Jobs’ Reasoning for Rejecting Political iPhone app

Posted on Oct 12, 2008 in Opinions

(This isn’t really a new story, but I didn’t see it get much coverage despite arguably being one of the more interesting iPhone app rejection stories – so I’m bringing it up now a week or two later)

Freedomtime” is basically a countdown app that lets users track George W. Bush’s last days in office. It’s obviously designed to poke fun at the current US administration, but isn’t really overly offensive in my opinion.

The application was rejected by Apple, so the developer wrote Steve an email. Steve responded personally (in keeping with the semi-new communication strategy Apple has been making use of) with the following statement:

Even though my personal political leanings are democratic, I think this app will be offensive to roughly half our customers.  What’s the point?



It’s an interesting response for several reasons. First off he voluntarily reveals his personal political leanings. Whilst it’s hardly a secret that Jobs is a supporter of the democrats (Al Gore is on Apple’s board and public records of political donations are easy to find) you don’t often hear CEO’s admit it in public for PR reasons. 

In fact, Jobs actually spells out those reasons: Personal political preferences are not often brought up out of fear of alienating customers. But “personal” is the key word here – if Steve is deciding not to let his own political leanings sway him into approving the app for political reasons, shouldn’t it follow that an app also  shouldn’t be rejected for purely political reasons?

By Apple’s standards, it would seem this app is objectionable, whilst the Barack Obama campaign app isn’t. I’d agree with that assessment as I’d wager most people would. But where do you draw the line? Does this mean that political apps are okay, as long as they don’t poke fun? Who makes the distinction between objectionable and non-objectionable political content?

Removing Apps for business considerations (Netshare, Podcaster) is one thing, but I think Apple is really skating on thin ice by rejecting apps solely by their content – political or otherwise.

(Screenshot and quote from the developers blog)