When it comes to marketing, 'location, location, location' has always been important. But thanks to the rapid growth and maturity of mobile technologies, 'location, location, location' is taking on new meaning.

Location-based advertising is potentially the holy grail of mobile marketing. And it appears that Apple, which occupies an important position in the mobile market with the iPhone, apparently wants to keep location-based advertising opportunities to itself.

Developers interested in developing iPhone apps that use GPS data to serve up location-based ads got a piece of bad news from Apple: GPS is only to be used for delivering "beneficial information". That excludes ads, so any app that "uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user's location" will be rejected.

Obviously, a lot hinges on the word "primarily". But one thing is certain: Apple is sending a clear message that it's keeping a close eye on how developers try to target ads to iPhone users. Especially when many use Admob to do. Admob just happens to be owned by Google.

The reason is obvious. Apple isn't simply the manufacturer of the iPhone. It has built a lucrative business through the App Store, and through the App Store it controls much of the iPhone experience. The ability to control how advertising fits into that experience is very valuable to Apple. And it clearly doesn't want to give up that control.

I respect the company's right to do what it thinks is best. It's hard to argue with the company's success. While one could debate whether or not Apple should keep developers from using GPS data to serve up ads, the problem, in my opinion, isn't the decision. Rather, it's how frequently Apple is getting tripped up trying to present believable justifications for its decisions.

Banning the use of GPS to serve ads (under a subjective test no less) while stating that iPhone GPS data can only be used for "beneficial information" implies that ads aren't "beneficial". Given that Apple recently paid $275m for a mobile advertising company, that seems a bit disingenous. And it was somewhat amusing to learn that "Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy" when a photo of Apple's new iPad distributed by the company displayed Flash content. Flash content that real iPad customers won't be able to view because like the iPhone, the iPad isn't going to support Flash.

Obviously, it doesn't take much to see that Apple's positions are usually based on a desire to protect its business interests. And it will go to great lengths in this regard. Yet instead of leaving that obvious fact unstated, Apple has come up with all sorts of alternative explanations that are just downright silly.

The truth is that Apple could probably come out and say "We're going to control location-based advertising on the iPhone" or "Flash would threaten the App Store economy" and people would still buy its products. So it would make sense for Apple to do just that. After all, Steve Jobs recently said that Google's 'do no evil' mantra was "bullsh*t". Perhaps it's time he looked at some of the explanations his company gives because they smell funny too.

Patricio Robles

Published 5 February, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (6)

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Greg Jarrett

Greg Jarrett, Managing Director at Fuerte International

Ha, ha, that's some classic writing. How true!  I agree a bit of honesty would go a long way.


over 8 years ago



I'm interested to see how this thing will pan out and what Apple plans to do.

over 8 years ago

Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield, CEO at EquisGlobal

A company telling people how they must use the technology and how they must not use it - is dangerous.  The GPS technology in the phone is not medicine.

Examples of the obsurd would be if the creator of human beings told people how they must use the bodies and must not... opps, God did that with the Ten Commandments - so does Apple have a God complex?

over 8 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

Apple have created a very successful model that delivers a controlled and managed experience that real users love. How do I know this? Because they keep buying Apple products in their droves. Therefore, to my mind, it is perfectly sensible and reasonable (even desirable) for Apple to maintain this degree of control in order to protect its business interests and continue to deliver an experience that real users love.

That being the case though, I too would agree with Patricio and Greg that they could afford to be more honest in their explanations. Users would still buy the products in droves! 

over 8 years ago


Simon Wilkes

While it would be nice if Apple could just come out and be ‘honest’ for the reasons behind some of their policies, I suspect that isn’t possible.

As their market share grows they will almost certainly find themselves under increasing scrutiny by various competition authorities. In such a situation, a policy of:

“We don’t let people do that because it’s bad for our business.”

Simple isn’t going to wash.

The best way for them to protect their revenue streams is probably the approach that they’re taking. That of using pseudo technical, legal or privacy issues to give justification to their policies.

It’s an approach that’s annoying for developers and the like, but few users will care or change their purchasing decisions because of it.

over 8 years ago


gps for walkers

..,this is really helpful in locating specific place... i am really wondering how this device is working... i have seen this in my friends...

over 8 years ago

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