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Apple did us a favour in rejecting application

There is considerable fuss in local media today about Apples rejection of an iPhone application, or app, that was developed by a local man. The story is splashed across the top of page one in todays Telegram.

Software engineer Matt Smyth of St. Johns developed the iSealClub game for the iPhone. Of course, all apps for iPhone must be purchased through iTunes, which is owned and controlled by Apple and Apple approves each and every app.

There was considerable controversy in recent months, when Apple removed or rejected thousands of apps from its iTunes store because of sexual, crude or otherwise offensive content. Theyve not always been consistent in applying these standards, and it has prompted accusations of censorship from various observers (including myself, in a Technology column which I have reproduced below, for background).

The iSealClub application was rejected by Apple, apparently because it contains objectionable content.

This has prompted the typical outrage on the local front. Some say it is another slap in the face for the seal hunt, while others point out the hypocrisy in Apples decision, since it allows other far-more violent and objectionable content than this game.

However, I think Apple is doing us a favour.

Seal hunt protesters are still propagating the myth that clubbing is the primary method of killing. (A rifle is used most of the time, with the hakapik used to finish the job, where necessary.) This game makes it look like we club the seals for fun, with apparently no mention of food or fur, which does nothing to counter the anti-sealing propaganda. Frankly, its an embarrassment.

Fortunately, I am not alone in my views. The majority of comments on the Telegrams website are essentially saying that Apple did the right thing, no matter what their motives might have been. Here is one of the more insightful comments:

Tim from St. John's writes: The point of the seal hunt isn't to have fun clubbing seals. Its a viable, sustainable industry which supplies a range of useful products. Apple is doing the hunt a service by not putting something like this out. Killing isn't the goal, its the necessary means to an end. Making a game out of the killing sends the wrong message and helps the anti-sealers create the case that we are blood-thirsty goons out for the joy of the slaughter.

I agree with Tim. And I am parking my righteous indignation on this one.

Meanwhile, here is the technology column referenced above:

A cool device, despite censorship issues

March 15, 2010

My Palm Treo is working fine, but, at four years old, its something of a clunker. The touch screen is no longer as responsive, and the device itself is bulky and heavy, compared to smartphones currently on the market.

So last week, while shopping for a new cell phone for my son, the sales clerk saw my old Palm and helpfully pointed out that I could get the Apple iPhone for $299 (regular $799) on a three-year contract.

So, yes, I finally own an iPhone. And Im quite pleased with it. Its been around for three years now, but the iPhone is still the coolest phone out there.

While the iPhone was a runaway success in the U.S., it was slow out of the gate in Canada because Apple didnt have a wireless carrier agreement in place (after about a year, a deal was struck with Rogers, and the phone is now available through Bell as well). The early iPhones had some minor issues, such as poor call quality (no small point, for a telephone) and inconsistent Internet speeds.

Any such bugs have long since been ironed out. The call quality of the iPhone is just fine, and better than my Palm Treo. The Internet is blazing fast, thanks to 3G (third generation) wireless Internet technology.

How fast? YouTube has a dedicated button, and as a quickly as you select a video, its playing on your screen. The playback is seamless, crisp and clear. And the cost of downloading all that video is affordable, with 500 MB of data and 400 call minutes for $50 per month. (The salesperson described this as unlimited data, admitting when pressed that it was virtually unlimited and practically impossible to use all 500 MB in a month. More on this shortly.)

Ive raved previously about the great things the iPod Touch can do, and the iPhone is the same basic device with a phone, so I wont reiterate all that.

I do like the iPhones built-in global position system (GPS), which uses conventional satellite as well as connected wi-fi networks to quickly pinpoint your location on Google Maps. If you enter a destination address, the device highlights the quickest way there. There is even a built-in compass that works like a charm to keep you properly oriented.

The phone integrates perfectly with the other features. For example, with my iPod Touch, if I work out with earphones in, I might miss a call on my land line or cell. With the iPhone, the music pauses for incoming calls, so you cant miss the ring. And the music resumes when the call is over.

Another fabulous feature? The internet tethering capability. That is, you can easily connect the iPhone to your laptop, via USB or Bluetooth, and use it to access the Internet anywhere. Only problem? My current data plan allows 500 MB a month, a limit that could be easily and expensively surpassed if I browsed from my laptop. (So much for that unlimited access.)

The built-in camera also warrants mention. It takes good quality photos much better than my previous phone and even has an exposure adjustment. That is, you touch the screen wherever the image is most important and it compensates exposure to highlight that area. Brilliant!

Ive written about the astonishing variety of iPhone applications or apps that are available, cheaply and even free, which can change the way you use your iPhone. For more on this vast topic, do a Google search for useful [or fun] iPhone applications.

I do have a quibble here, not with the iPhone, but with Apple and the excessive control it exerts on apps at its iTunes online store. Just last month, Apple removed more than 5,000 apps because of objectionable content. Late in 2009, Apples policy on apps was:

Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apples reasonable judgment may be found objectionable

This is cause for concern. The confused, if well-meaning, folks at Apple have assumed the role of censor. The iPhone is a piece of hardware what we consume on this hardware is none of Apples business. What next? Will they start censoring the Internet for us, because we access it on their computers?

The issue, of course, is that Apple, as custodian of iTunes, wants to maintain a certain standard of content. However, one persons art is anothers obscenity and I dont trust anyone not even Apple to make that decision on my behalf.

The iPhone has parental locks that are easy to use, and should be enough to protect unintended users. Apple should create an adult only section in iTunes, and let us decide such matters for ourselves.

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  • Patton
    July 27, 2010 - 14:54

    While typing this, I just heard CBC's Q program feature the story on it's Friday headlines. The story is now a joke. Shame on you, Mr. Developer, you have damaged an already beleagured industry.
    More proof of the power of the pen (maybe the power of the byte?).
    Now, to a more important topic, the social media and its tools: Our extremely busy son now owns an I-Phone GS. He uses it to access music, text, keep his schedule straight, and to complete homework and many other projects. He is sometimes able to use wireless zones at no additional cost, to send his work home for printing or downloading. For him, the device is a major help and offers flexibility and functionality.
    Two things not so cool about this phone are: lack of an easy way to carry it safely, and poorly made sim cards that came with the phone. We had the phone three weeks and had to replace the sim card three times. That is resolved.
    Another downside is that unless self and parental discipline and monitoring is maintained, it can easily turn into a very expensive toy. We countered that by making his first cell a pay as you go phone with a $30 month limit. We have had no problem with this amazing new gadget despite the costly temptations.