iPhone could get shut out of India altogether

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iPhone India
Apple is facing the prospect of zero working iPhones in India.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India could require mobile operators in the country to stop supporting the iPhone if Apple doesn’t allow a mobile app that lets users report unwanted calls and messages.

Apple has been going back and forth with officials in India over the government-approved anti-spam mobile app, which Apple has suggested violates user privacy.

Forcing Apple to take action

The “Do Not Disturb” app lets users report unsolicited marketing texts or calls as spam. While that sounds reasonable, Apple dug a little deeper and suggested that the app violated its privacy policies due to the fact that it allows the government to access customers’ call and text message logs.

The disagreement with the Indian government started last year. Apple appeared to have backed down somewhat at the end of 2017, and as of January it was suggested that the Indian government was simply waiting some “basic clarifications” about the app. However, things reignited in 2018, and by March Apple had reportedly ruled that the app “as envisioned” was, indeed, in violation of its pro-privacy stance.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has been upset by Apple’s approach to proceedings. In March, boss R.S. Sharma was reportedly consulting with his legal team about ways to compel Apple to either use the existing app or help develop one for iOS. “We will take appropriate legal action,” Sharma said. “This is unjust, it shows the approach and attitude of this company.”

Problems are brewing in India

Now it may have found a way: by stopping networks from supporting the iPhone. This would essentially render all iPhones sold in India useless by robbing them of their network connectivity. As BGR.in writes:

“Faced with an impending shutdown, Apple will now be forced to offer a solution to TRAI on its requirement, after Google already agreed to carry TRAI’s Do-Not-Disturb app on its Android platform.”

According to a recent report, Apple is already having trouble growing its brand in India. Recently, three members of Apple’s executive team in India left the company as the result. These execs included Apple’s national sales and distribution chief, the head of its commercial channels and mid-market business, and the head of telecom carrier sales. Apple’s Indian sales team is restructuring as a result of the departures.

At present, Apple has a market share of just 2 percent in India. It reportedly sold just 3.2 million iPhones in the country last year, and could be on track to sell even less than this in 2018. In the first half of this year, Apple reportedly sold fewer than 1 million handsets in India.

That’s despite manufacturing iPhones in the country and opening a local app development center, specifically targeted at expanding the number of iOS users in India.