App Store: No Porn Allowed, But Tethering Tool Slips In

If you were trolling around the App Store last night, you might have come across a new 99-cent flashlight app called Handy Light. And if you were willing to pay for it, you would have found a bonus: the program contained a hidden tethering app that would allow your computer to connect to the Internet over your phone, a privilege that normally requires a $20 monthly payment to AT&T. While the app somehow made it through the inspectors at Apple, once word got out, it was gone.

The app was developed by Nick P. Lee, who refers to himself as “an aspiring 15-year-old web designer and programmer.” Lee has developed a number of other iPhone apps, though none apparently contain similar bonuses.

Apple has developed a reputation as a strict — and sometimes capricious — gatekeeper for developers. During a conference call with industry analysts yesterday, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer and Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook were asked about the app store policies:

Charles Wolf – Needham & Co.: Yes, in the past, iPhone software developers have complained not about the App Store rules, but the fact that they were arbitrary. Has Apple done anything to address this issue?

Peter Oppenheimer: Charlie, I think that we are always looking to make our developers happy. We have over 225,000 Apps on the store with over 5 billion downloads. …

Tim Cook: Charlie, I would just add that the vast majority of Apps are retrieved within seven days of their submission, and that many of the Apps that aren’t approved have bugs in them, and are eventually resubmitted and approved. And we obviously I think all of us want to ensure that pornography and graphic scenes don’t make their way to the platform, and so you know, I think these are things that I realize not 100% that everybody is going to agree with. I think many of us would want us those to occur.

While Cook was warning callers about the dangers of iPorn, Lee’s app was already on its way to the company’s servers, and out to lucky early adopters who knew what to look for.

Handy Light: Tethering App Camouflaged as Flashlight []
Apple Inc. F3Q10 (Qtr End 06/26/10) Earnings Call Transcrip [Seeking Alpha]


Edit Your Comment

  1. jason in boston says:

    Cleaver Kid. Perhaps Mitnick is hiring.

  2. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    Hasn’t Apple become the company they bashed in that old 1984 commercial?

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      No they hasn’t

      • Draygonia says:

        If you are trying to insult his grammar, you fail because using “haven’t” would have been incorrect in his case. However, you should have used “haven’t” in your response.

        • Tim says:

          Actually, no. Dooley was correct in using “hasn’t,” since Apple, being a single corporation, is singular. But “they” is plural. The correct question would have been “Hasn’t Apple become the company it bashed in that old 1984 commercial?,” while the answer would have been “No it hasn’t.”

      • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

        Grammarian report aside…

        They were bashing Big Blue for being that corporate giant with all the rules, restrictions, and “being all the same’

        But isn’t this, in fact, exactly what Apple has become, with all their restrictiveness on their computers and equipment?

        • Mike says:

          If you are trying to convince Apple fanbois and grrrls that they are now just as bad as the same people Steve Jobs used to rail against, forget about it. Most of them have drunk so much Apple Kool-aid they cant see straight. But you are 100% correct. Apple has become the beast it once hated. But this process started back in 1994 when Apple decided to use IBM processors in all their computers for 12 years. Apple’s whole “think different” was never anything more than marketing hype. The real people who thought different used linux and still do.

        • Bye says:

          Conformity is the new anti-conformity. Even since cynicism and sarcasm were coopted and bastardized, we progressive sorts now see the beauty in alignment. With rigidness comes spontaneity.

          One of us! One of us!

    • grumpskeez says:

      They’re worse actually. Not only have they surpassed the company portrayed in that commercial they have zounds of almost religiously fanatical minions with hair trigger emotions lining up to tell you that they aren’t. Watch your words carefully as they’re everywhere.

    • qualia says:

      Not really. If you download an app which breaks their contract with AT&T, you get no phone service. If you download an app which breaks the damn phone, you’re not going to say “Damn app!” you’re going to whine about and to Apple. If you even get an ugly-but-working app, one which makes wonder why the hell you paid money for it, you will associate it with Apple long before Steve the app developer. Apple does have to do quality control, and has a lot more to lose than other brands since quality control is higher on their list of selling points, they’ve been close to shuttering before, and they’ve got rabid anti-fans spewing Microsoft commercials and have for years.

      They never want a customer to hold up an Apple product and say “look at this piece of crap.” They want the bitching to come from people who have nothing to show for it. Even if their complaint is legit, people will remember the image of something not working before the complaints of bureaucracy.

      • Mike says:

        And thankfully they product us from nudity! What could be worse than an adult oriented app? NOTHING!

      • grumpskeez says:

        There’s plenty of customer’s holding up the new iPhone saying “look at this piece of crap.” I like how you equate anti-fans to being Microsoft plants. That’s great thinking there (and typical of apple customers). I guess in your little bubble M$ and Crapple are the only two entities on the planet.

      • Gtmac says:

        iPhone customers may indeed blame Apple for a bad app, but Apple is to blame for that attitude. Apple set up the construct of the app store gatekeeper for what goes onto their platform so they are indeed to blame.

