After calling the requirements of a new Russian law a security threat and threatens to withdraw from the country, Apple leaned in and decided to let Russia get its way, saying it would allow users to install government-approved Russian apps under the iPhone setup. In recent days, we’ve got a first glimpse of what it looks like.
Discovered by MacRumors, Russian users have started to see a list of Russian app suggestions when setting up a new iPhone. The change has been seen the same week a 2019 Russian law Came into force. The law requires smart devices, e.g. smartphones, computers, tablets, and smart TVs, purchased in Russia to be pre-installed with government-approved Russian apps. Twitter user @KhaosT took one screen capture of the new iPhone layout, which looks quite normal until you get to the special App Store popup.
“In accordance with Russian legal requirements, continue to see available apps for download,” it says in the pop-up window.
A few seconds later, another screen titled “From the App Store Russian Apps” see you later with apps such as Yandex Browser, Yandex.Maps, Yandex.Desk, Mail.ru, ICQ messenger and VK social networks. Users can click the “Get” button to install them. As noted by MacRumors, thanks for reporting deal between the Russian government and Apple, installation of the apps is optional and they are not pre-installed on the device.
In Apple Reuters this week that even though it intended to comply with the new law, all apps are reviewed to ensure that they comply with the company’s standards for privacy, security and content.
The the law was originally passed in 2019, although implementation was delayed until April this year. According to ReutersApple dragged its feet before finally agreeing last month to offer users a way to install government-approved apps under iPhone setup.
MacRumors reported that Apple began delivering Russian app proposals on April 1. In addition, Apple told the outlet that it can add a new section in the App Store that aims to market Russian apps. Nevertheless, this does not mean that iPhone users in Russian can only install Russian apps; they can still install apps created by developers in other countries.
Gizmodo contacted Apple for comment, but did not receive a response before the time of publication. We will make sure to update this blog if we hear back.
Russian lawmakers have argued that the law allows the country’s technology companies to become more competitive and also gives Russians a “Right to choose” domestic options. This may not sound so alarming, but when you consider Russia years of effort to get a closer grip on the internet, it’s clear it is still another initiative to give the government control over the citizens’ online activities.
This is not the first time Apple has decided to give in demands of the Russian government, and will probably not be the last. In recent years it has stopped offering his gay dial to the Apple Watch in Russia and also included Crimea as part of Russia in the country’s Apple Maps app. This is not a policy that applies only to Russia. Apple has too removed all major VPN apps from the App Store in China to comply with Chinese law.