iPhone apps are the bleeding edge of marketing mistakes

app storeThe iPhone’s apps have been a marketing problem for Apple pretty much since they debuted. The problem is really that Apple wants to approve of all apps before they go on the store. This would be fine, if there was a consistent or even coherent policy guiding what goes in and what doesn’t.

This week’s examples:

Apple has removed an iPhone app from its online store created by Exodus International, an anti-gay religious organization that promotes the idea that homosexuality can be “cured.” … The app, launched in mid-February, initially received a 4+ approval rating from Apple, meaning it did not contain any “objectionable material.” … The app provided users with an event calendar, podcasts, video, “real answers,” “real stories” and links to Twitter and Facebook, and was designed to “be a useful resource for men, women, parents, students and ministry leaders.” … “We removed the Exodus International app from the app store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people,” Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr told FoxNews.com.

SOMEONE APPROVED THIS? Are they hiring from the Westboro Baptist Church? Possible explanation: There is either a very stupid algorithm or person responsible for vetting these apps. And Apple takes the hit for it because they make it clear they are control freaks who get final OK. Google, however, says we will take something down if we get told about it: “While Google does not intend, and does not undertake, to monitor the Products or their content, if Google is notified …” Because Apple’s guidelines for what is acceptable in an app are  basically, “It depends,” they are guaranteed to continue to run into this problem.

Which leads us to example #2:

Senators: DUI checkpoint apps are “harmful to public safety” … The apps in question range from those that try to put DUI checkpoints on a map in real time to those that help users alert one another about police on the prowl for drunk drivers. One app that we found in the iOS App Store called “Checkpointer” specifically advertises its $4.99 offering as being able to save you “thousands of dollars by helping you avoid an arrest for a DUI.” (The company that sells Checkpointer also offers bail bonds, so it’s clear which demographic this company is catering to.) Another app called “Buzzed” says it will alert you when a DUI checkpoint shows up or is planned for your area, though it also offers a “call a cab” service based on your GPS location.

SOMEONE APPROVED THIS?

Meanwhile, those two having already been approved, Steve Jobs himself killed an app for detecting radiation – created by cell phones: “Tawkon, makers of a mobile application that measures cellular radiation, have been blocked from releasing their app for iPhone. In response, the company on Wednesday released the tawkon app for iPhone via the Cydia jailbreak.” Is there an app that turns the iPhone into a general-use Geiger counter? If so I know at least one major market for it.

For those of   you not keeping score, a few of Apples other app mistakes:

 

Illegal immigration + video game = stupid

Smuggle truckYou’d think the formula would be self-evident but … noooo. Last year Spain’s Popular Party put up a game that let players bomb illegal immigrants. This year we have Smuggle Truck a game for iPod and iPad from Boston’s own Owlchemy Labs.The aim of the game is to keep immigrants in the bed of a truck as they speed through the border lands. Hit a bump or jump a canyon and men, women or kids fall off.

No sooner was the game announced then controversial hijinks ensued. No surprise that many immigrant rights groups found it offensive. Well, no surprise to you and me. Owlchemy said in a post on its website:

"Smuggle Truck was inspired by the frustration our friends have experienced in trying to immigrate to the United States. With such a troublesome issue being largely avoided in popular media, especially video games, we felt the best way to criticize it was with an interactive satire."

“Such a troublesome issue being largely avoided in popular media, especially video games”??? Ah yes, video games – always my first source for satirical commentary on the news.

Microsoft worse at irony than it is at operating systems

In a recruitment effort, Microsoft is giving out decks of cards with the phrase “Hey Genius” emblazoned on their backs. The fronts are a standard deck of cards but each describes different MS products or initiative the putative genius could work on. Now where I come from you only say “Hey genius” when someone has truly, truly proved they are anything but. My favorite card, from an irony standpoint, are the jokers both of which tell people that they might be forced to work on Zune, the company’s not-yet-closed attempt to compete with the iPod.

Further proof of Redmond’s tin ear for irony can be found in the following:

MSN China has invited users of its messaging service to put a red love heart followed by ‘China’ in front of their names to support the Olympic Games.

I mean, they’ve got to be kidding, right? I certainly hope MSN users in the rest of world have the option of using that symbol of the red circle with the line through it.

How much do the official sponsors of the Munich Beijing Olympic games wish they could remove their names from being used on any ads outside of The Middle Kingdom. For once I am going to tune in to watch the coverage of the games, not the games themselves. It will be a fascinating moment to watch all these sports reporters have to cover the ongoing political insanity.

Speaking of which, here’s one story that hasn’t hit the press here in the West yet. Seems the China is doing a major effort to remove gays and lesbians from Beijing.

AIDS activists and gay rights supporters in China have sounded an alarm following one of the largest crackdowns on gays and lesbians in Beijing, evidently as part of a “clean-up” ahead of the Olympics.

The idea that Beijing is removing gays and lesbians and then having thousands of Olympic athletes come to town shows that the Chinese have a very … um … closeted view of what goes on in the Olympic village. It has also been reported that prostitutes are being “cleaned out” of Beijing, showing that the Chinese really don’t understand how to get on the media’s good side.

Report says Steve Jobs is behind rise in crime rate

igollumResearchers at The Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, say that iPods are the reason U.S. violent crime rose in 2005 and 2006.

A key point in the Urban Institute’s argument is that robberies _ the taking of something by force or the threat of it _ had seen dramatic reductions since the 1990s, but jumped in 2005 and 2006. FBI statistics show the robbery rate went from 137 per 100,000 people in 2004 to 141 per 100,000 in 2005 and 149 in 2006. That helped boost the overall rate of violent crime in those years, even as rape rates fell and aggravated assault was generally flat. During those years, iPods were going mainstream. In late 2004, Apple had sold about 5 million iPods. By the end of 2005 that had ballooned to 42 million, and in 2006 the number neared 90 million I’m so glad the reporter explained what a robbery is. I was starting to get confused.

The alleged ipso facto is that the iPod and other expensive electronic gewgaws are highly desired, easy to steal and easy to re-sell. The Institute — certainly not fishing for some free PR — has dubbed this phenomenon “The iCrime Wave.”

Thankfully the reporter pokes a few holes in this theory:

  1. While iPod thefts on subways and other crowded urban settings provide the best anecdotal evidence, the 2005-06 crime increases were highest in small and midsized cities _ places with less-dense pedestrian traffic, let alone teeming subways.
  2. Some stolen iPods might fall into the category of larceny _ a theft without force, such as when something is filched from a backpack _ and larcenies dropped in ’05 and ’06.

Marketing tip to the Urban Institute — naming anything the iSomething is beyond over.

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