UPDATED: Apple Removes Sex-based Apps from the App Store

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UPDATE 1: TiPb received a comment from Apple.

UPDATE 2: Chillifresh reports Apple has now removed 5000 sex-based apps and suggest new "rules" are in place.

Developer Chillifresh sent us a link to their blog post where they claim Apple is removing "all non-PG apps" (read: sex-based apps) from the App Store.

Here's the email they received:

The App Store continues to evolve, and as such, we are constantly refining our guidelines. Your application, Wobble iBoobs (Premium Uncensored), contains content that we had originally believed to be suitable for distribution. However, we have recently received numerous complaints from our customers about this type of content, and have changed our guidelines appropriately.

We have decided to remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store, which includes your application.

First, we should point out Wobble has no sexual content in and of itself, it applies a "wobble" graphical distortion effects to any photo you choose to import -- though the app name is certainly suggestive.

Second, it's important to remember that users who've already downloaded the app can keep using it in its current state, although the developers can no longer provide updates (including updates to make it compatible with future iPhone OS releases).

Third, Apple's already gotten negative press for rejecting apps and removing an entire range likely won't sit well with the "let us decide for ourselves" crowd.

Fourth, sex-based apps have been spreading through several categories and there have been complaints from those who'd rather not see them side-by-side with non-sex-based apps.

So, is there a middle ground where Apple could create an "adult" category all its own, there for those who want the R-rated apps, easy for others to ignore? Or are they right to go the Blockbuster/Walmart family-friendly route, and leave the adult content to join the porn content as Web Apps?

Let us know what you think...

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

UPDATED: Apple Removes Sex-based Apps from the App Store

58 Comments

Couldn't Apple make a section in the app store that would require age verifying ? Like the back room of a video store...
And First.

Personally I dont care, porn on your cell is stupid and half the "adult" apps Ive seen articles on are pretty lame. Do whats best for the itunes population as a whole (mostly kids and teens), not the few pervs who need 24/7 porn

Sorry to all the "anything goes" crowd, but I want this stuff kicked out of the app store. I would also like to see some flexible parental controls added to Safari, with the ability to create a whitelist for younger users.

To all the "just do age verification," they already do! When you download the app it says blah blah blah 17+, hit OK to download. That wont stop a 13-17 year old who are under the age. Its ignorant to think age verification will stop anyone from getting content they want
Just take it off itunes period then no issues or lawsuits. Easy solution, people can live without porn apps on their phones and get a real life.

I agree, take this stuff off. If you are that addicted to pornography that you need to access it from your phone just use Safari. I don't need "an app for that". I get tired of seeing all these apps on the top sellers list. I'm looking for useful apps that others are downloading, not apps that show girls in skimpy bikinis.

I agree that this type of content has no place on the App Store. However, I strongly believe there should be a way of distributing non-Apple sanctioned applications, outside of the store.

Wobble actually has no content – it ships without any, people use their own pics.
To all those that want their apps censored... I have no problems with that really - If Apple decided on a standard and published it we'd be ok...
They have changed their standards, but they don't actually say what those standards are now, or what they were before! No guidelines provided!
There are almost a million people who own the Wobble app, who now cannot get an update if Apple releases a new O/S that breaks the app they OWN. This happened with the update to 3.0. We released a patch, now we wont be able to do that in the future.
If Apple approved it already and people bought it, why should they be penalized, and more importantly to me - why should I - Glentwood has invested quite some time and money in this app, and it was approved a year ago!!
Maybe Apple are changing their standards to comply with rules in other countries that they have just opened up their App store to? Maybe we'll only be able to show a woman if she is wearing a veil??

How about this: iWobble. Thats it. Don't say boobs, because you do. Don't say anything about sex. There. App should then have approval.
It's the "pasties" and the "bikini" apps that are offensive when added into the same scheme as other apps. I don't want to see a ton of "boobies" apps on the store when I'm browsing the top 50. It's not a store run by 12 year olds. If they want that stuff, there are other means by which to obtain it.
No, you don't need an app for THAT.
I congratulate Apple.

