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iPhone Developers Grumble Over Latest App Flap

Apple's vetting of the Ninjawords dictionary app for the iPhone has developers questioning the App Store approval process.

Uncertainty over the censoring of a dictionary application for the iPhone and iPod Touch once again brings up the challenges Apple faces by being the gatekeeper for the App Store.

The tech blog Daring Fireball reported Wednesday the Ninjawords dictionary program was forced to remove offensive words before it was approved for the iPhone, and it still received a mature rating once it hit the market. The app pulls in definitions from, and many developers and online pundits believed Apple was being heavy-handed with the move.

"Apple did not censor the content in this developer's application and Apple did not reject this developer's application for including references to common swear words," Apple's senior VP Phil Schiller told Daring Fireball.

Schiller said Apple rejected the original submission because the app could pull up a number of offensive "urban slang" terms that do not appear in regular dictionaries, or in the one that comes with Mac OS X. The company has a policy that app developers cannot create programs that have "objectionable material," and Schiller said the Ninjawords creator decided to filter offensive terms independently before re-submitting the app for approval.

Some mobile developers have expressed growing concern with Apple's approval process for the App Store, as it can sometimes seem arbitrary or unfair. For example, apps like Ninjawords and a South Park were blocked for offensive content, but a baby-shaking app was approved and sold. Additionally, Apple is facing government scrutiny for its decision to not allow a Google Voice app in the App Store.

The App Store has been wildly successful since its introduction about a year ago, as consumers have downloaded more than 1.5 billion programs. The company admits that its approval process may not be perfect, but says it will constantly adjust and reevaluate the process to create a stronger mobile platform.

While Apple is adjusting its approval process, competitors are trying to take advantage of any growing discontent to poach away developers. Google has repeatedly stressed that its Android Market will be more open than Apple's offering, as the company will only block apps if they have malicious coding in them.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on smartphone security. Download the report here (registration required).

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