Image: Pull My Finger screenshot
"Pull My Finger" is now in Apple's App Store for the iPhone after being rejected for months by Apple.
updated 12/16/2008 9:13:31 AM ET 2008-12-16T14:13:31

They’re here — no ifs, and or butts about it. “Pull My Finger,” perhaps the flatulence poster child program that was rejected by Apple three months ago as unfitting, is now available in the company’s App Store, along with other similar whoopie cushion-like applications.

“Pull My Finger,” as well as “Fart Machine,” “iPooted” and “Flatulence” all made their debut Dec. 12. Another program, “iWarnU,” was posted Dec. 2.

It’s not clear whether Apple has loosened up (so to speak) on standards for software developers, who must get their programs approved by the company first before they can be placed in the App Store. The store, launched in July, lets iPhone owners download applications, or “apps” with a few clicks on the iPhone itself. Some programs are free; others paid.

The company did not respond to requests for comments. Hard to know whether this is breaking (sorry, readers; last one) news or not. What does seem to be happening is a relaxing of tighter standards that originally prevented programs like "Pull My Finger" from being among the thousands of programs in the App Store.

“I have not heard of any changes, but it does seem that more developers are having an easier time getting apps in the store,” said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of mobile strategy at Jupitermedia.

Taste was at issue
It was not easy for Air-O-Matic, the company that created “Pull My Finger,” whose rejection was shared publicly early in the fall.

“It was definitely a matter of taste,” said Sam Magdalein of Air-O-Matic. “I’d gotten an original e-mail from Apple saying no because the program was of limited utility.

"That didn’t make much sense at the time, because they had all sorts of apps that were of limited utility. So, I contacted them and they said it actually was because they thought some people would find it offensive, and they didn’t want to have anything like that in the store.”

Magdalein said he continued to pursue approval with Apple, going “back and forth” with the company the last few months. Air-O-Matic already has another program in the App Store, “Sticky Notes,” for quick reminders on the iPhone.

“Pull” wasn’t his idea; it was a partner’s, Magdalein said, “because I’m really, really not a bathroom humor kind of guy.” But Magdalein felt "Pull" was a “harmless little prank app” that merited inclusion in the App Store.

He got a call Dec. 11, he said, from “an Apple team member who was really nice and real apologetic about the problem,” and said that “Pull,” a 99-cent program with 18 different sounds, would be posted immediately.

The Apple rep, Magdalein said, told him that “they never really wanted to reject the application at the beginning, but they had to kind of be careful as the store was just getting started.

“They were ironing out details, trying to find out where these apps were going to fit, and what kind of place they were going to have in the store, so they wanted to go the safe route at first.”

One okay, another not
That may have been the reason Apple didn’t allow “Pull” and others like it into the App Store until now. But if that’s so, it’s not clear why another program, “iFart Mobile,” — with an obvious name — made it into the App Store Oct. 14, and yet another, “Whoopie Cushion,” remains locked out.

DoApp, the developer of “Whoopie Cushion,” has eight other programs that are already in the App Store, including “Punch-O-Meter,” a virtual punching challenge and “React,” a “kid-friendly game of dexterity and accuracy,” according to Wade Beavers of DoApp.

His company submitted “Whoopie Cushion” to Apple in July, and the program was “denied because of its content,” he said in an e-mail interview.

Apple told DoApp that “’Whoopie Cushion” "cannot be posted to the App Store because it contains content that does not comply with Community Standards,” which means programs that have “any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.) or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.”

“Bodily noises,” Apple’s missive said, “are not universally acceptable behavior.”

DoApp has “been continuously resubmitting since,” Beavers said. “Conversing with Apple is difficult. We submit e-mails and usually don’t hear back except for a form letter.”

How about 'Cut One'?
Of the thousands of programs now in the App Store, the largest single category is games (the flatulence programs are in the “entertainment” category).

Web site Gizmodo noted recently that the first game rated for those 17 and older, also known as “M-rated,” is now in the App Store. It’s called “Amateur Surgeon,” a $4.99 game that “puts your wildest surgery fantasies in the palm of your unwashed, unqualified hand.”

Perhaps the only thing that might beat that would be an iPhone program called “Cut One,” about a serial slasher who farts. In any event, with the addition of these kinds of programs, Apple may be moving to a more open policy, although it is not universal yet. Magdalein of Air-O-Matic is encouraged.

“People were really worried that Apple was going to close down the iPhone and be really restrictive about what they let in the store; they were rejecting all these apps,” he said.

“One of the great things that’s bigger than our little joke application getting in is that it shows that Apple is moving in the right direction. It shows they’re moving toward being more open and trying to work with developers to get them into the store, rather than just closing off things they might have a problem with.

“That’s really good news for people who use iPhones and for developers.”

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