Apple’s ban hammer comes down on Iranian iOS apps


DigiKala's iPhone app is one of the casualties.
Photo: DigiKala

Apple appears to be pulling iOS apps from Iranian developers despite making the App Store available in Iran last September.

Several titles from Iranian startups have disappeared in recent days, but it’s not clear why Apple has suddenly begun bringing down the ban hammer.

Apple doesn’t sell any of its products in Iran, but the country’s gadget-loving citizens are importing around 100,000 iPhones every month, according to TechrasaOf the 40 million smartphones in use there, it’s thought that around 6 million were made by Apple.

As a result, there’s a big demand for the App Store in Iran. Users have been gaining access to it by using proxy and VPN services that spoof their location, but last September, Apple quietly made the App Store available to Iranian users — albeit with limited functionality.

However, in the past few days, Apple has reportedly been removing apps that were built by Iranian startups and developers. Although there has been no statement from the Cupertino company, it’s thought e-commerce transactions could have something to do with it.

Apple explained to one developer:

Unfortunately, there is no App Store available for the territory of Iran. Additionally, apps facilitating transactions for businesses or entities based in Iran may not comply with the Iranian Transactions Sanctions Regulations (31CFR Part 560) when hosted on the App Store. For these reasons, we are unable to accept your application at this time.

We encourage you to resubmit your application once international trade laws are revised to allow this functionality.

Although Apple blames U.S. sanctions against Iran, not every app that has been pulled breaches these. DigiKala, the biggest Iranian e-commerce service, had its app removed despite using the Shaparak system that is completely isolated from international payment systems.

“We should mention that there are many methods that an app could bypass the ridiculous U.S. sanctions,” explains Techrasa. Even the banks in Iran have their apps up and running on iOS without submitting them to App Store or asking users to jailbreak their iPhones.”

For now, however, it seems that’s the only way for Iranian developers to offer apps to local citizens.

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