Apple pulls the plug on 'sexy' iPhone apps

February 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
There is a lot less racy content on Apple's iTunes app store these days.

The Cupertino-based company axed thousands of sexually suggestive applications, after being pressured to do so, but now app developers are upset over what looks to them to be arbitrary standards.

"We received an email from Apple saying we were no longer allowed to sell our application in the store," says Nate Haas.

Nate and his brother Ben of Sausalito got the same email sent to 5,000 other app developers. Their application "Private Dancer" had been available on iTunes for three months -- 8,000 people bought it.

However, in its email Apple wrote, complaints from customers have forced the company to change its policy.

To tech analysts, the move makes sense. Apple's new iPad is scheduled to hit stores next month.

"Well Apple is concerned about its image. It may have something to do with its iPad coming out because that's a platform that makes graphics that much more enjoyable," says Larry Magid from

The problem is Apple chose not to pull all sexually suggestive material. Applications from Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Maxim and FHM, for instance are still available. Many are questioning the apparent double standard.

"For them to still be in, it kind of goes against the whole spirit of what the app store was, and that was to let small developers, small development companies like ours, go ahead and actually compete," says Nate.

Regardless, Apple says there is a distinction between small app developers and big publishers like Sports Illustrated.

The company told ABC7, "The difference is this is a well known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format. We always try to consider the source and the intent of the apps when reviewing them."

Nate and Ben say that is an unconvincing argument. Yet they know that given the way the app store is structured, Apple calls all the shots. This duo says they have no choice but to focus on less controversial applications.

"We'll go from sex to alcohol, we'll do whatever we can," says Nate.

Industry observers are speculating that Google's version of the app store, Android Market, may see a surge in sexually suggestive material as a result of Apple's policy change. Android applications are not screened before they are posted.