Iranians must import Apple products from another county, and set their devices to access portions of the App Store meant for other regions, because Apple doesn’t sell phones or operate the App Store in Iran. There are thought to be millions of iPhones in Iran, where around two-thirds of the country’s 80 million people have a smartphone, and smuggled iPhones pour into the country.
Apparently, Apple has now closed that loophole, and has blocked access to traffic coming from inside Iran to the App Store.
The move may refer back to the US sanctions on Iran, but Apple hasn’t made a statement on the changes, and it hasn’t responded to a request for comment. For owners of iOS devices in Iran, if the ban is permanent, it will be necessary to route their internet traffic through VPNs to make it appear that they’re in another country if they want to access the App Store, which will make it much harder to use Apple’s devices. And despite their collective experience with VPNs, some Iranians greeted the news with frustration.
Iranians hungry for the latest in Western gadgetry got an abrupt shock on March 15, when users in Iran received this message: “The App Store is unavailable in the country or region you’re in.”
Apple began removing Iranian developers’ apps from the App Store last year. It pulled apps that facilitated transactions for businesses, in January. In August, it removed a number of popular consumer apps, including a ride-hailing service and a food delivery service. Forbes contributor Tim Worstall noted that “unless you’re going to jailbreak an iPhone the only way you can get an app onto an iPhone is to get it from the iStore.”
“Under the US sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute, or do business with apps or developers connected to certain US embargoed countries,” Apple said in a message to developers.