Controversial Choices

Controversial Choices

Apple (AAPL) has become the envy of the wireless industry by creating a sprawling bazaar of software programs that can be loaded onto its iPhone. The company’s App Store has more than 65,000 applications, many more than developers have created for rivals such as Research In Motion (RIMM) or Nokia (NOK ). You can download software to an iPhone that will let you manage monthly expenses, create spiffy presentations, race around a NASCAR track, or test your skills at The Moron Game, an addictive quiz of common sense.

But Apple spikes applications too. Dozens have been rejected or pulled after making it into the App Store. The company pulled one program that provided access to an electronic version of the Kama Sutra and another that offered music services in competition with iTunes. Apple provides some guidelines about what applications it will support. But many independent developers argue Apple hasn’t been clear enough about the rules for the App Store. The issue has flared recently after Apple blocked an application from Google (GOOG) that would have let iPhone users make inexpensive telephone calls.

Developers want more guidance from Apple. In the meantime, here is a sampling of applications that have been banned on the iPhone.

Baby Shaker

Baby Shaker

App Maker: Sikalosoft
Reason for Rejection: “Deeply offensive”

The app allowed users to silence the cries of an imaginary infant by shaking the phone until the baby appeared dead. Apple yanked the app in April 2009 after severe criticism from child-care advocacy groups. The app description read: “See how long you can endure his or her adorable cries before you just have to find a way to quiet the baby down!”

Booty Caller

Booty Caller

App Maker: Bearded Pony
Reason: Sexual content

The app is basically just a dialer but includes a tip book on hooking up. Apple rejected the app in March 2009, but developer Bearded Pony successfully resubmitted the product as Black Book Caller in May 2009.

Drivetrain

Drivetrain

App Maker: Maza
Reason: Can be used to infringe on third party copyrights.

Drivetrain works as a remote control for BitTorrent client Trasmission. Apple rejected Drivetrain in May 2009, saying “this category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing third party rights. We have chosen to not publish this type of application to the App Store.” But Maza says this is “ridiculous” because BitTorrent’s clients are not illegal and the app itself doesn’t download anything.

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus

App Maker: James Montgomerie
Reason: Inappropriate sexual content

In one of the more controversial rejections by Apple, Eucalyptus, which allows people to read classic books on their iPhones, was rejected in May 2009, because users are able to download a copy of the Kama Sutra, an ancient Sanskrit text on sexuality. Apple said the Kama Sutra contained “inappropriate sexual content” and initially proposed that Eucalyptus remove the classic text. Apple reversed course several days later allowing the app without censorship. The incident sparked criticism that Apple’s approval process is arbitrary and influenced by public pressure.

Freedom Time

Freedom Time

App Maker: Juggleware
Reason: Defamatory to public figure

This app marked the days, hours, minutes, and even seconds until the end of the Bush Administration. A cartoon W formed the hands of the clock marking the time. The app got rejected during the runup to the election in September 2008, and the developer got a rare e-mail explanation from Steve Jobs himself, saying: “I think this app will be offensive to roughly half our customers.”

Google Latitude

Google Latitude

App Maker: Google
Reason: Would cause confusion with another Google iPhone app, Maps

Google Latitude gives users a GPS-enabled map to see where their friends are located. Latitude will not be available as a native application, however, despite the logic of having a continuously updating app for location tracking. The reason? Google says Apple asked them to pull the native app because it would cause confusion with Google Maps.

Google Voice

Google Voice

App Maker: Google
Reason: Duplicates services that come with iPhone

Apple rejected Google’s app in late July. The company did not give a specific reason for its decision, but it appears to be an effort to protect AT&T (T), the wireless operator with the exclusive right to sell the iPhone in the U. S. The Google telephony product would have allowed users to make long distance calls for cheap, potentially cutting into AT&T’s revenue. Google Voice could also make it easier to switch out of AT&T, because users get a number that is independent of any carrier.

I Am Rich

I Am Rich

App Maker: Armin Heinrich
Reason: None given

This app did only one thing: Broadcast to others that you had money to burn. I Am Rich hoped to bring conspicuous consumption to iPhone users by charging $999 for a screen that showed a glowing gem. “The red icon on your iPhone or iPod Touch always reminds you (and others when you show it to them) that you were able to afford this,” read the app description on the iTunes. Eight users purchased the virtual gem before Apple yanked it in August 2008.

