3 min

Will prudish app guidelines sink the iPhone?

Apple competitors embrace sex

APPS FOR EVERYTHING? Apple markets the iPhone as having "an app for everything" from movie listings to games. But the company does not approve any apps that contain nudity -- a policy that prevents most gay hookup sites from creating apps.

As gay hookup websites tap into the growing mobile phone market, they are increasingly grinding up against Apple’s restrictive app guidelines.

Gay cruising website released a mobile-friendly version of its site this week, but don’t expect a Squirt iPhone app anytime soon: Apple prohibits those that involve nudity or sexual content.

For an app to be available to iPhone users, Apple must first approve it. In September, the company rejected an update for a gay beefcake photo app that featured fully-clothed models. Similar apps featuring sexy photos of bikini-clad women were approved, however, leading many to condemn Apple’s double standards.

Will Scott is web publisher at Pink Triangle Press. He oversees development of the company’s online properties, including and Xtra. He says most gay cruising sites have no chance of meeting Apple’s app guidelines.

“Anybody at Apple with any smarts would look at our online presence and know automatically what it is,” says Scott. “We can’t pass our product off as a friend finder. We can’t be that subtle about things and nor do we want to be.” skirted Apple’s censors by creating a mobile-friendly site, which can be viewed on many different smartphones, including the iPhone and most Blackberries. Apple can censor iPhone apps, but it has no control over the sites its users access via the iPhone web browser.


On Dec 10, Grindr sent a message to its users, reminding them to comply with Grindr’s guidelines. “These guidelines are meant to ensure that Grindr complies with Apple regulations. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in a ban of your Grindr account and also put Grindr at risk [of] being removed from iTunes by Apple.”

Below is an excerpt of Grindr’s guidelines — see the full list of here:

Any photo showing any of the following will be censored or banned accordingly:

* An image of a minor (under 18 years of age or appears to be under 18).
* Any type of sexual act, either real or illustrated.
* Any image that is sexually explicit or overly suggestive.
* Any photo altered to hide sexual acts including a black box or blurred filters to hide sexual images such as touching of penis by your hand.
* Photos of frontal, back or side nudity.
* Nudity (particularly the genitals) covered up by a towel, hat or other means.
* Grabbing or holding onto genitals or genitals area.
* Any amount of pubic hair or pants extending too far below the navel.
* Images that show semen on anything in photo.
* Erections or see through clothing.
* Hands or fingers down pants or pulling underwear outward.
* Crotch area only, neither back nor front.
* Jockstrap and similar underwear from behind.
* Images that show overly suggestive poses including kneeling down or bending over while in underwear.
* Photos using or displaying sex props and toys, including the use of fruits/vegetables.
* Extending middle finger to camera.

Any text that has the following will be censored or banned accordingly:

* Sexually explicit or overly suggestive text.
* Mention of illegal drugs.
* Expressions of a desire to engage in unprotected sex.

Grindr, a popular gay iPhone app, has taken the opposite approach: it’s bending over to meet Apple’s app guidelines. Grindr allows iPhone users to find nearby gay guys via the phone’s built-in GPS system. It is marketed as a “friend finder,” even though many of its users are looking for quick, nearby sex. The drawbacks? It’s limited to iPhone users only, leaving Blackberry-toting businessmen out. And good luck uploading a cock pic to your Grindr profile.

“[Apple does] not allow any nudity or profanity — so we have censors who work 24/7 to review each profile,” says Joel Simkhai, Grindr founder and CEO.

Grindr’s terms of use warn that “Your photo should not contain any frontal or rear nudity, nor should it be excessively revealing, sexual, or obscene. Consider what you would upload as a reasonable public photo to other social networking sites and apply those rules to Grindr.”

Simkhai remains adamant that Grindr is not just for hooking up, which has no doubt helped him get access to the lucrative iPhone App Store.

Apple’s strict guidelines may be opening opportunities for competitors. Porn and sex have often led technological changes, wrote tech geek and author Damon Brown in a recent column for He notes that in the ’70s, Sony did not allow its Betamax format to be used for pornographic content. Brown suggests that was part of the reason why the VHS format won out, despite being a less advanced technology.

Meanwhile, competing cellphone companies are taking a hands-off approach to app content. Mikandi, billed as the “world’s first adult-only mobile app store,” was released in November for users of Google Android-based smartphones.

But as Apple continues to police app content, most gay hookup sites are opting to develop mobile-friendly versions of their sites. Phil Anderson, owner of, says he chose not to develop an iPhone app because of Apple’s strict guidelines.

“[The people at] Apple are a bunch of control freaks,” says Anderson. “They try to keep all the control with themselves while trying to portray a clean, family-friendly image.”

Xtra asked Apple to comment on this story but the company declined.