Where Does Apple Get Off?

Iphone sexMore importantly, DO they get off?

I’m an iPhone whore. I lust my piece-of-shit, can’t-complete-a-call, don’t-get-voicemail, $140-a-month personal computing device that has a phone but you wouldn’t know it. I love my ridiculous Paul Frank monkey case and the fact that I have to use a headset to comfortably complete any one of my many soon-to-be-dropped calls.

It’s possible I’m in love with a sexy, expensive rectangle for which I gladly overpay.

If you haven’t been following the iPhone/sexy app debate as of late, you can quickly get up to speed with a great primer by none other than @violetblue. If you’re not interested in clicking over, I’ll run-down the highlights for you:

  • Apple launches iPhone and Steve Jobs makes it clear that the App Store will not make “porn” available.
  • Smart adult marketers, capitalizing on the iPhone’s popularity, develop wallpaper and HTML5 (mobile) sites for their iPhone fans, staying miles away from the App Store and it’s strict “no porn” guidelines.
  • Meanwhile, the App Store approves and offers for sale and free download thousands of racy apps. These range from the infamous Wobble to CutestGirls featuring lingerie-clad nubiles.
  • In February of this year, Apple pulls the plug on over 5,000 “adult” apps with no notice to developers other than a letter.
  • Oddly enough, major erotic brands like Playboy and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition stay put.
  • Developers are enraged and Apple is left looking like the bad guy.

If you’re an iTunes aficionado, you’re fully aware that adult and age-restricted content has forever been available through that platform. You know, the platform through which you have to sync your iPhone…download software updates…backup your apps.

There’s a little game of Big Brother going on here. Today, Dear Redhead looks at the issue through a business lens.

We’re iFucked
You can only get an iPhone with a calling plan through AT&T. You can only install App Store-approved apps on your iPhone. Without even getting into jailbroken phones and other rigs to work around the AT&T/Apple serial monogamy, the bottom line is we’re fucked. We bought a personal communication device (I won’t even deign to call it a phone) and understood the restrictions. I don’t understand why Apple is under the magnifying glass for dictating what can and can’t be sold in their stores. Amazon.com does it. Best Buy does it. Why not Apple? At this juncture, if you want a wide array of adult-oriented content, you need to switch to Android. They have a complete, age-restricted adult app store.

It’s Good to Be the King
Remember when Mel Brooks announced, “King humps Queen!” in History of the World, Part I? It’s good to be the king. Especially when you’re Apple. You have a highly sought-after technology that commands retail price and is only available through limited distribution outlets. (I say it’s a monopoly, you say it’s maintaining brand integrity…whatever.) Not only can you say what’s available in your App Store and dictate the terms of availability, you can be all sortsa hypocritical and say who can break the rules. Apparently Playboy and Sports Illustrated are such widely accepted brands that neither is considered “objectionable content” by the powers that be at Apple. From MacLife:

On the App Store’s seeming double standard around retention of the Sports Illustrated app, he said “the difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format.

Being king also lets you build walls using funds from the commoners (your customers, sycophants and those looking to offer products that run on your platform). The purpose of these walls? Keep the enemy out. The enemies, of course, being rival brands like Google. Again, you say its protecting brand integrity while I say monopoly – but what the hell do I know? I’m sheep who pays $140/month for a “phone” that can’t complete a call in the City of Denver on the 3G network.

So the king and The Pope can grant indulgences and the common folk (developers) have to abide by your content restrictions in order to sell on your platform. Acceptable. But you may want to recall the state of upheaval back in Tudor England when the governed grew weary of Henry VIII’s predilection for rule bending.