        Android users don’t tend to blame Google if an app sucks (unless it’s a Google app), because there is a highly appropriate understanding that it is your device and you can put on it what you like at the risk of putting something on it that is poorly written or of poor quality.

        An expectation set by Apple can’t be used as a defense for continuing the behavior that set the expectation in the first place.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Peter Oppenheimer – like anyone who chooses to spew PR-speak instead of even coming close answering the question posed to them – is an ass.

    (And yes, I read the entire paragraph he said that was truncated on Consumerist. None of it addressed the arbitrary rules)

  4. ihatephonecompanies says:

    The only kind of porn apple cares about keeping off iphones is free porn.

  5. Nogard13 says:

    It’s still available, for those of you willing to do a google search for the IPA file.

  6. LatinoGeek says:

    Dear Mr. Oppenheimer & Mr. Cook,

    Forget the developers, and the number of apps in the store, and P0rn for a minute. You know what would make me, the owner of the iPhone happy? If at&t didn’t charge a ridiculous $20 tethering fee.

    I tried buy the app immediately upon hearing about it. but I was too late and it was already pulled. If another app comes along that does the same thing, I will buy it and tell everyone I know. Just to send a message.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      If you tether, you’ll potentially (very likely) use a lot more data than somebody who just uses the iPhone. So they charge more. Seems kinda reasonable to me.

      • LatinoGeek says:

        All the $20 buys (rents?) me is the “unlock” for the tethering capability. They do not add any more to my monthly 2GB allowance. If I tether, this pretty much ensures that I’ll go over the allowance and they can hit me over the head with a per MB overage fee. (and I’ll be out even more money)

        $20 dollars for 2-3 more GB’s a month in addition to tethering is more reasonable. What they’re charging now is robbery.

      • iopsyc says:

        Actually, it’s not reasonable. Tethering is available only on the newer capped data plans not on the older “unlimited” plans. You pay more money if you use more data; pretty simple concept. The $20 fee just to enable tethering, and is above and beyond what you have to pay for the data that you use. Enabling a built-in a feature on the phone is completely anti-consumer. That being said, I am still on the old “unlimited” data plan and really would benefit more from tethering than AT&T would from enabling it for me.

  7. Red Cat Linux says:

    I was half expecting a follow up that stated that Apple reached down into phones and yoinked the app an behalf of AT&T.

    Kinda like what happened on the Kindle when Amazon found something wrong with a version of a public domain book. They reached out and poofed it. I remember this only because some kid doing a book report had made all kinds of annotations in the Kindle that poofed along with the book that got yanked, and he was kinda pissed and rattling his lawyer-speak over it.

  8. brianisthegreatest says:

    This was great. Excellent cover up. There are some brilliant minded young developers out there, that always seem to get the best of Apple. (PyTunes) I wonder if they observe front end functionality as opposed to code analysis. That’s kind of scary thinking about it now..

  9. TheMonkeyKing says:

    I keep noticing the Apple mantra of “making people happy.” First with the iPhone press conference last week, and now this.

    Happy don’t mean shit, doods.

  10. UltimateOutsider says:

    Their corporate spin on why they want adult content out is completely bogus. If you can access the Internet with an iPhone or an iPad (and, of course, you can), you can access porn. There ARE legitimate business reasons to prohibit the sale of pornographic materials- for one thing, many credit processors will not handle transactions for sites who allow the sale of such things because there are so many fraud reports on those transactions (when husbands and sons get caught making charges and claim it was accidental). Also, porn on the Internet is nearly synonymous with copyright violation, which adds a whole new dimension of liability to running something like the App Store. But why in the hell isn’t Apple honest about it?

    • qualia says:

      God forbid Apple make decisions based on a market made up of more than 20-something young men. A wider audience dislikes porn for a variety of reasons. The most important one is that for some reason, porn makes money whether it’s utter crap or not. There’s no such thing as classy, well made porn. If it had other redeeming features, it wouldn’t be porn. Most businesses don’t want to associate with it because, in the light of day, neither do most consumers, non-prudes included.

      • Mike says:

        “God forbid Apple make decisions based on a market made up of more than 20-something young men”

        Yes. Ladies NEVER watch porn. Oh yes, and all porn is nasty. There is NO such thing as porn designed for women, or porn made for couples. Just Google those terms and you won’t find anything. Oh and porn designed for women, directed by women, doesn’t exist either. The only porn that exists are movies with drugged out tramps and steroid using guys.

        And certainly we couldn’t have porn apps made for the iPhone! Oh my no! Heaven forbid an app the has sexual positions with photos and videos for couples to enjoy. We couldn’t have that! NO NO NO!

        Seriously, let’s not fool ourselves here, not all porn is nasty, and we need to be less Victorian about our views on sex. If my wife and I want to develop an app to spice up our sex life and share it with others we should be able to, we don’t need some executive to protect us from such filth. But that’s why we have Android phones.

        • yusefyk says:

          You seem really defensive for someone so comfortable with pornography.

