Apple agrees to let Russians pre-install local apps on iPhones

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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In an unprecedented move, the tech giant Apple will allow Russian developers’ apps to be installed on the devices it sells in the country.

Beginning from April 1, users in Russian who purchase a new iPhone will be asked during setup to go to a new page in the App Store to download Russian apps. The apps that appear are recommended by the Russian government, but Apple will only show apps that follow its App Store review guidelines.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant stated that the move is being made to comply with local regulations. In Russia, a new consumer privacy law will take effect next month, requiring the pre-installation of Russian apps. The reason for the law’s signing in 2019 was to help local developers compete more effectively.

For the first time, Apple will allow users to install outside apps during the setup process. Apple has added country-specific features to its mobile operating system in the past, such as additional map views in China, but it has resisted other common app pre-installation, such as those from wireless carriers on Android devices.

The government has cracked down on citizens’ right to communicate privately on their devices in recent years, even though installing Russian apps on local devices is optional. In recent years, the Russian government has banned the private messaging app Telegram, and the government has been accused of spying on people. Apple said that it uses strong encryption and does not keep user passcodes on its servers.

Apple was criticized in Russia in 2019 after an update to its Maps app showed Crimea as part of Russia rather than Ukraine. This came after months of Russian government pressure on mapping service providers to change Crimea’s status.

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