With all the noise around US president Donald Trump’s new immigration policy, there is less to be cheerful about. But if you are an app developer from Iran, then there is more bad news for you.
Apple is reportedly removing Iranian apps from its app store. According to Iranian tech site TechRasa, Apple has been specifically removing apps that “facilitate transactions for businesses or entities based in Iran.”
However, Iran has no official app store for iOS as of now. Apple had opened up the app store last year in October but Iranians were unable to download paid apps or access in-game purchases as they have no way to gain access to international payment mechanisms. According to a TechCrunch report, many Iranian developers register their apps outside Iran in order to get onto the app store and several Iranian banks have created iOS apps that are often side-loaded onto users’ phones.
TechRasa reports that Iran is home to some 40 million smartphones out of which 6 million are iPhones. It also reported that an additional 100,000 units are smuggled into the country every month.
Although there is no list available that shows the names of apps removed but an app named Digikala, the largest e-commerce startup in Iran and the Middle East, had their app removed from the App store. Digikala serves around 750,000 unique visitors a day, and accounts for over 80% of Iran’s e-commerce.
Digikala’s app disappeared from the App Store several days ago with no explanation, although a notice from Apple to Iranian developers rejected from the App Store hints that the removal of the aforementioned apps has to do with the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations issued by the US Department of Treasury.
“Unfortunately, there is no App Store available for the territory of Iran. Additionally, apps facilitating transactions for businesses or entities based in Iran may not comply with the Iranian Transactions Sanctions Regulations (31CFR Part 560) when hosted on the App Store. For these reasons, we are unable to accept your application at this time. We encourage you to resubmit your application once international trade laws are revised to allow this functionality.”
Apple has not released any official statement on the issue.
However, there are ways to access payment systems without affecting or stepping on Apple’s terms and conditions just like DigiKala which uses Shaparak payament system which according to TechCrunch is “completely isolated from international systems, so would in theory not contravene Apple’s [terms and conditions].”