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Apple Is Taking the Fight Against AIDS to Apps

The company is expanding its work with the Product (RED) initiative to in-app purchases on the collaboration’s 10th anniversary.

Last weekend I finally took the plunge and bought the iPhone 7 after several months of wavering. The phone itself is fine, but the real revelation came by equipping it with Apple's $99 Smart Battery Case, which provides enough extra battery life that I no longer have to nervously check and recheck the battery status icon throughout the day.

Had I waited another week to buy the case, however, I'd have helped fund the fight against HIV/AIDS.


Apple today is flipping the switch on its participation in (RED), a 10-year-old campaign that raises money for the global fund to fight HIV/AIDS, timed to coincide with World AIDS Day on December 1. Co-founded by Bono of U2 (which itself has a lengthy history of working with Apple), (RED) has to date raised $360 million, of which Apple alone has raised $120 million, according to Chrysi Philalithes, the chief digital strategist of (RED).

"There has been so much progress that has been made that we can end AIDS by 2030," she told Motherboard, echoing sentiments made by the United Nations. "Now it's not a question of can we, but will we."

In addition to making special Product (RED) edition iPhone cases (including the Smart Battery Case), wireless Beats Solo 3 headphones, and donating $1 for purchases made with Apple Pay on or its retail stores, this year Apple introduced a new element to its support for the initiative. It tapped 10 mobile game developers—from the small to the big—to create exclusive content for the iOS versions of their titles as a means of raising awareness and money for (RED). Rovio has special power-ups for Angry Birds 2, Zynga created an exclusive character for FarmVille: Tropic Escape, and Bugatti—yes, the supercar maker—pitched in to help the developers of CSR Racing 2 create a Product (RED) edition Bugatti Chiron, the world's fastest production car, for the popular racing game.

Image: NaturalMotion

"We knew we had to do something a bit special," Chris Bowles, the creative director at CSR2 developer NaturalMotion, told Motherboard. "The Bugatti Chiron. 1,500 horsepower. 261 miles per hour. $2.6 million. And we're really happy to be able to offer it to our players for $19.99."

And while $19.99 may only get you a digital version of the super car, Bowles was keen to stress that this is enough money to provide more than 65 days of life-saving medicine that (RED) helps provide in countries like Ghana and Kenya. "The level of detail is just stunning," Bowles said, highlighting in particular the exact red hue used for the car's body and onboard toolkit. "We were blown away when Bugatti sent this back."

"Doing things like the (RED) campaign is fantastic because it helps extend the idea that we are more than just a game," Matt McMahon, of Seriously Digital Entertainment, told Motherboard. Like other games taking part in the campaign, Seriously's Best Fiends and Best Fiends Forever offer limited edition in-app purchases whose proceeds go to (RED). "At the end of the day if you can do well by doing good it's awesome."