Oh, since when are boobs bad and farting good?? I'd much rather keep miriads of iFarts off the store.
Explanation, anybody?

This is kind the same stuff that they can decide what and when. you can find porn every where on internet and the iphone has safari so you can go and get it, also movies in itunes has sexual content, so why if some like this kind of apps just let them be. Sex positions have images how to F@#@#$@#, comonnnn, I used with my girl and we are more fun together. Why no just make another category and just for adult, make all this app for ADULT have a password for protection. there is a lot of ADULTS that love this app for them to play, or just to play with your self if you want. So Category for ADULT sound fair for everybody

"we should point out Wobble has no sexual content in and of itself"
No, but the developer made a deliberate decision to sell the product based on sexual innuendo. Now Apple has understandably decided that it doesn't want sexual oriented apps on its service (a decision which is undoubtedly supported by the majority of users if this board is any indication). Live by the sword, die by the sword. If the developer truly feels aggrieved because he never intended any overt sexual connotations, then all he has to do is rename the app and remove any sexual suggestion from its literature/marketing.

I don't want it in the AppStore as it is right now. I'm open to it being in an "adult only" section, age verified ; as long as it doesn't also show up in other categories.

Tom,
All Apple needed to do 12/18 months ago is tell devs what they expected and what they would allow, arbitrary rule changes AFTER something has been on sale for over a year does nobody any good.
Apple were fine with our marketing and everything else up until yesterday - what changed? It's not like they hadn't noticed the app (I have spoken to Apple Staff about it on numerous occasions) - I mean THEY made ~$100,000 from it.
Besides all that - what is wrong with sending out an email WITH some guidelines and a note saying that the new guidelines will be enforced in 14 days?
I have 970,000 iPod/iPhone users of Wobble that have a different opinion to the 5/6 commenters above, so I don't think this board is any indication of what people want!

I am torn on this one (tho I do agree with Jon Atherton that developers should be given clear guidelines). I like Apple working to keep my iPhone safe; I'm not sure I want them policing my morals. OK, so they are policing their own morals, and I'm free to get whatever I want elsewhere. But booting the App because it has 'boobs' in the title? Who really makes decisions to do that? Steve? The legal department? An app reviewer? An algorithm? Apple's within their rights here, but the amorphous nature of the censoship, and the apparent assumption that a girl in a bikini or the word 'boobs' are 'overtly sexual content' - or that people who like them are 'pervs' or addicted to porn (yeah, I'm lookin' at you JK) -- make me way more uncomfortable that sexual content itself.

I actually think its annoying to see the sex-apps among regular apps.. An adult section would certainly be a lot better

Apple is attempting to define what is porn. This is something that has given the Supreme Court of the United States a hard time (no pun intended) for years. Porn is not something that can be broadly defined. I have not seen an ad for anything in the app store that I would define as porn, despite my disdain for the overwhelming number of boobie apps. Even in the provincial views of most of the US, naked/breasts does not equal porn.
I, personally, don't want to give Apple the ability to start censoring based on their definition of porn. What's next, blocks on websites with "objectionable material?" (Why stop only with the 13-17 crowd when it's easier to censor everyone!)

Eliminate the censorship or create an alternate iTunes that requires age verification and has no limits. This wouldn't be a problem if Apple allowed distribution competition. anyone remember the days of Palm app development?

it seems to me that the email was pretty explanitory. apple has made the desicion from popular demand that it is removing apps with sexual content. i don't think there are any hidden guide lines in that. the complaint that they allowed it for over a year is a moot point. the app store obviously has to stay change with what its current consumers want. also if this app has no sexual content, than throwing iboobs in there is just a marketing "sex sells" ploy, and i agree, we already have enough complaints of our app store being filled with trash.

