Apple is notoriously strict--and often unpredictable--when it comes to approving apps for its App Store.
No sexually suggestive content of any kind is permitted (Steve Jobs recently told a customer in an email reply,"Folks who want porn can buy and Android phone [sic]."). Apps with titles that bear a resemblance to a trademarked Apple term are a no-go (in another email, Jobs implied that Apple owned the word "Pad."). And your app had better be useful (Apple reportedly rejected some apps for being of "limited utility.")
The app rejection-then-approval saga of Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore brings to light another of Apple's requirements, one with significant ramifications: Apple prohibits apps that ridicule public figures.
The New York Times explains the turn of events:
Mr. Fiore's app was rejected by Apple last December for ridiculing public figures. (He observed in an interview, "That's a tough one to get around if you're a political cartoonist.") His app was reconsidered by Apple after he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning last week, on Monday, and told a journalist of his prior dealings with Apple.
After the Nieman Journalism Lab published a blog post about the app's rejection, Apple encouraged Mr. Fiore to resubmit the app. He did so on Friday, and found out Tuesday that it had been added to Apple's App Store. "Looks like some guy named Steve Jobs was able to nudge my app past the gatekeepers," he said in an e-mail message.
The New York Times suggests Fiore's Pulitzer may have earned him preferential treatment from Apple, and indeed the company seems to have shown a double standard toward developers. As we wrote here, in February, without warning, Apple removed 5,000 sexually suggestive apps from the App Store, including apps that featured only bikinis or lingerie and no nudity. Not included in the purge: Playboy and Sports Illustrated's swimsuit apps. Meanwhile, lesser-known developers' salacious creations got pulled.
Fiore's app, NewsToons (which is now available in the App Store), was not the first to be nixed by Apple censors for "lampooning" public personalities--the caricatures of senators and congressmen in the BobbleRep were deemed "objectionable" by Apple.
See some of the other apps rejected for "criticizing" or "ridiculing" public figures in the slideshow below, then see our picks for the most outrageous banned iPhone apps.
Pulitizer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Mark Fiore was surprised to find that his politically charged app was "objectionable" and "defamatory." Steve Jobs, however, says the app's rejection "was a mistake that's being fixed," the Times reported on April 16, 2010. Fiore's app is now available at the App Store.
In November 2009, conservative filmmaker Ray Griggs developed a directory app that listed the contact info for every member of Congress. Each entry was paired with a caricature by Tom Richmond of Mad Magazine. Apple rejected the app, citing an "offensive" portrayal of Nancy Pelosi, whose husband, FoxNews.com writes, owns stock in Apple. The app is now available for download, with the Pelosi caricature included.
Despite the name, this app wasn't just about Obama. The app featured about 20 caricatures of politicians from different parties (Sarah Palin and the Clintons, among them). The app was a game that allowed users to bounce the politicos on a trampoline, controlling the tilt of the bounce to pop balloons above the trampoline. Though innocent in concept, the creators may have gone too far by including a pantsless Bill Clinton and chose to locate the antics in a cartoon Oval Office. But since Apple never gave a firm reason, the app's developers call the ban a "bizarre" decision.
Inspired by the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush in 2008, this app animates the controversial incident and encourages users to participate in an iPhone-based reenactment. Apple felt My Shoe ridiculed the former president, and it was nixed.
This app was created in 2008 as a count-down timer. It featured George W. Bush at the center of the analogue clock, counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Obama took office. When the developer appealed directly to Steve Jobs, the CEO replied: "I think this app will be offensive to roughly half our customers. What’s the point?"
Minipops is a gaming app that displays tiny pixelated animations of famous people, then has the user match the image to the famous name. Apple initially rejected the app, but Minipops are now available from the App Store. Apparently, the "mini" renderings didn't look real enough to be "offensive."