Apple begins showing Russian iPhone owners state-approved apps during setup

The recommended software includes domestic search engines and email clients.

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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 03: A man holds a smartphone with Yandex Maps Gps in the city of Moscow, Russia on March 03, 2020. Russian multinational corporation, provide services as Internet-related products and services, including transportation, search and information services, eCommerce, navigation, mobile applications, and online advertising. Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency
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Despite its tussle over civil liberties at home, Apple has had to cave to government orders from autocratic states overseas. Last month, it agreed to show Russian users a prompt to preinstall select apps when activating an iPhone or other device ahead of the implementation of a new law. The government-sanctioned list of services included homegrown apps such as Mail.ru's email service, the MIR payment system, social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki and Kaspersky Lab antivirus software.

With the law now in effect, Russians have taken to social media to show what the regulation actually entails for iPhone users. As part of the iOS setup process, people in Russia are now being shown an additional step that directs them to the recommended list of software in the App Store. They include services like the Yandex.Browser, Yandex.Maps and the Russian federation public services app. Apple has enabled the system server-side, according to 9to5Mac.

As previously reported by local media, iPhone users aren't forced to download the apps in order to use their handset, but there's no option to opt-out of viewing them. Android devices, on the other hand, reportedly come with the software preinstalled. Apple also previously said that it would only show recommended apps that complied with App Store review guidelines. Critics of the law — which applies to all devices sold in Russia including PCs and smart TVs — claim it could be used as a surveillance tool. 

Russia has previously penalized US companies that have fallen foul of its strict online rules. After recently slowing down Twitter over its alleged reluctance to remove "illegal content," the government threatened to ban it altogether if it didn't bow to demands.

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