You Sell Sex but You Won’t Sell Sex?
Face it: the iPhone is sexy. Apparently, though I haven’t gotten to run my grubby little hands on one yet, the iPad is even sexier. The sleek case, shiny screen, glimmering silver trim. Holy hell – there are days where I take it out of my cute little Paul Frank monkey sleeve and just pet the damn thing. Honestly? 57% of iPhone users are male. That means 43% can still download the “not-adult” MyPleasure.com MyVibe app and 57% who are going to use Apple-installed Safari to catch adult content on-the-go. It’s OK for folks to masturbate with their iPhone but not OK to watch boobs jiggle. It’s OK for dudes to iStroke while checking out the Playboy app but not OK to check out lingerie-clad women brought to you by app developer PinkVisual because they don’t have brand recognition on the shelves of 7-11s nationwide.

Apple designs sexy devices. Apple telling its customers how they should and shouldn’t be using their products is much akin to njoy telling me that I should be using this as a paperweight.

Toshiba doesn’t tell me what I can and can’t watch on my television. Content is by request.

Telcom Companies Need to Think Like Cable TV Providers
Let’s look at my local cable TV service. While I don’t have cable and only have a home phone and cable modem, here’s what a bundle of services would run me each month:

  • Free HD – no service or equipment charges
  • HD/DVR box and service
  • 200+ digital cable channels
  • Starz, Showtime, Cinemax and HBO
  • Sports Entertainment Package
  • Faster Internet speeds
  • Unlimited local and long-distance calling
  • 12 popular calling features including Caller ID, Call Waiting and more
  • Visual voice mail
  • Price? $179/month for 12 months
  • 12-month contract

I currently pay $140/month for the following:

  • $200 for the phone (I have a 3G)
  • No HD
  • 1350 anytime minutes to use on calls that will inevitably drop
  • YouTube (wow)
  • No movies except through iTunes, can’t even stream Netflix Watch Instantly
  • Unlimited iPhone data plan
  • Unlimited text messaging
  • Visual Voice Mail
  • No flash content
  • Call waiting, three-way calling, call hold
  • 24-month contract

If Apple started thinking like a cable service provider instead of The King, it would realize a whole lot more revenue potential than by blocking potentially “competitive” developers from its interfaces and OS. My cable company understands that not everyone wants adult content. Therefore, they enable parental controls and make that content available for an additional fee and with the requisite restrictions. iTunes has had the technology to implement content restrictions for ages and just NOW cries foul with adult app developers? I smell poop.

I can stream adult content on my MacBook. I can stream content through Safari or via YouTube on my iPhone. As a consumer, I can choose my local cable provider or another network like DishTV or DirectTV. The cable companies understand that content is my decision, though I admittedly only have access to channels they make available. There’s a lot more available than Apple provides customers access to, and for my $140/month, I think I deserve the option to have cartoon chicks drop their dresses when I flip my phone upside down.

The Skinny on the Fat Apple
It comes down to this: if I want to see tits, I can stand on my head anytime and get a dose of two 34 D’s. I don’t need Apple to facilitate. What I feel is missing from the entire Apple/Consumer equation, however, it that consumers are telling them what they want and they’re stalling the process. Google Voice, alternative streaming content NOT purchased through iTunes (i.e. Netflix), adult content, a cell service provider other than AT&T – the cries are out there and as consumers, we’re left wondering how Apple can move forward with OS upgrades and the iPad lunch while we sit over here, fans of their products and straight-up iHosed. Developers are left high and dry, apps yanked because they’re too racy and none of which were actually “porn” in the first place. There is no place for “unsigned apps” in the Garden of Apple. Steve Jobs has spoken and in the beginning, it was the word of Steve.

While we all get that for which we sign a two-year contract, I can’t state it any more eloquently than Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch:

“The answer — that the iPhone will not allow for unsigned apps — does not come as a surprise. But Jobs’s reasoning behind it was certainly interesting to hear, because it’s a clear example of Apple’s hypocrisy.

“For years, iTunes has sold songs with explicit lyrics and movies with graphic nudity. Further, as we’ve pointed out numerous times, the iPhone comes with Safari. The web has quite a bit of porn on it. Hell, many porn sites have even launched HTML5 versions that are optimized for the iPhone. Yes, parents can disable access to Safari with parental controls, but Apple could easily add a similar parental control setting to restrict running unsigned applications, too.”

