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Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 04:40 am PT (07:40 am ET)

Swimwear seller hit by Apple's removal of 'sexual' apps

As Apple has officially clarified its new ban on "overtly sexual content" in the App Store, one application featuring pictures of women in bikinis — to sell beachwear — was removed.

Designer swimwear retailer Simply Beach, based in the U.K., was removed from the iPhone and iPod touch App Store last Friday. Andrew Long, managing director of Exploding Phone, the firm responsible for developing the application, spoke with AppleInsider about the situation. He said his company received the same e-mail that Apple sent to other developers, which stated "overtly sexual content" was being removed from the download destination due to "numerous complaints" from customers.

The developer has attempted to contact Apple since last Friday to no avail, but Long feels like the Simply Beach application has been wrongfully removed from the App Store, because it does not feature any sexual content. He said the store is showing off its products, some of which happen to be bikinis. The pictures, he said, are the exact same found on the Simply Beach official Web site, simplybeach.com.

"To add insult to injury, the customer actually sells some of their goods through an Amazon feed, which interestingly is still available through the Amazon app," Long told AppleInsider. "I'm sure if you searched in the Amazon app for more questionable items, you'd also find many items which are much worse by the average person's moral compass."

Phil Schiller, head of worldwide product marketing for Apple, spoke with The New York Times about Apple's newfound policy on applications with sexual content. He said the Cupertino, Calif., company wanted to make sure the App Store did not scare off potential customers, as numerous parents had become upset with what their children could access on the iPhone and iPod touch. The forthcoming iPad will also have access to the App Store.

But as Apple purged more than 5,000 apps last week from the App Store, some with more risque content, including the magazine Playboy, have remained. Schiller explained that well-known and established brands, such as Sports Illustrated and its swimsuit edition, were given special consideration.

"The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format," Schiller told the Times.

Those comments are likely of little comfort to Simply Beach, which, in addition to bikinis, sells items ranging from hats and bags to mastectomy and maternity bathing suits.

"The e-mail (from Apple) arrived straight to a junk mail folder on Friday and to be honest we thought it was a spam joke," said Gerrard Dennis, managing director of The Simply Group, which operates Simply Beach and six other online stores. "We then checked iTunes to find the app had in fact been removed. It seems like political correctness gone mad. It’s just women in bikinis, swimsuits and kaftans."

The Simply Beach application has been resubmitted to the App Store, but now with an age limit restriction. However, the developer and company both say they were never explicitly told by Apple what they should do — just that their application was being removed for sexual content.

"Being optimistic, maybe a new set of eyes at Apple will realize that the app is a store selling beach clothes and approve it," Long told AppleInsider. "But we'll have to wait and see."