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Apple simply offering Russian apps to iPhone users might not be enough to please the Kremlin

App Store on iPhone
App Store on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple now tells Russian iPhone users that they can install Russian-made apps during setup.
  • This comes after Russian law was changed to force companies to install Russian apps.

Today saw Apple make good on a promise it made to Russia recently. The promise was that it would pre-install apps made by Russian developers on iPhones that are sold in the country. Except, Apple hasn't quite gone all the way, has it? Maybe it never intended to.

As of now, users are presented with a new screen during setup. That screen highlights apps made by Russian developers and allows users to install them right there and then. Apple also makes it very clear that the move isn't something it is doing by choice, too.

In compliance with Russian legal requirements, here are some apps from Russian developers that you may download.

Russian reports last month suggested Apple had agreed that, as of April 1, it would put Russian apps front and center. To some extent, it has. But letting people install apps isn't really the same as preinstalling them. And that's what the law in question was originally all about.

Local Russian reports initially seemed to suggest Apple was going the pre-install route.

Apple has agreed to comply with the rules of the law on mandatory pre-installation on gadgets of Russian software - from April 1

It's also worth noting that users can skip Apple's new setup screen completely and without installing a thing. I for one am very interested to learn what the Kremlin makes of all this. Has Apple gone far enough with today's change, or will further discussions be needed?

It's worth remembering that this is a legal requirement, by the way. Devices that don't comply are banned from sale within Russia, meaning Apple could theoretically find that it is no longer able to sell iPhone there. That could be a problem, especially considering Apple has no fewer than five carrier partners in the country that, presumably, also wouldn't be able to see Apple's phones.

Either Apple knows something we don't know, or it's playing a game of brinkmanship with a country that isn't known for backing down.

The former seems most likely, at least at first blush.

Local reports:

From April 1, users will be offered a selection of apps from Russian developers through the activation screens of new devices, which they will be able to choose to install on their iPhone or iPad, Apple told Vedomosti, stressing that the company complies with the laws of the countries in which it operates. For more than 10 years, Apple's app store has proven to be a safe and secure place to search and download apps - as part of the company's experience providing customers, all applications are tested to meet privacy, security and content standards, the company said.

The question now? Was the 'high ranking source' cited by Vedomosti Business Daily actually in the know, or will someone somewhere be seething right about now?

It's time to get the popcorn out, folks.

Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

2 Comments
  • I recall when the iPhone launched in the USA, Apple was staunchly against preinstalling carrier “bloatware”. It was actually cited as one of the reasons Apple went with AT&T vs anyone else because they allowed them more freedom. This Russian software sounds like it would need to be baked into iOS to comply fully. Not sure why the install splash screen isn’t good enough, though perhaps Apple could simply create Home Screen shortcuts (like an offloaded app or a pinned bookmark) that don’t install until you click them.
  • US is US, but when Vladimir requires something Tim has to obey. Russia it is not a flea market. It seems Tim can forget about his requirements when needed.