It’s a matter of moral upstanding being a cloak to veil the monopoly Apple’s placed on their technology, its use and blatant attempts to shut-out competing developers from using the Garden of Apple to begin their own Eden. Hey – I’m no Microsoft fan, either, but at least they don’t tell me how I can use my phone.

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0 comments

  1. Dee

    To ScienceGeek: this is because Australia has a lower population and government regulation on telcos. America doesn't have regulation, and has a higher number of telcos as a result. I don't know the exact effect, but I'm betting that there is a lot of noise out there (with networks, towers, etc), and add that to the highly dense urban populations (compared to Australia, that has a significantly lower population that the United States – at around 20 million), and that is a partial reason why calls drop out in the US, compared to Australia.
    I agree about the plans, there are so many plans for Australians, but still, we are pretty much in the same boat. It's not a perfect technology and why pay more for downloads and internet content? To make a fashion statement? Are iPhones really necessary? I don't think they really are. They are a social thing more than anything else.
    I haven't succumbed to the iPhone as yet. The technology has to be significantly cheaper (and the phone plan) for me to buy it, only because I've worked in one of the largest Australian telcos, to know that what people pay for data is a giant con. Why pay twice to access the internet?

  2. Dee

    It's called corporate love. Corporations scratching eachother's backs to benefit eachother,while smaller developers are out in the cold. Steve Jobs is great at it, and although I don't criticize him for that -every CEO is basically ensuring their company survives, along with jobs – it is about a monopoly, especially when only AT&T benefits. I suppose it could be worse. It could be Verizon. Still, free enterprise is about enterprise, not monopoly and monopoly isn't an ideal situation. Maybe that will change with the next CEO of Apple. Steve Jobs can't live forever.
    I don't yet own an iPhone. In other countries, there are choices of phone plans. I'm not sure why this isn't the case in the US. But even with the choice, there is the other problem and that is that the telecommunications infrastructure doesn't really support the iPhone as well as it should, which in my view isn't Apple's fault, as they aren't in charge of telecommunications networks and perhaps this is the only reason why AT&T are favoured. They may not be the best or provide the best service, but telecommunications (dropped calls, etc) aren't about the technology, they are also about high populations, competing networks and the 'noise' that may also contribute to dropped calls.

  3. ScienceGeek

    This article might amuse you: a consulting firm suggested iPhone users have a type of Stockholm syndrome! http://www.strandconsult.dk/sw4031.asp

    To be fair, in Australia the iPhone is available through a variety of different telcos, so we don't have so many problems with drop outs and access to data. If I have a complaint, it's those piece-of-shit earphones that come with the i-whatevers and send more sound OUT than in.

  4. SubmissiveD

    My LG Net10 prepaid $30 phone from Kmart is sexy as hell. AND it makes calls. Which is what I bought it for. My $40 2GB Coby MP3 player has been dropped on concrete AND left out in the rain, and it still works (try THAT with an iPod!)

    iThings piss me off frankly- I had iTunes because someone gave me an iTunes gift card…without jumping through hoops galore, I couldn't even download anything!! Not to mention what I had to do to actually USE the songs I bought since, horror of horrors, I don't have an iPod!

    Maybe I'm just old school, lol.

  5. so what, no iPorn app? fuck! and also 3G sucks. 3G is slow as the last shit out of the heinz ketchup or my conditioner bottle.

    whatever, love my iPhone. sexy trumps all.

  6. Wicked Shawn

    Steve Jobs as king…….must you frighten me so close to the damn weekend? Oh well, I will simply start drinking a little early.

    Seriousy, Android is nowhere near as sexy, that's where they missed with it, that and the platform isn't as user friendly. It is a marketing nightmare. Apple and AT&T have their own porn show going on, they will be exclusively sleeping together for years to come. That is a relationship on firm ground, unfortunately. King and Queen.

    Excellent post, I have held tightly to my Blackberry for these very reasons. I'm the "cut off your nose to spite your face"type. 😉

    • I hear you, Shawn. I'm a former Blackberry owner and there are days that I wish I'd never made the switch to my sexy, shiny little black iHell device. Sorry to scare you so close to the weekend!

