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.