Need to pass the time and get in the mood? Unfortunately, we dropped the ball and there are no apps for that because we single out majorities when overly conservative users complain a lot.
This is what happens when one comapny gets all the control. They come up with ridiculous idea and those that follow get no say in the matter.
So what do we do? It's called jailbreaking. I wish that those rejected by apple would just contact saurik and go to the "dark side". Apple will one day realize they aren't the parents of some 70million users. They're a distributor and business and, if the resources are available (which they are), they should supply them...

Finally, Apple gets something right for a change. It's about time. I'm very glad to see this. Now better apps have a chance to get in the top 25 of their categories instead of the useless "sex" apps taking up space.
Lately, I haven't agreed with a lot of what Apple has been doing with the App store. But I definitely agree with this decision. I would not want to see what an unfiltered App store looked like. A lot bigger chance for malware and spyware. I know Apple doesn't currently check each app's code, but allowing just anything on the App store would create more of a possibility of a malicious app.

@Keith
I totally agree with the personal responsibility thing but try and look at it from this perspective. When you go to the grocery store, you don't expect to find eatable underwear or other "erotic foods". There are specialty stores for that kind of stuff. I strongly believe that the same philosophy should hold true for the appstore as well.

I was kinda surprised at all of the sex apps on the iPhone. They are listed across several categories when looking at the top apps.
I think Apple should create a separate category for the sex apps and users should be able to select if they want to see it.

And what's keeping kids from going to YouTube where they can watch all kind of xrated stuff. I have a 12 year old and I monitor her iPod touch weekly for content. People are so damn lazy, you are a parent so monitor you child. Apple on the other hand should create an xrated section to quiet all the right wing religious extremist.

I can care less about the app store taking off these adult apps, they suck anyways and there always on the top 50 which is Pretty annoying.

@Kenny
I'm glad to see parents monitoring what their kids are seeing. I applaud you for that.
I wouldn't be against a separate category but with the option to disable it from being seen in the App store..

There are so many better places to get porn than from these little apps. Porn companies just need to make their sites iphone streaming friendly and voila.

The fact is...these apps are not PORN...these apps of suggestive themes that make some old women and homosexual men uncomfortable to look at, and in order to save their own ass, Apple is taking them off the app store. I guess I don't really care that they are doing it, but I do care about WHY they are doing it. I'm going to complain of all the apps that are a complete waste of everyones time and see if we can get those pulled off too.

I am so sick of the TnA stuff in The App Store. If they can't put it some where for those who want it out of sight then I want it out.
I'd like to go through apps without having half neekid women all up in my grill. I'm not a prude but seriously folks, why should we have to sift through hundreds of crap like that to find apps? There is no reason for it.

All the adult apps suck.
But I think since apple is messing with some peoples livelyhood from one day to the next, I smell lawsuit.

I find it problematic that it is being censored and removed, but I also am annoyed by it showing up in general searching and browsing. Porn in a video store has it's own section (unless it's the whole store of course). You typically don't just stumble upon "Debbie Does Dallas" when looking for "Driving Miss Daisy".

Maybe I'm just too liberal.... but I disagree w/ censorship of any kind. Believe me, I'm the last guy that wants to see more boob apps. I agree w/ a separate section though for keeping it separate from those who don't want to see them in the app store.

Absolutely amazing how the crowd is all with Apple on this. Porn is irrelevant to the story, the salient point is that Apple unilaterally wiped out Jon's business, with no warning or recourse. You can argue this app did not belong, and I might even agree (though, as another poster said, it's hard to argue boobies are bad, and farts are good), but that is not the signal message sent today. The message to devs is that not only can Apple reject your Apps for nebulous reasons when you submit them, but they can and will revoke your Apps, hurting your paid customers and destroying your business, by arbitrarily changing those reasons well after the fact.
So cheer the removal of evil minor-corrupting boobies from the store if you must, but don't pretend this will not have a chilling effect on developers. Right now, the iPhone is the only real game in town, but capriciousness like this is creating pent up demand for developers to go to the first platform, ANY platform, that hits barely good enough.