  7. Good post. For the most part I have no problem with the way Apple handles their iStore, etc. I knew the restrictions when I bought an iPod Touch, and I'm ok with them. All the app developers that cry foul seem to forget that Apple has provided them with a way for a guy in his basement to make money programming games, which is a pretty sweet opportunity. They don't have any sort of right to sell through Apple – it's totally Apple's choice whose stuff they sell and whose they don't. As with anything, once we get accustomed to a privilege or opportunity we begin to feel entitled to it. It may not be nice for Apple to deny the small guy's stuff while selling almost identical content from SI or Playboy, but as my mother always told me, "Life ain't fair."
    The only thing that gets my blood boiling is when companies claim that you legally cannot hack their device so you can use other software on it (most notably the PS3). If I've purchased your item, I can dress it up like a doll, throw it off a bridge, rip out its electronic guts to decorate my room, or do whatever else I damn well please with it. The law is lagging behind technology, and it's going to be interesting to see how things progress.

    • Good point on the device hacking, CatPS – it'll be interesting to see the path that developers take if they can't brew what they choose. It won't be much unlike Twitter, methinks, where tons of 3rd-party app developers hit the streets to fill the gaps and now Twitter wants their real estate back.

  8. I love my Blackberry even more now. Even if it's not sexy. I dunno, maybe it's not sexy like Scarlett Johannsen, but it's sexy like, er, I dunno…

    [trying to come up with a rather pedestrian sexy…]

    Donna Reed?

    • Donna Reed, indeed! It's a catch-22 to be an iPhone owner: we fall captive to the sexy tech yet find ourselves at a bit of a loss when it comes to…service…performance…FLASH CONTENT. Rub your Blackberry naughty tonight, mkay?

  9. Larry

    Interesting post. A few thoughts though. Apple having a monopoly on their own product is well duh. It's their product so of course they do. There are alternatives in Android, blackberries, nokia phones, and the palm stuff. So they are not monopolizing the phone market. What they are doing is controlling their stuff. And honestly? It works better than the others. And it's just a damn phone to boot.

    Apple is a retail store, not a telcom. They don't provide a pipe for content so comparing them to a cable provider is not quite accurate. They are more like a book store or a music store. They can decide what they want to sell where.

    Regarding ATT, it sucks, but you have to look at the history. At the time ATT was the only provider willing to allow Apple to do their thing. Until that agreement expires we are stuck. No use yelling at Apple over it.

    TechCrunch needs to be taken with a grain of salt in their coverage really. They've had issues in the past and do linkbait stuff. The 5k apps that were banned were garbage apps. Most of them were using all sorts of tricks to get themselves in categories that they did not belong and they were shoddy one offs that often violated copyright or other things. SI and Playboy were not even close to what the banned apps were. So while it may seem scary it was really dumping garbage. When you search for a task list app and get 40 boobie apps there is a problem. Apple dealt with it using a hammer. I do think they should open up some of the adult stuff more, but it's their store and their product. I bought my phone knowing what that meant and I am fine with it. Besides watching porn on the iphone would be annoying since it is so small a screen.

    I don't think Apple is hurting for their revenue stream considering their reporting. Regarding netflix on the iphone. You can stream via the iPad app so it is most likely a network issue regarding ATT. This is what has affected some other applications as well on the phone. The fact that the iPad is not locked to ATT in any way (The 3G model will be unlocked) means a lot of the streaming services are/will come to that device.

    As for HD on the iPhone, let's be honest. On such a small screen does it matter? You won't be able to tell the difference really anyway.

    • All great points, Larry. However, if you've ever been in the middle of the AT&T/Apple store "It's THEIR fault" argument (where each blames the other for performance issues), Apple chose it's bedmate poorly. Perhaps AT&T did as well. The network can't handle the data load and they've lost a lot of favoritism along the way.

      And I can bitch about HD functionality if I wanna 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

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