          • Mike says:

            Ironically I don’t even like porn. But I have SERIOUS problems with Apple’s policy towards adult oriented apps. I especially have problems with it when they allow a Playboy app, but nothing else. It reeks of hypocrisy, and as a consumer I hate that.

  11. Mike says:

    “And we obviously I think all of us want to ensure that pornography and graphic scenes don’t make their way to the platform”

    Yes dear leaders. Heaven forbid our virgin eyes see an app that has nudity in it. The horror! The horror!

  12. Tim says:

    Yay for Android!

    Although I’ve heard that if a carrier objects to an app, phones from that carrier won’t see it on the Android Market anymore. Then again, Android lets you install apps from anywhere, not just the Market, so you can still find them and install them.

    • Traveller says:

      AT&T has blocked sideloading of apps of the HTC Aria. HTC provided software to restore the lost functionality but it requires having the Aria connected to a PC.

    • tsdguy says:

      Yea, except when the carrier modified the phone to not allow loading of Android apps, allows them only to be added from their own store and installed unremovable crapware.

  13. mattlohkamp says:

    I’m tempted to be snarky and point out that if people have to hack your device and/or sneak needed functionality past your censors in order to make it useful, you need to rethink your device – and yet, apple is obviously successful, so maybe not.

    • Mike says:

      Some people LOVE to drink the Kool-aid.

    • tsdguy says:

      Yea. Um, what Android phone delivered right from a carrier allows no-cost tethering? That would be zero. For a legit tether, you need a) a carrier that allows it and b) an expensive service add-on.

      You phone wouldn’t be any chance be “rooted” would it?

  14. Paladin_11 says:

    I knew about this in time to buy the app, and agonized over making the purchase. Ultimately I decided it wouldn’t be right. Or rather, it wouldn’t be right for me. It struck me as wrong for the developer to profit in this way. I suspect he’s now forfeited any profits he might have made on this app.

    Also, if I find tethering such an important thing to have I should be willing to pay for it. If I don’t pay it’s the same as stealing. At the current price it’s not worth it to me. If AT&T ever dropped the price to something more reasonable I might spring for it. But until that time my integrity is worth more to me than the theft of a monthly service fee.

    My opinion, and of course your mileage may vary.

    • drizzt380 says:

      My problem with the tethering thing is what are you really “buying” for your $20 a month? Your phone has tethering functionality, just locked(which you can tell since so many people can unlock it with simple apps and jailbreaking). They don’t rent you a device. Their costs are pretty much non existent. Flipping a switch is all it is.

      I can see why they might restrict tethering on an unlimited data plan. It might hurt the network pretty badly. But, you can only get tethering if you have the capped plan. And the $20 gives you no more bandwidth!! If the $20 dollars gave you a higher cap, or was anything besides AT&T just wanting more money, I could understand it.

      From my perspective, the $20 tethering plan feels like AT&T mocking me directly to my face while asking for money.

  15. Ouze says:

    Hey, you know that tethering tool that cost $2 that Apple immediately nuked? Built right into the last release of Android. Why, I was tethering my phone (nexus one) last night at no additional cost with just 3 clicks, and it acts as a wireless AP, so my friend also was able to connect.

    Think different!

  16. tsdguy says:

    Sigh. Some modest technical overview would be nice here. The app in question (which I downloaded right way of course) is not a tethering app. It’s a SOCKS proxy app. What’s the difference – a tethering app transparently routes all network traffic to the Internet, same as your router does for your home Internet. A SOCKS proxy is a proxy – it stands between the Internet and your computer receiving and sending traffic.

    The difference is that a proxy is not transparent. Your Internet application has to have special programming to talk to the proxy. Really only web browsers have SOCKS proxies – you’ll see that setup in the Options->Advanced->Network settings in Firefox for example.

    Other Internet apps may have SOCKS and there are some middleware apps that PROXIFY other Internet protocols. It’s just not like a tethering application which routes arbitrary TCP packets to the Internet.

    Read more here

    Haven’t tried it very much to see how well it operates.

  17. mandy_Reeves says:

    If you download cloud browse app, which has a free beta version, you can watch the free porn sites, because cloud browse supports html 5 i think it’s called?

  18. piscesdreamer222 says:

    Here is just some food for thought; For everyone one of you here that complains or mentions that Apple is being overbearing in it’s censorship, there were a hundered people that wrote to Apple that were genuinely pissed off that Apple would allow pornographic content in their iTunes store. Besides Canadians pissed at the CC policy, it was one of the most common complaint letters Apple received.

    Apple listened to those who actually took the time to sit down and write letters – tons of angry parents, legions of Christians, and the easily offended.

    Sadly, no one wrote to Apple to keep the iTunes store free of censorship. No one stood UP for the freedom to watch porn on their iWhatever. Unfortunately Apple listened to the customers that chose to speak up and this is currently where we are at.

  19. veronykah says:

    Jailbreak your iPhone, then welcome to the wonderful world of Cydia.