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Apple Clashes with India Over Anti-Spam App

And the company’s fortunes in the country might suffer as a result

September 7, 2017 | Mobile

Apple’s under new pressure from authorities in India to approve a government-backed anti-spam app for its App Store. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been lobbying the company to greenlight its Do Not Disturb app.

The app allows its users to send call and text logs that include contact from spammers with TRAI, which can then relay the information to mobile service providers for blocking.

However, Apple has thus far refused to approve the app, reportedly out of concerns that it violates the company’s internal privacy policy.

Apple risks the ire of India’s government at a delicate time for its fortunes there. The company has a clear interest in accessing India’s growing market of smartphone users; eMarketer estimates there will be 267.1 million smartphone users in India this year, with their ranks growing to 409.8 million by 2021.

But so far it seems Apple’s premium devices are too expensive for the mass market in the country.

According to data from Counterpoint Technology Market Research, Apple was not among the top five brands in terms of smartphone shipments to India in Q1 or Q2 2017.

Smartphone Shipment Share in India, by Brand, Q1 & Q2 2017 (% of total)

Apple is clearly not content with its position, but it has butted heads with India’s regulators on several occasions when attempting to gain ground in the country. In May 2016, regulators in India refused Apple’s request to sell used and refurbished iPhones in India at lower prices that might better appeal to consumers.

The country’s environment ministry cited concerns about India becoming a dumping ground for electronic waste through the importation of used iPhones. But a more cynical take is that the government was attempting to push Apple to establish a manufacturing presence in India.

That strategy may have worked, at least a little. In May 2017, Apple started assembling some smartphones in India via a contractor in Taiwan, but only after drawn-out negotiations with federal and state governments over local-sourcing requirements and other issues were resolved.

It remains to be seen if Apple’s latest skirmish with regulators in India will be a significant setback for the company’s designs in the market or merely a speed bump.

And Apple may also find some support among consumers in India for its position on the controversial app. News of the kerfuffle came after India’s Supreme Court ruled that privacy was a fundamental right in the country in a court case over the government-backed biometric identification system, Aadhaar.

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