Back in 1994, there was no album I wanted more than Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. The problem was that I was 12 at the time, and the album carried the dreaded “Parental Advisory” sticker, which meant I couldn’t buy it at the store without my parents — and that wasn’t an option. You see, they (like most other parents) weren’t too fond of songs like “Closer,” on the album. You know the one. “I want to f**k you like an animal.” Yeah, that “Closer.” Well, now it’s 2009, I’m 27, and should be free to buy whatever the hell I want. Except I can’t once again. This time thanks to Apple.
You see, Apple has apparently rejected an update to Nine Inch Nails’ iPhone app because it found the contents of The Downward Spiral to be “objectionable,” according to Nine Inch Nails’ frontman Trent Reznor. History repeats itself.
But what’s odd here — and what continues to be odd about the App Store approval process — is that the first version of the Nine Inch Nails app was already accepted into the store a few weeks ago. In fact, I have it. Guess what’s on it? Content from The Downward Spiral. I’m listening to “Closer” right now. Let me assure everyone, this is not the radio edit version of the song or the album. So what gives, Apple?
Well, it appears to be yet another ridiculous case of Apple’s uneven app approval process. I know I’ve written about this a half dozen times already. But you know what? I’m going to keep writing about it until Apple gets its act together with this. I have no problem if Apple wants to pick and choose which apps it accepts in their store — it is their store after all, and they can do what they want with it. But it’s entirely unfair to developers, many of whom are now trying to make a living off of the platform, that the process is a complete and utter crapshoot as to whether an app will get approved or not.
We’ve seen dozens of apps that are approved the first time, but later rejected for a seemingly small update. And we’ve seen others that are rejected, make almost no change, yet get in the next time they’re submitted. It would seem the the life or death of an app is entirely in the hands of the App Store inspector who checks it out. Sometimes they catch things that they don’t want in the App Store, sometimes they do (baby shaking app anyone?). But I’m really not convinced that it’s not just a personal decision on those people’s behalf which apps get through and which don’t. I’ve seen way too much evidence telling me that is exactly what happens.
So we can debate whether it’s silly for Apple to block the Nine Inch Nails app for content that it already carries in iTunes (I think it is, obviously), but that’s really a secondary issue. The big issue is the whole approval process. And Apple really needs to improve it soon. It still stands high above all other mobile platforms in terms of apps right now, but with the Palm Pre about to launch, and Android getting more phones on the market (and a few other mobile app stores just opened or about to open), Apple won’t be able to coast along with this wonky approval method forever. Eventually, some developers will get pissed off enough and just go to another platform.
Reznor himself seems dumbstruck by the rejection, “Not even sure where to start with that one,” he tweeted.