I think we should have an adults section in the app store as long as it is age verified and password protected and shoes up as other or something like that. You can find much worse stuff on the Internet. What's next are they gonna ban safari? Apple needs to losing their grip a little and give the users a choice and more control of the iPhone customization etc! I love my iPhone but I'm startting to feel too restricted!

@Dev
As with any other retailer, they have the right to say what is and what is not sold in their store. If they change their mind on something, they have the right to do that as well.

I approve. I'm 59 and I've seen more than my share of anatomies. What I don't want to see are T&A apps in Utilities and the like. If Apple is smart, it will create an Adult category. The only dumb thing they did is shoot first and ask questions later.

@Dev for the first time you and I are more or less on the same side. Apple provides products and services. One service, the AppStore, has been getting seriously dissed for too much restriction (tho they have always refused actual porn). Now here comes someone complaining that any sex-reference is a problem, and Apple caves? Let a thousand flowers bloom!

You same people who complain about Apple "censoring" the appstore are the same people who get upset when the word God is mentioned or displayed anywhere near a school or courthouse.
There's got to be some kind of standard set for society. Apple can do what they want with the appstore because it's THEIR PROPERTY! Apple surely didn't create the appstore just to let the inmates rule the asylum.

@CJ - Ive made this point elsewhere, but standard for what society? This is so not an issue in Japanese society or Scandanavian society. Not everyone has to adhere to American standards of the Judeo-Christian 'norm'.

I think it's interesting that on the jailbreak app stores where you'd expect loads of x-rated stuff, there's virtually nothing. If anything, what's there is actually much more discreet than on Apple's own store!

CJ, thank you for making the most appropriate statement to date. The issue is not whether or not people want porn in their apps. The issue revolves around that the App store is owned by apple, and they can choose whatever they wish to sell in it. That is the wonderful thing about private enterprise, they don't have to struggle with this like the justices of the Supreme Court, they can just censor it as they wish. And the people who want iPorn can choose another device if it is that important.

Why not censored the web as there is porn over there?
I am adult, hardcore pornography is legal, I would like to be able to have pornographic application on my phone.
And now they even censored soft stuff?
I love Apple, but I hate some of her policy, I am not a Kid, I have a credit card that I use to pay application on their store.
How can Apple limit my right?

This is yet another reason I will never own an iPhone. Between AT&T's hit and miss 3G coverage, Apple not allowing competing apps (3rd party Browsers, etc) and censoring the app store for something as simple as a picture modifier, I can't see why anyone buys this junk.

Someone recently kicked off an idea that those cheep crappy indie-developed adult apps are bad for Apple as a brand. So, the question persists: is farting OK for Apple brand??

As a non-puritan non-American (we kicked the stupid puritans out of our country centuries ago and now you're stuck with them), I am glad that I do not own an iPhone or anything made by Apple. As far as I am concerned, Apple are as bad as Microsoft - it's just that no one has realised it yet.
I own an Android phone, and even if they did censor the marketplace at some point, we can still add applications by downloading them from a web site, sticking them on our SD cards, and installing them that way - so censorship of what we can and cannot have on our own damn phones is not an issue for us Android Users.
Saying all of the above, I would still agree that perhaps both the iPhone App Store and the Android Marketplace should have a clearly defined adult content section that is only accessible once you have provided proof of identity (and thus proving that you are over 18). I still don't want my 11 year old niece being exposed to such stuff, but equally, I don't want my freedom of choice as a fully legal consenting adult taken away from me by a corporation.

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The iPad / iPhone users should decide which app they wanna in their devices. Apple should not cutout the sexual apps.
The users should decide which app they will download, if they don't want a sexual one...don't download! Easy!