Apple Agrees to Let Russians Pre-Install Local Apps on iPhones

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Apple Inc., in an unprecedented move, will offer an option to install apps from Russian developers on the devices it sells in the country.

Beginning April 1, when users in Russia buy a new iPhone, iPad or Mac, they will be prompted during setup with the option to go to a new page in the App Store to load the Russian software, Apple said on Tuesday. The applications that appear are being suggested by the Russian government, but Apple will only show apps that meet the company’s App Store review guidelines.

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant said it is making the change to comply with local regulations. A new consumer protection law goes into effect next month in Russia that requires the pre-installation of Russian software. The law was signed in 2019 partly to help local developers compete better.

This will be the first time Apple offers users the ability to install outside software on its devices at setup. In previous updates to its mobile operating system, Apple has added country-specific features like additional map views in China, but it has eschewed other common app pre-installations like those from wireless carriers on Android devices.

The installation of Russian software on local devices is optional, but the government in recent years has cracked down on the ability for citizens to communicate privately on their devices. Russian authorities banned the private messaging app Telegram in recent years and the government has been accused of spying on citizens. Apple said it uses strong encryption and doesn’t store user passcodes.

In 2019, Apple was criticized for an update of its Maps app in Russia that displayed Crimea as part of Russia rather than Ukraine. That came after months of Russian government pressure on operators of mapping services to shift Crimea’s designation.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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