Knife Music by David Carnoy

Knife Music by David Carnoy

App Maker: Alexandru Brie
Reason: Objectional content

This title was actually an electronic book published by the author as a software application. Apple rejected the app in December 2008 because the hospital psycho-drama contained several sex scenes but allowed it the next month after the content was toned down. Apple’s critics point out that far more explicit content is already available in the movies and music available on Apple’s iTunes.

Me So Holy

Me So Holy

App Maker: Lil’ Shark
Reason: Potentially offensive

This app, which would have allowed you to put your face on an image of Jesus, was rejected by Apple, which said it would be offensive to some people. “[We] are disappointed that this otherwise creative, freethinking company would reject such a positive and fun application,” says the developer in a blog entry.

MyShoe

MyShoe

App Maker: GenieApps
Reason: Defamatory to public figure

This app allowed the user to play the role of the Iraqi shoe-tossing journalist and hurl footwear at former President George W. Bush. The app was rejected for defaming a public figure. The app was retooled however, and accepted by Apple. Now, the user can toss a shoe at anyone they like by uploading a photo of that person—whether it’s a former spouse or the former President.

Netshare

Netshare

App Maker: Nullriver
Reason: None given

The app allowed users to go online with a computer through their iPhone connection— a function known as tethering. The app was briefly allowed up in July 2008 before being taken down by Apple. Many speculated that Apple pulled the plug because AT&T couldn’t handle the added traffic on its network.

NIN: Access

NIN: Access

App Maker: Nine Inch Nails
Reason: Obscene lyrics

The Nine Inch Nails app channeled Trent Reznor’s dark mind into the iPhone through videos, music, and images. Users could also find other fans through a GPS locator. The app was temporarily taken down in May 2009 because of obscene lyrics in Downward Spiral, despite the song being heavily downloaded on iTunes. The update was back online within a few days, but the incident highlighted what many app developers say is an arbitrary review process.

Obama Trampoline

Obama Trampoline

App Maker: Swamiware
Reason: No reason given

This game allowed users to pick a politician (not just the current President) and have him or her bounce on a trampoline and pop balloons. Apple didn’t give a public reason for the rejection. But it may have been for the “apps may not defame public figures” rationale that has been given for other similar rejections.

Pocket God

Pocket God

App Maker: Bolt Creative
Reason: Violated Apple trademarks

This game allowed players to control a primitive tribe of humans surviving on an island. Apple had approved previous versions of this game but rejected an update in March 2009 because the game contained an image of an iPhone. Apple appears to have viewed a virtual iPhone within an iPhone as a trademark violation.

Podcaster

Podcaster

App Maker: Almerica
Reason: Duplicates the functionality of iTunes

This app would have allowed users to organize and search for podcasts. But these functions would have competed with iTunes, which has become a hub for podcasts. Apple blocked the release of this app in September 2008 but later allowed a scaled back version, called RSS Player.

Prohibition 2: The Dope Wars

Prohibition 2: The Dope Wars

App Maker: Catamount Software
Reason: Objectionable content

The game lets users battle for market share as a drug dealer in New York City. Apple blocked the game because of its objectionable content in January 2009 but let Catamount release a more innuendo-laced version called Candy Wars six days later. The police and players no longer fire guns and instead battle with pixie dust. Players don’t pose as drug dealers either, selling rock candy instead.

Shaker

Shaker

App Maker: Phunkware
Reason: Copyright infringement

This Tetris-like game was pulled from the app store for being, well, Tetris-like. The game was stripped from iTunes in September 2008 after Tetris complained that the resemblance was too close.

Slasher

Slasher

App Maker: Josef Wankerl
Reason: Offensive

The app showed a picture of a menacing knife, and when the iPhone was shook, it would play the Psycho theme. The game was originally allowed to be released in August 2008 but was pulled after just one day of heavy criticism in the U.K., where there had been a wave of recent stabbings.

South Park

South Park

App Maker: South Park
Reason: Objectionable content

The creators of South Park had their potty-mouthed app rejected from iTunes in February 2009, which may not have been a surprise given Apple’s rule against “potentially offensive” content. The app featured clips from the often vulgar cartoon series and film. But Apple’s iTunes does sell the South Park television shows, seasons 1 through 12, leading some critics to question whether Apple was using a double standard in its download businesses.

By Joel Schectman