(2) gr magi says:


Another great article. I really enjoy your thoughts and your respect for the art of magic is always evident in your writings.

I agree. The fact that I only use common, everyday low tech items in my close up magic makes it even stronger against the backdrop of the high tech gizmos out today.

August 3, 2010 at 5:29 pm
(3) Levantino says:

Hi Wayne and big hats to Tim and GR Magi

All ‘on the money’ as usual (sooo refreshing).

You ask the question “When you employ an iPhone in your magic, what theme can you use beyond “technology?”

Tim refers to Henning Nelms. In chapter thirteen of his classic ‘must-have’ book ‘Magic and Showmanship’ Nelms refers to the ‘Mock Explanation’ (page 172 in my paperback copy).

Taken from English pantomime and originally known as FARCE (now called ‘sitcom’) the ‘mock explanation’ is probably the most potent of techniques to cause an audience to MISINTERPRET what is REALLY going by creating ‘dual realities’.

The technique has been applied by sooo many masters from Chaplin’s films to Cleese’s Faulty Towers, to Quentin Tarantino’s movies, and harnesses Laurence Sterne’s powerful methods of ‘visual writing’ (read ‘Tristram Shandy’) using similarity, contiguity, and contrast (for examples view ‘Pulp Fiction’ and BOTH parts of ‘Kill Bill’).

The technique relies on creating a ‘theme’ or ‘tag’ upon which to hang the ‘explanation’ – which the magi then ‘demonstrates’. This powerful concept is what sets ‘conjurers who tell a few jokes and do a few tricks’ apart from ‘magicians’ – who demonstrate meta-physical powers that both enthral and scare the pants off you.

Back to the ‘phone. GR states: using common, everyday low tech items against the backdrop of the high tech gizmos makes the magic even stronger. He is BANG ON!
But – now let us replace ‘low-tech items’ (camouflaged of course to look like what they are NOT – I site my yoghurt-pot chop-cup in an earlier post as an example) with PARANORMAL THEMES. Now the ‘phone has a logical reason for being there – and being pressed into service to help ‘demonstrate’ the paranormal phenomenon. Now the doors are wide open – ANYTHING is possible (we are magicians after all – he said – biting his tongue). The MOCK EXPLANATION completely throws away the notion that the ‘phone is doing any the work. No trickery is suspected – so no trickery is sought!

Having created many ‘dual reality’ themes and situations (‘Do as I do’ is a good example of ‘dual reality’ – what is REALLY taking place is not what the assistant perceives – nor is it what the audience perceives), I personally believe harnessing the ‘mock explanation’ and creating ‘dual reality’ is what will drive our art into unexplored and exciting territory that will shift audiences back into OUR line of entertainment.

If there is any interest in this, I will post another of my scripts to further illustrate the power of connecting similarity, contiguity, and contrast, to deliver a punch that makes your show memorable – long after the audience have departed your company.

And finally (before you nod off), check out Derren Brown’s ‘Oracle Act’ on his DVD ‘An Evening of Wonder’.

Be JUST and fear not. Take care, Daniel

August 3, 2010 at 9:50 pm
(4) Barry Sokolsky says:

I, for one disagree with your iphone discussion. When I show someone an iphone effect, I am not worried that I am not getting credit for it, It is just a technological marvel that I can do with an I phone. For instance, when you show the coins rattling around in the phone, It really looks fantastic. Now if I want to employ some slight of hand, I can pour the coins out of the phone and into my hand. That cannot be done without using slight of hand. The beer trick, when the phone fills up with beer is also a great example of combining slight of hand or mouth in this situation by actually drinking the beer and showing that there is some suds around your mouth which is easy enough to do. Lastly the popcorn effect is another great presintation where you can actually reach into the phone and pull out some real popcorn and eat it. These three examples are just a few situations where you can combine slight of hand and mouth with iphone technology. Think about it.
Barry Sokolsky

August 4, 2010 at 3:39 am
(5) Levantino says:

Hi Barry

Save yourself some money and do all of the memorable effects you describe with a beer glass.

There is obvious interest in harnessing the technology – so how about using the VIDEO technology to do this:


Be JUST and fear not. Take care, Daniel

August 15, 2010 at 4:36 pm
(6) robert says:


do you know this magic app ?

i use it and it’s very fun .

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