Toronto
2 min

Relax Apple, it’s just sex

I wonder if Apple has ever considered pre-installing the Disney app on its iPhone, right next to basic apps like the Calculator, Weather, Maps and Clock.

It wouldn’t be out of line for a company that feels the need to treat its customers like children.

Apple is under fire because of its censorship of iPhone apps. If you want to distribute an app, you need to get approval from Apple first.

According to Apple’s iPhone developer agreement, an app may be rejected if it contains content that Apple finds “objectionable.”

What constitutes “objectionable” content is open to wide interpretation. In December, Apple rejected an app featuring political cartoons by Mark Fiore, because it “contains content that ridicules public figures.”

Fiore, by the way, just won a Pulitzer Prize for his work. Not good enough for Apple, apparently.

What’s worse — even if your app is approved, Apple can change its mind at any time and yank it from the App Store. Yikes.

Many developers learned that the hard way in February. Apple purged thousands of “overtly sexual” apps from its store without warning.

Hunk du Jour was among the deleted apps. It featured tame pictures of hot guys.

Somehow, sexy brand name apps like Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Challenge and Playboy were unaffected.

Developers lucky enough to avoid the purge were undoubtedly chilled by Apple’s crackdown on sexual content.

One gay app, Grindr, has been right on the edge of Apple’s guidelines.

Grindr allows gay men to find other nearby gay men, using the phone’s built-in GPS. With more than 500,000 users, it’s wildly popular because it makes it so easy to meet gay guys and, very often, get laid.

Since its launch in 2009, Grindr has been careful to comply with Apple’s rules. Grindr has “censors who work 24/7 to review each profile,” founder Joel Simkhai told Xtra in 2009. Generally, profiles can’t contain nudity, sexually suggestive pictures or profanity. A neighbour of mine had his profile text censored because he wished people a “Happy Fucking Valentine’s Day.”

Perhaps in reaction to Apple’s purge of sexy apps in February, Grindr tightened its guidelines further.

Among the new, specific profile rules: “No underwear can be visible.” And: “Pants and shorts must be worn normally, buttoned and not pulled or hanging down.” 

Your Grindr profile may not contain “text referring to genital size or sexual acts.”

It’s all a bit ridiculous, but I’m hesitant to lay much blame on Grindr. It’s just playing by Apple’s rules.

So what’s the solution?

We could stop buying Apple products, but they’re just so damned fun to use. There are alternatives, such as Android-based phones, which have no restrictions on app content. 

There have been rumours that Apple is preparing to launch an adult-only section in the App Store. Tech geeks point to hidden “explicit” categories in the App Store, waiting to be launched.

So what’s the holdup? Apple CEO Steve Jobs, it seems.

At a conference in early April, Jobs was asked if he plans to allow apps to be distributed outside of the official App Store.

“You know, there’s a porn store for Android,” said Jobs. “You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn; your kids can download porn. That’s a place we don’t want to go — so we’re not going to go there.”

Adults (kids too, no doubt) already use iPhones to download porn via the built-in web browser. Many of us use our Apple products — Macs, MacBooks — to watch porn.

But Apple is in a unique situation with the iPhone. It created the technology, and it has exclusive control over the approval of apps. It can choose what we can and can’t download.

Blocking sexy iPhone apps won’t stop anybody from looking at porn, but it does limit our options.

So how about it, Jobs? Open the App Store for sexy apps.