Preston Gralla

Apple: Some bikini babes are more equal than others

February 23, 2010 4:46 PM EST
Apple once again has proven that it plays by a different set of rules by everyone else --- and that even when its hypocrisy is on full display its fans won't complain. The company has banned a number of apps from its iPhone App Store for suggestive content, while allowing other apps with essentially the same content to stay. Photos of bikini-clad women from big brands such as Sports Illustrated and Playboy are fine; similar photos from small, little-known brands are not.

Apple has banned applications such as Dirty Fingers, which shows girls in bikinis wiping glass clean, and Sexy Scratch Off, which allows a user to swipe away a woman's dress to display her in underwear. But it allows a Sports Illustrated app of suggestive bikini-clad models to remain in the store, as well as a suggestive Playboy app.

Philip W. Schiller, head of worldwide product marketing at Apple, explained that discrepancy in allowing the Sports Illustrated app this way to the New York Times:

"The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format."
In other words, big companies with big marketing budgets draw a pass; lesser-known developers are targeted.

What rules does Apple apply when deciding which apps are family-friendly? That's not at all clear. The developer of a banned app called Wobble claims to have spoken to Apple about them, and on his blog, here are the first three rules he said he was told:

1. No images of women in bikinis (Ice skating tights are not OK either)
2. No images of men in bikinis! (I didn’t ask about Ice Skating tights for men)
3. No skin (he seriously said this) (I asked if a Burqa was OK, and the Apple guy got angry)
As to why his own app was banned, it allows people to make certain portions of a body in photos wobble --- and you can easily imagine what body parts those are.

There's certainly nothing wrong with Apple wanting to keep the App Store family-friendly. What is wrong, though, is its hypocrisy in only banning apps from small developers, and not applying the same rules to big-money brands.

If Microsoft did something like this, the Web would be in an uproar. But Apple, as always, gets a free pass from its numerous fans.