Will Apple's first 'approved' iPhone porn app last?

Hottest Girls application, currently brings scantily-clad women--and now those of the bare-chested variety--to your iPhone or iPod Touch device

"We uploaded topless pics today. This is the first app to have nudity," said Allen Leung in an interview with Macenstein [link semi-nsfw]. He's the developer behind the "Hottest Girls" application, currently bringing scantily-clad women--and now those of the bare-chested variety--to your iPhone or iPod Touch device for a mere $2 installation fee.

I suppose that's something to brag about but, if anything, Leung should be boasting about his ability to sneak a quick one past Apple's App watchdogs. I haven't spoken to Leung myself, but I'm willing to bet the farm that his application does little more than pull images from a specified directory or URL list online. In that sense, he hasn't "debuted the first official iPhone porn app" so much as he has just uploaded some naked pictures in addition to the Apple-sanctioned, two-piece wearing bikini shots that he threw in when submitting "Hottest Girls" for approval.

The publicity he's drumming up for the story--this piece of writing included--will no doubt alert Apple to the issue and get Leung's app taken off the App Store. That still doesn't do much to erase the lingering authorization issues that have plagued Apple's review process since its handheld devices first met the third-party development world. To put it gently, did Apple really not see this one coming?

Tweeting the F-Bomb

It's hard to believe given Apple's track record with what's allowed and what's forbidden on the App Store. Consider Tweetie: An update for this popular Twitter client was initially rejected by Apple merely because some users on Twitter--somebody think of the children--were filling their 140-character statements with naughty words. To Apple, that was equal to Tweetie using the profanity itself. Although Apple eventually relented in this case and let the Tweetie update pass through, it hasn't been quite as compromising with others.

Nine Inch Nailed

Trent Reznor, frontman for the band Nine Inch Nails, had to pull functionality out of an update for his nin:access application before Apple would stamp it with a seal of approval. The issue here? An update to the application gave users the ability to stream a wide selection of the band's musical works. And if you know anything about Nine Inch Nails, you'll know that Reznor's lyrics--especially for the offending album in question, The Downward Spiral--aren't exactly the kind of thing you want to sing in a schoolyard. Apple threw down the hammer, Reznor had to remove access to the offending lyrics, and the application update eventually passed through.

Those Sneaky Developers

In essence, the Hottest Girls application is doing the same things that got its peers banned--making an external call to questionable material over which no Apple employee, nor the services' users, have any measure of control. In this case, this procedure makes it easy for a developer to create a borderline-appropriate version of an application to pass to Apple. After all, said developer can later change the content to anything imaginable once the application hits the marketplace.

Given the proliferation of new apps in the queue combined with the lack of resources on the part of the App Store reviewers, it's safe to say that nobody's going to go through already approved apps to make sure that they're on the up-and-up. Which brings me back to my lead point--the publicity Hottest Girls is generating will draw eyeballs, eventually those from Cupertino as well.

In the long-run, what's Apple to do? It can't restrict apps from calling up external sources--that would make for one boring App Store indeed. It can barely even find naughty bits that have been blatantly written into the code of approved applications. Is the solution to play a cat-and-mouse game with each app that turns rogue post-approval? Open the floodgates and let ratings determine user access, not Apple guidelines?

Judging by the screenshot, which blatantly lists Hottest Girls as featuring frequent and intense sexual content and/or nudity... one wonders if Apple has already started to throw in the towel with its guidelines. I mean, it's not as if the description doesn't spell out exactly what you're going to get when you start shaking your iPhone or iPod touch back and forth. Why would Apple pull the application for delivering what it promises, especially since it's been reviewed and rated as such?

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David Murphy

PC World (US online)
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