Explicit Apps On The App Store – Good or Bad?

Imagine for a moment that you are a large company that has recently been given a new lease on life thanks to innovation and reputation (and a lot of luck, but that is another story). Now, being said company, your solution for selling apps to the end users of your mobile device has seen unprecedented success. Millions of people buy from your store, and you get a cut of every sale. The selection on your store has exploded, and the titles now range well into six figures.

However, an ugly beast has raised its head. Some of your developers are publishing apps that are, for lack of a better word, sleazy. However, they are selling, and you are profiting from it. Sounds good, but remember one of the pillars your company is built on – reputation. How can you maintain your reputation when you are now peddling sleaze?

As you no doubt have guessed by now, the company is Apple, and they are hit by this problem. Their recent response was to expel a number of apps that were less than squeaky clean. In fact, as the Wall Street Journal reports, Apple did a fairly major house cleaning of “sexy apps” from the AppStore.

Cleaning House – Almost

But this was only halfway done, and it was aimed at the small publisher. Major names such as Playboy, Playgirl, and Victoria’s Secret was allowed to remain. When asked about a Sports Illustrated swimsuit app, Phil Schiller, Apple’s worldwide product marketing honcho, explained that it was due to being from a:

“well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format”

So, is that the definition of taste now – it must exist in other formats to be considered okay for the AppStore? Apparently Apple seems to think so. That or it was a convenient excuse for the interview.

Explicit Category – Now You See It, Now You don’t

A couple days later, Apple was apparently trying to get a grip on the mess when, as Slashgear noted, an “Explicit” category had appeared on the app submission process. So, perhaps Apple was going to allow so called “sexy apps” on the AppStore, and they were giving the developers a way to submit them.

But that did not last even a day. HuffingtonPost reported, on the same day as the Slashgear article, that the new explicit category had been removed. Wow, talk about a hot potato – do you get the feeling that Apple is nervous about this one?

Consumers Complain

When originally pressed as to why the explicit apps were pulled, Phil Schiller stated that they were getting a lot of complaints. According to Phil,

“It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see.”

With that statement, I believe that I can see where Apple was going with the “Explicit” category – it would be a way to keep questionable content away from women and children, if you will. But then why would it be yanked again so quickly?

Apple, Make Up Your Mind

Now, at this point, I wish apple would just make up its mind. In my opinion, there is a very simple litmus test to give for any app on the AppStore. The test is this – if you would not want it in your physical Apple Stores, then DO NOT SELL IT ANYWHERE.

You wouldn’t want sexy apps being sold from behind the counter at the Genius Bar? Then don’t sell it online. This is the simplest way to protect your reputation. It removes all of the gray areas, and lets Apple measure it by a real world scenario. Does it make sense to you?

Publisher Strong Arm For iPad Publishing deals?

But there could be more to this than meets the eye. Remember above, where our buddy Phil was talking about apps that existed in broadly available format? Why would Apple let that dictate anything in their AppStore? Well, Apple has this device coming out soon, and they want publishers lined up to support it. With the right kind of publishing deals, the iPad could be a huge success. Now, could this be a determining factor in why some “sexy apps” are allowed to remain without question?

We will probably never know for sure, since those kinds of discussion take place behind closed doors. But, if you look at what has happened, you could not disprove this as being a very strong factor. If so, then the need to clean up the AppStore could not have come along at a worse time for Apple.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but the keys to the AppStore could remain a bargaining chip for Apple until the iPad proves itself, at which time the iPad will be its own bargaining chip.

What Do You Think?

I can theorize and cite all day, but I would love to know what your feelings are in this mess. How “clean” should the AppStore be? Take the poll below, and make your opinion count.


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