UPDATE (23 February): The Simply Beach developer just emailed us to say that “Apple appear to have quietly reinstated the Simply Beach app this evening”. He notes that neither he nor his customer received any communication whatsoever from Apple.
Our recent articles on Apple’s decision to ban “overtly sexual apps” have caused plenty of arguments in the comments. Some (including your correspondent) think Apple’s being ridiculous, overbearing and taking a dangerous path in initiating a blanket ban on even extremely mild content, such as images of women (or, er, men) in bikinis. Others claim Apple should be applauded, and they can’t wait to see the back of apps with sexual content, no matter how mild.
However, Apple’s stance hasn’t only affected the likes of iWobble, as Andrew Long of software development company Exploding Phone explains: “One of our customers has fallen foul of Apple’s new puritan crusade—the crazy thing is, the customer is an online beachwear retailer, Simply Beach, that happens to sell bikinis via an online store and the accompanying iPhone app that we developed for the company.”
Andrew notes that Apple removed the app without warning. On Friday, Simply Beach received an email from Apple about the decision to remove any overtly sexual content from the store and that included the Simply Beach application. “The email also made mention to numerous complaints they had received from customers regarding ‘this type of content’ and implied it was these complaints which had led to the changes,” says Andrew, adding that his customer initially thought this was a hoax.
At the time of writing, Apple has yet to respond, and Andrew resubmitted the app with a much increased age rating, although he states: “Neither we nor our customer believes that the content warrants a rating.” The app also has some heavy investment by the swimwear company, and was soon to have had a revision including multi-currency pricing and video streaming. “This upgrade is now under threat until we find out where Apple’s puritan values lie,” said Simply Group MD Gerrard Dennis in a press release. “This has put people’s jobs at risk as we rely on all income streams. We are not Apple, we don’t have billions sat in our bank account! It would have been better to have had some warning or discussion before removing the app. I assume all clothing retailers that sell anything other than overcoats will now have to be removed from iTunes?” (our emphasis)
“Personally speaking, I think the decision is ludicrous, but to be honest not much that Apple does surprises me any more,” says Andrew, stressing that his views don’t necessarily reflect those of his customer. “As an iPhone developer you have to be prepared for the goalposts to shift unendingly and be as dynamic as you can in changing to meet the new way of life.” However, in this case, Andrew thinks it’s clear the content is not ‘overtly sexual’: “Apple has clearly been overzealous and inconsistent in trying to rid the App Store of ‘bikini blight’. It makes a mockery of the rating system, too, which is surely there to ensure that questionable content doesn’t get into the wrong hands.”
To add insult to injury, Andrew notes that his customer sells some of its goods through an Amazon feed, which is still available through the Amazon iPhone app. “And I’m sure if you searched that app for more fruity items, you’d find many images available which are much worse by the average person’s moral compass.”
At the time of writing, Apple hasn’t responded to our request for a comment. We also note that there’s not a total bikini ban—you can still get the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, perhaps because Apple didn’t want to piss off Time magazine? (Hat tip: Nicole.).