It would stand to reason that the majority of iPhone beer drinking apps have been downloaded by adults anxious to show off the power of their iPhone or iPod touch using a brilliant sight gag. What happens when an eight year old download's that same app so he can show off to his young buddies? What would Mom think of that idea?
Steve Sheraton, maker of the original iBeer application, is suing Coors, the company that makes Carling Lager, for allegedly copying its $3 application with their own free promotional app called iPint, an app that was widely available in the App Store early on. The iBeer app depicts a frothy beer disappearing as you tilt your iPhone sideways, simulating chugging down a nice cold one. Apple has since removed iPint from the App Store in the US after complaints from Sheraton. That was long after iPint ranked amongst Apple's Top 10 free downloaded apps in the App Store for sometime.
I'll be the first to admit I love a great sight gag and consider iBoozing hysterical. I downloaded the wildly popular iPint app as soon as my iPhone was activated. Though some parents unaware that little Billy has loaded a beer drinking simulator onto his iPod touch may not share my sense of humor, especially when it makes chugging beer appear amusing and harmless. Add in a canned burp and it only gets better. Is virtual drinking sending kids the right message?
A 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Approximately 12.5 million underage teens drink each year. A good number of teens in the U.S. also own an iPhone or iPod touch, making the lure of alcohol even more enticing when underage drinking can be humorously simulated on two of Apple's popular hand held devices.
Ironically, Sheraton's company Hottrix is reportedly asking for $12.5 million dollars in damages from Coors for the alleged copying of its "wholly original ... and copyrightable subject matter." according to a post by Wired.
In my opinion, Coors and Hottrix may both be unwittingly exposed to an even bigger lawsuit potentially brought on by the wrath of Moms. It's especially risky business should virtual beer drinking become the "next big thing" in the hands of ten and twelve year old boys. Apple's own reputation is also put at risk as more devices are carried into schools. A harmless simulated beer drinking demo on an iPhone by one student in the lunch room could spark a firestorm of controversy from parents and educators.
Drinking imaginary pints of beer can quickly become boring to the average teen fixated on electronic entertainment, no matter how life-like. A reality that opens the door to the idea of chugging down a few of Dad's real beers when no one is looking. All in good fun of course. Add in a real burp and it only gets better. Maybe iBeer should come with an "adults only" warning label. If building a tree house morphs into building a makeshift pub for Billy and the neighbor kids to enjoy iHappy Hour together, it may already be too late.
Not to worry mom, your kids are only pretend drinking.