Although device manufacturers and mobile operating systems engineers have gone out of their way to court mobile application developers, that doesn't mean they'll allow any application onto their stores. Over the past few years, the teams at Apple, Google and Research in Motion have found themselves pulling applications off their mobile app markets that are deemed either offensive or legally questionable. In this slideshow we'll take a look at some of the most notorious applications that were banned or removed from the big-name app stores.
This application is one of many location-based apps that has gotten into trouble with three Democratic senators because it allows users to see common areas where police set up drunk-driving checkpoints. So far, RIM is the only major player to remove the application from its store and PhantomALERT has defended the app by saying that it would discourage drunk driving by showing users just how many different danger areas exist for drunk drivers. PhantomALERT CEO Jake Scott said that users would likely see more drunk-driving checkpoints than actually exist since the app crowdsources information on DUI checkpoints, speed traps and red-light cameras.
Exodus International's "Gay Cure" App
While it's unlikely that any iPhone app could ever successfully convert gay people to being straight, Apple did find this particular app offensive enough to boot it from the App Store. Exodus' self-described mission is to "minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality" and claims to be "the largest worldwide ministry to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction." An Apple spokesman said the company decided to ditch the app because it "violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."
Tawkon's Radiation Detector
Plenty of apps get cold, impersonal rejections from the App Store, but Tawkon holds the distinction of getting a rejection directly from Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Last summer, Tawkon founder Gil Friedlander emailed Jobs and pitched the app as a good way to allow users to "see the level of radiation they are exposed to from their mobile phone." One week after the pitch, Jobs got around to replying with a two-word answer: "Not interested." The good news is that you can still get this app on your jail-broken iPhone if you really want to know how much radiation your iPhone is emitting at a given time.
WikiLeaks, a controversial whistleblower site that routinely posts classified documents online, has come under a lot of scrutiny from the United States government, which last year pressured Amazon to stop hosting WikiLeaks on its servers. Shortly after Amazon ditched the site, Apple kicked the site's unofficial application from its App Store. An Apple spokeswoman told the New York Times that the company removed the app because "apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or group in harm's way." WikiLeaks fans can still get access to multiple variations of WikiLeaks unofficial apps on the Android Market, however.
No, Apple is typically not in the mood to let apps in its own store promote competing platforms. The (very) short-lived iDroid iPhone application wasn't all that elaborate but it was still whacked by the App Store overseers. According to Tech Crunch, iDroid's function was to "display the glowing red Droid eye" that "showed some marketing bullet points about the competing phone" if you tapped on it.
Here was an app designed to offend just about everyone except wanton sadists! The app presented you with a poorly-drawn picture of a baby crying its little eyes out. In order to stop the baby's wailing, you simply had to shake your phone until large red X's appeared over its eyes. This description simply doesn't do the app's offensiveness justice when you compare it to how developer Sikalosoft pitched it: "Babies are everywhere you don't want them to be! They're always distracting you from preparing for that big presentation at work with their incessant crying. Before Baby Shaker there was nothing you could do about it." So apparently the application was targeted toward workaholic corporate sociopaths who hate children. Not exactly the world's most lovable demographic.
There are plenty of opportunities to lose ungodly sums of money in the world, but apparently Google doesn't want you doing them on your Android phone. Rush Poker, an online poker Web site that lets users wager real sums of money, was quickly pulled from the Android Market last year. Google's explanation was fairly straightforward: "Real gambling is not allowed on Android Market." So if you want to lose money to pokerbot algorithms, it looks like you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way - through your laptop.
If the recession has forced you to cut down on your cocaine habit, the app provided some virtual relief by creating pixilated lines of cocaine for iPhone users to snort. Anti-drug advocates were properly horrified by this creation and the app no longer appears on the App Store. Apple has, however, decided to stick with the "Roll Your Own" app that teaches users about the fine art of joint-rolling.
We want to hear from YOU!
Were Apple, Google and RIM justified in removing these applications? Or do you think everyone should just lighten up about child abuse, drunk driving and drug addiction? Let us know in the comments!
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