Tech

Apple Accepts to Let Russia Pre-Install Apps on iPhones

By Bill Toulas / March 16, 2021

Apple has reached an agreement with the Russian state and will allow the Ministry of Digital Science in the country to install some apps on all iPhones sold in the country as part of the device pre-sale setup. That may appear to come out of nowhere, but it is actually based on a law that was officially introduced all the way back in November 2019, named “On Protection of Consumer Rights.” This law mandates that all smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs, and desktop computers should come with Russian software pre-installed starting from April 1, 2021.

According to Russian media claiming to have reliable sources from both sides, users who first turn their iPhones on will get a prompt to install apps from a pre-approved software list. That would include software from Yandex, Kaspersky, Mail.ru, Channel One, and other major Russian entities. Reportedly, the users won’t be obliged to accept the installation of any of those apps, but prompting them will raise awareness about their existence and will reduce the number of users who rely on foreign-made solutions.

For Apple, a company that promotes user security and privacy as its top priorities, accepting something like that must not have been easy. Russian news sources claim that the company was contemplating leaving the Russian market instead of accepting this compromise, but apparently, they were convinced to go with it. Other sources mention that if the Russian state decides to make the pre-installation of any apps mandatory, Apple may reconsider its business approach there.

To be fair, we have seen Apple compromising with various demands coming from governments, especially when it threatens its presence on large markets. Also, pre-installed apps aren’t anything unprecedented or shocking, especially when they are suggestive and non-mandatory. Sure, it doesn’t match Apple’s way of doing things, but that’s the price to pay for maintaining your presence in lucrative markets. In Russia, Apple holds 45% of all smartphone sales in the country and 16% of the market in the number of units sold.

In the Android world, there are several manufacturers who don’t have any problem letting the Russian state pre-install apps on their devices. The Huawei P40 for example comes with Gosuslug, Odnoklassniki, Vkontakte, Mail.ru, VTB Bank, Megafon, Tele2, Yandex, and Zen pre-installed. In these cases, too, the user isn’t bound to keeping the apps, as they can uninstall them like any other app.



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