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Summary:

Only a little while ago, we published a story about Apple’s inconsistent review process for the App Store. In that case, the question was one of imagery, and focused on some icons that Apple seemed to be of two minds about. Well, inconsistency is one thing, […]

baby-shaker-app

Only a little while ago, we published a story about Apple’s inconsistent review process for the App Store. In that case, the question was one of imagery, and focused on some icons that Apple seemed to be of two minds about. Well, inconsistency is one thing, but their latest gaffe represents an entirely different kind of failing. In a move that garnered worldwide attention, Apple yesterday approved and then later removed an app called “Baby Shaker.”

If you aren’t already aware of the details of the app, it basically allowed users to simulate shaking a baby to death on their iPhone or iPod touch. On screen, you saw a pencil-drawn animation of a baby that would progressively move less and less as you shook your phone, until big red X’s would appear over its eyes and it would stop moving altogether, at which point the baby is presumably dead. Even just describing what the app does is horrific, let alone actually playing it.

It’s surprising, then, that such an app would sneak by Apple’s generally very conservative App Store review process. The very same process which, until recently, wouldn’t allow fart noises or overtly sexually suggestive material within their hallowed walls. Infanticide, though? No problem.

The quick removal of the app seems to suggest that its approval in the first place was a mistake or an oversight, and that in general, Apple is definitely not in favor of depicting this sort of thing on their platform. Nonetheless, it was there, it was live, and at least some people downloaded it before its removal. Advocacy and awareness groups are up in arms, and they’re looking for an explanation from Apple for why this could be allowed to happen.

I’d like an explanation, too. How about we celebrate the billionth app downloaded (imagine if it actually was Baby Shaker?) with some transparency regarding your review process? Because as of right now, considering this screw-up, the Instapaper/Pocket God issue, and the Tweetie misunderstanding regarding foul language, it seems like there are 10 guys at the office who draw straws to see who’s in charge of policy for the day.

On a slow news day like yesterday, something like Baby Shaker can quickly obscure any other message you might be trying to get across, like how much money you’re raking in, for instance. Apple would be wise to put a cap on this sort of thing before it starts interfering with bigger, more important messages, like new product announcements, for instance. Establish a clear and straightforward review process, with redundancies and checks and balances, and let developers know what the pipleline looks like. Do it now, before it taints people’s anticipation of your 3.0 release.

  1. More and more the App store “approval process” is just becoming a really ugly and awful part of Apple. I’m really really disappointed in Apple here.

    The App store is a great thing, but everything about the approval process just royally stinks. I keep hoping they totally revamp the system, but I keep just seeing more and more disappointment instead.

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  2. What’s that? That’s the sound of someone packing up their cube over at Apple.

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  3. If Apple didn’t have an approval process this would just be the case of a developer with bad taste. If they’re going to let stuff like this through while denying other apps on some ridiculous grounds (Tweetie, for example), the approval process has been rendered useless.

    To echo what Wil Shipley said a few months back, ditch the approval process and let the market decide:

    http://www.wilshipley.com/blog/2008/09/iphone-app-store-let-market-decide.html

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  4. What’s the big deal…..so Apple screwed up-they’re entitled. Deal with it you righteous prudes!

    -Judge Goode

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  5. What a non-story. A goofy, non-PC app sneaks through a review process designed to weed out “fun” and is released into the wild, endangering … what? Nothing. It’s a game, on a phone. Get over it.

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  6. @ #4:

    Rude much?

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  7. Amazing – to the person who posted its a game on a phone – no its a simulation of a baby being shaken to death and that is not a game by any stretch of the imagination. Apple have acted now but the developer is a disgrace and this is shameful.

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  8. Well it does bring a whole new level to the App Store advertising from Apple. Even if that level is killing babies and going to prison, turns out there’s an app for that too.

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  9. @bodyprojectliverpool: I side with the guy that says it’s just a game.

    Personally, I find large amounts of mainstream PC and X-Box gaming to be horrific, depraved overly-violent garbage but those that like such crap have a point when they say “it’s just a game.” Those games in particular actually train the user to get used to insane levels of violence and gore, this game has a few delightful pencil sketches of some cute babies. When the babies “die” they get two red x’s overlaid on the cute sketch.

    If you believe that all that X-Box/Halo, lets-pretend-we-are-serial-killers crap is okay, you are a hypocrite to be against the baby shaker app. I would guess that you would be against both yourself, but most of the people crying all the crocodile tears over the baby-shaker app this morning are totally fine with that junk.

    This app doesn’t train anyone to shake babies and has no gratuitous violence or actual baby killing in it at all. It’s a silly joke. A piece of black humour and people are waaay over-reacting about it IMO.

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  10. This is not an original idea of mine, I read it somewhere else but I no longer no where that was: The App Store is more like an independent bookstore than a public library. As such, Apple is choosing which content to sell rather than attempting to satisfy everyone based on an idea that all content should be treated equally.

    While the company would seem to have room to streamline and clarify the submission and approval processes, I don’t think they are doing anything illegitimate as a business with decisions like this. Whether or not such moves are good or bad – or however one wants to frame it – I think it is within Apple’s purview. Ultimately, then, it is our choice as consumers to decide if the decisions by Apple are too prohibitive.

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