The allure of A-rated apps

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When Airtel launched its mobile data services in Bihar some time ago it saw a 200 per cent increase in data usage in the first few months. When the operator investigated the reason for the huge spurt it found that those who had subscribed to data plans were lapping up adult content now easily accessible on their personal mobile devices.

With little to bar porn on the Internet, an increasing number of Indians are relying on their handhelds (mobile handsets and tablet PCs) for viewing adult content.

“It’s true in India where faster download speeds and better internet connectivity through 3G has made access to adult content easy .

Like it or not, many people are indeed watching it,” a Mumbai-based mobile phone operator said on conditions of anonymity.

The recent incident in which three Karnataka ministers were caught watching porn on their handsets inside the State Assembly and had to resign following public outrage, is only a public manifestation of what most mobile data users are doing in private.

Rising Consumption

A study by IMRB carried out in 2011 has revealed that one out of every five users (out of nearly 10,000 respondents) – 20 per cent – was inclined to watch adult content on their devices.

Telecom companies admit that porn is the killer application.

Industry estimates peg that nearly 30 per cent of the total downloaded content (data traffic) is pornographic or adult content.

A report by Nokia Siemens Networks has revealed a 54 per cent increase in mobile data traffic in India between December 2011 and June 2012.

The MBit Index report aggregates real traffic across all the 2G (GSM and EDGE) and 3G multi-vendor networks managed by Nokia Siemens Networks for operators in India.

The report further reveals that data traffic generated by 3G services has increased by 78 per cent while that of 2G services has increased by 47 per cent during the same period. While 2G users across the country are consuming three-quarters of the total mobile data traffic on average, 3G users consume four times more data than 2G users. At this pace, Nokia Siemens Networks expects India’s mobile data consumption to double by June 2013.

“Globally it has been shown that adult content contributes a substantial part of all downloads,” Kunal Bajaj, Partner at Analysys Mason, told Weekend Life.

The fact is better explained by Google Trends which shows search results in India relating to “Sunny Leone” spurting upwards from the second half of 2011. It was around this time that the actress made her debut on Indian reality television.

Adult Content in India

While in the US, the adult entertainment industry (of which pornography is a part) is valued at nearly $ 12 billion (more than Rs 60,000 crore), in India there is actually no such data to corroborate the size of the industry.

Perhaps, the reason for this is the fact that in India, watching or possessing pornographic materials is legal but distribution of such materials is banned. Similarly, the production of x-rated materials is illegal, a senior official of the city’s cyber crime cell maintains.

Data available from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in Delhi show that 422 instances of cyber crime were reported in 2011 and under various sections including pornography. In India too while MMS clips of actors and actresses caught in compromising situations have gone viral at times, the biggest success being the online comic strip Savita Bhabhi. The strip was very popular until the Centre pulled it down in 2009.

According to Alexa – a Web information company – out of every 100 searches on the web, 24 are with the words “Indian pornographic sites” while 47 per cent searches are with the keywords “Indian porn”.

Advent of smart devices

While the penetration of smartphones in India is still low – around 10 per cent – content developers are dishing out applications to access adult content in a big way.

Seattle based “MiKandi” (pronounced “my candy”) claims to be the first adult app store and is available on Google’s Android platform. However, in order to get around the restrictions “MiKandi” has developed its platform on the third party application store on Google Android’s open source operating system.

Apple’s iOS claims itself to be free from adult content. But a search with the keywords, “porn for ipad”, throws up thousands of results for different Web sites.

Even though Apple’s iPad doesn’t support Flash , many adult Web sites have found a way to make their videos iPad-friendly.

Market sources said that the two other platforms - BlackBerry and Windows – too are not free from adult content unless specific filters are put in to filter them out. RIM (BlackBerry) is said to have done so in Indonesia in accordance with the anti-pornography laws of the land.

(This article was published on August 30, 2012)
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