On a Saturday in mid-August, Iranian entrepreneur Mehdi Nayebi received an email from Apple Inc.’s App Store Review stating that his application, AloPeyk, a delivery service in Tehran, had been removed due to sanctions put in place by the US government.
He wasn’t the only one. About a dozen other Iran-focused apps, including Delion Foods, a meals delivery startup, online store Digikala, Bamilo, an e-commerce marketplace, and ride-hailing app Snapp, were also similarly removed, according to Nayebi, and Delion’s co-founder Mahdi Taghizadeh.
“We got removed from App Store overnight, without any sort of warning,” Nayebi said. “We had just published a new version with enormous improvements. When users woke up the next morning, they saw the app is not available anymore.”
AloPeyk tried to appeal the decision, but instead received an email from Apple, citing trade sanctions enforced by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, according to Nayebi. Users can still access the apps on their phones, but cannot download or update from the App Store. Nayebi’s team scrambled to create a version for the iPhone’s web browser that would function similarly to an app,
circumventing the removal.
“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 its email to developers. “This area of law is complex and constantly changing. If the existing restrictions shift, we encourage you to resubmit your app for inclusion on the App Store.” An Apple spokesman confirmed the
authenticity of the email, but had no further comment on the matter.
A follow-up email from Apple to Nayebi stated that the iPhone maker would re-consider his app if he obtains a letter from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control confirming the release of the app from the US’s restrictions. Digikala, Bamilo and Snapp didn’t respond to requests for comment. The US Office of Foreign Assets Control, a part of the Treasury Department that enforces economic and trade sanctions, didn’t respond to a request for comment. This is the latest example of new challenges Apple faces as it becomes more of a digital services and content provider, rather than just a designer of high-end consumer gadgets. The company’s services business, which includes its App Store and iTunes music and video offerings, has increased about 22 percent in the past year and is its second-largest unit behind the iPhone. That’s attractive to investors, but distributing more information online means more clashes with governments.
In July, the App Store faced another government-forced app removal situation. Virtual private networks applications, programs designed to circumvent internet restrictions, were removed from Apple’s China App Store at the request of the Chinese government. “We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations,” Apple said at the time.
Iran’s nuclear-related sanctions were lifted last year following its 2015 agreement with world powers, however some US trade and banking sanctions remain, hindering business.
Apple plans 4K
TV box in new
living room push
Apple is planning to unveil a renewed focus on the living room with an upgraded Apple TV set-top box that can stream 4K video and highlight live television content such as news and sports, according to people familiar with
The updated box, to be revealed alongside new iPhone and Apple Watch models at an event in September, will run a faster processor capable of streaming the higher-resolution 4K content, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t yet public. The 4K designation is a quality standard that showcases content at twice the resolution of 1080P high-definition video, meaning the clarity is often better for the viewer. Apple is also testing an updated version of its TV app, which first launched in 2016, that can aggregate programming from apps that already offer live streaming.
Apple is seeking to revive its video ambitions with the new product. Apple TV trails devices from Roku Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google in the US set-top box market share with only 15 percent as of the end of March, according to a survey this month from Parks Associates. Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Bloomberg News earlier this year that Apple TV sales had declined year-over-year in the 2016 holiday quarter. The iPhone maker has also lagged behind companies such as Amazon and Netflix Inc. in developing scripted shows and other video content.
In order to view 4K video, users will need to attach the updated Apple TV to a screen capable of showing the higher-resolution footage. Many recent TV models from Sony Corp., LG Electronics Inc., and Samsung Electronics Co. offer 4K output.