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Unusually, FaceTime's working in the UAE — but it might not be for long

Iphone 12 Pro Ios 15 Facetime
Iphone 12 Pro Ios 15 Facetime (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

What you need to know

  • People in the United Arab Emirates can currently make FaceTime calls.
  • Calls have previously been blocked, while WhatsApp and others appear to still be unavailable.

Journalists in the United Arab Emirates noticed over the weekend that they were able to make FaceTime calls for the first time in a long while. The Apple-run video and voice calling system is normally blocked in the country.

While no official statement has been made by local authorities or Apple itself, the Associated Press confirmed on Sunday that the FaceTime service was indeed available.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — FaceTime calls seemed to be working in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, an apparent loosening of long-standing restrictions on the Apple program in the federation of seven sheikhdoms.

While it isn't yet clear whether this is a move that will last — services previously have become available before disappearing again — it does appear that competing services like Facebook and WhatsApp calling remain unavailable.

The UAE, home to the oil-rich capital of Abu Dhabi and the freewheeling financial hub of Dubai, long has blocked internet calling apps like WhatsApp and FaceTime, presumably due to security concerns and to protect the revenues of its monopoly state-run telecommunication companies. However, authorities have not publicly explained the ban. Apple iPhones and computers sold in the UAE typically do not carry the FaceTime calling app.

Everyone will have their fingers crossed that this is a deliberate move rather than something being amiss, although the lack of WhatsApp and other services also now working suggests the latter might be the case here.

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.