It appears that, as of today, the Iran AppStore has been shut down by Apple.
Apple and Politics
It’s no secret that the political tension between the United States and countries in the Middle East is high – and Iran is no exception. Regardless of what country you side with, it’s clear that there’s a disconnect between the Middle East and the West when it comes to philosophy and government. The United States has expressed their disapproval over the actions of Iran with sanctions, and it appears as if Apple is adjusting the Iran AppStore in order to comply with the US government and their wishes.
It’s important to note that Apple hasn’t done business in Iran, and does not sell to ship phones to the country. However, Iranians who wanted to use the latest Apple device could import them from other countries and then adjust the Iran AppStore settings in order to access apps available in other regions. This was clearly a loophole, but Apple had not taken any action to address the use of an Iran AppStore – perhaps due to the increased business that having an unofficial presence in an entire new country had given them.
Iran AppStore Shutdown
Whether it was from increased pressure from the government or their own moral decisions, Apple made the decision today to shut down access to the Iran AppStore. Those within the country will no longer be able to access Apple store services due to the US sanctions on the country.
Those who try to access the Iran AppStore moving forward will instead receive the message “The App Store is unavailable in the country or region you’re in.” In a recent message to developers, Apple stated that “Under the US sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute, or do business with apps or developers connected to certain US embargoed countries.”
As mentioned above, it was previously possible for Iranians to import iPhones and access a version of an Iran AppStore by changing their region, but with the steps to block traffic going in and out of the country from Apple, it may be difficult for those in the country to continue using their favorite iOS devices.
It’s interesting that Apple would take these steps to enforce the sanctions on Iran via messing with the Iran AppStore, as the company has traditionally not been incredibly cooperative with government requests. There have been multiple times in which the government had asked for access to iPhone data – a process that Apple claims it is not capable of, due to the iPhones inherent security. It has since come to light that it may indeed be possible to install a backdoor in the iPhone – bringing into question whether Apple’s reluctance to cooperate with governmental agencies is due to actual inability or simple unwillingness.
However, since the election of President Trump the sanctions on Iran have been amped up – perhaps leaving the tech giant with no choice but to take action and shut down the Iran AppStore.
A Temporary Solution
It’s unclear at this point whether the Iran AppStore ban is permanent, but for now and into the future, the only way that Iranians will be able to access the AppStore is by routing their traffic through a VPN – an online service that makes it appear as if their traffic is coming from another country.
This is a relatively shady workaround, but considering that Apple doesn’t do business in the country and Iranians have had to change their region settings in order to access the device it shouldn’t be too far of a departure from the process people had to go through previously.
While the workaround doesn’t actually add too many more steps to the process of accessing the Iran AppStore, this blocking of the country is a statement from Apple that they are going to play nice with the US government for once and side with their own country rather than the entirety of the user base. There’s no doubt that Apple wants as much business as possible, but when it comes to crossing a government that has just increase sanctions on a country with which our relationship is incredibly strained, Apple may have seen that the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to keeping the Iran AppStore alive.
All in all, while the US sanctions definitely cause some pain to the Iranian government, it’s appearing to have a marked effect on the average Iranian as well. While Apple devices are incredibly expensive to import and probably limited to the middle class or wealthy within the country, there is still a significant population that will find that a device they spent a lot of money on and have been using for quite some time suddenly doesn’t work. Using a VPN to access the Iran AppStore is a viable alternative for now, but unless Apple ignores the sanctions or the US loosens their restrictions, it’s looking as if Android may be the better buy within Iran..