With FaceTime video chat, the adult industry sees potential for iPhone 4-play

  • Article by: JOEL SCHECTMAN , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 29, 2010 - 6:37 AM

NEW YORK - It's a maxim of technology: Invent the newest gadget and the porn industry will find a way to cash in.

So when Apple Inc. launched the iPhone 4 and its FaceTime videoconference feature, it didn't take long for adult-entertainment companies to develop video-sex chat services and start hiring workers through Craigslist.

With more than 3 million of the phones already sold, the adult industry stands to make big money on this new way to reach out and touch someone — even if it puts Apple, which has always taken pains to keep its iPhone apps squeaky clean, in an awkward spot.

In at least five cities, Craigslist ads seek models specifically for video sex chat on FaceTime. Many of the ads even offer to throw in a free iPhone 4 for the new employees.

FaceTime lets people call another iPhone 4 user and have live video conversations over a Wi-Fi connection through the phone's camera and screen. In one TV ad, a soldier uses it to get a look at his faraway wife's ultrasound pictures.

The adult industry wants its customers to share moments of an entirely different kind with its stars. And while the technology may be new, the idea is not. Porn providers have always been early adopters.

In the 1970s, the demand for explicit videos at home helped VCRs become widespread, and the industry was the first to embrace DVDs, too. Internet porn peddlers were some of the first to make wide use of streaming video and online credit card payments.

"The first time someone created a camera there was someone who said, 'Wouldn't it be good for someone to take off their clothes in front of this camera?'" said Michael Gartenberg, vice president at Interpret LLC, a media research company.

And for years, cameras mounted on computers have helped connect people for racy online video sessions. But the portability and privacy of a cell phone makes FaceTime a new frontier for the industry.

"A phone is such an intimate thing, you usually don't lend it out or have someone else use it," said Quentin Boyer, a spokesman for Pink Visual, an adult production company.

Boyer said his company began planning for iPhone 4 video services almost as soon as the device hit stores. They should be ready in a matter of weeks. Boyer said the company will offer FaceTime sessions with some of the same women who appear in its videos.

"It has a very personal feel — your mobile phone to hers," he said.

Online exhibitionism is only growing. Take Chatroulette, which randomly connects strangers for video chats. While the service isn't explicitly sexual, it's common for users to stumble upon people looking for more than just conversation.

So far, most online video sex chat services have let the customer see the performer, but not the other way around. FaceTime may change that.

"We are seeing more and more that customers want to be watched as much as they want to watch," said Dan Hogue, owner of an adult chat company called CamWorld, which is planning FaceTime services.

The rise of FaceTime porn puts Apple in an awkward position. Its competitors have products that allow video chat, too — HTC's Evo 4G phone, for one. But Apple has made a big deal about keeping applications sold in its iTunes store clean.

Apple has rejected book apps for featuring sexual content and political satires for their potential to offend. While some rejected apps have been approved after revisions, Apple has kept one strict rule: No porn.

FaceTime isn't even an outside developer's app. It's a main feature of the phone.

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