Apple may cave to government demands to keep iPhones in India

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Apple supplier is increasing its ability to build masses of iPhones in India
Apple had a privacy standoff with the Indian government.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Faced with the threat of having the iPhone out of India altogether, Apple has supposedly agreed to implement a government-sanctioned Do Not Disturb app on its platform.

Apple had previously refused to carry the app, which it claimed violates user privacy by allowing the Indian government to access customers’ call and text message logs. Last week, we reported how this standoff could have resulted in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India requiring mobile operators in the country to stop supporting the iPhone as a result.

With that stark option on the table, a new report suggests that Apple is now readying a new DND app for iOS, which complies with the latest set of regulations. Apple could debut the new app around Diwali, which takes place in early November.

Apple’s challenges in India

Disagreement between Apple and the Indian government over the DND app kicked off last year. Apple looked to have backed down somewhat at the end of 2017, and as of January the Indian government was said to be only waiting some “basic clarifications” about the app. However, things reignited earlier this year, and by March Apple had reportedly ruled that the app “as envisioned” was in violation of its pro-privacy stance.

By stopping mobile carriers from supporting the iPhone, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India would have found a way to unilaterally kill Apple’s smartphone presence in the country, by robbing them of their network connectivity.

Right now, Apple has a tiny fraction of the Indian market between 1-2 percent. However, with 1.324 billion potential buyers in the country it’s no surprise that Apple would want to keep a foothold in India.

Recent efforts to do this have included starting manufacturing iPhones in the country and opening a local app development center, specifically targeted at expanding the number of iOS users in India.

Has Apple found middle-ground with the Indian government?

It will be interesting to see whether Apple has managed to hash out an agreement with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India that pleases both parties, without compromising Apple’s pro-privacy stance.

It’s worth noting, however, that Apple has had to compromise on these ideals before. For example, recently it agreed to move iCloud accounts in China to a government-owned company, or risk being booted out of the country.

Source: Business Standard (paywall)