China: Apple strangely absent from the list of mobile application stores dubbed by Beijing

Published on September 27, 2023 at 2:15 p.m.

The Chinese regulator has just published a first list of smartphone application stores authorized in the country because they comply with the new rules. For now, 26 application stores, operated mainly by companies producing and marketing smartphones, have received approval from the Chinese administration.

Among them are the Chinese groups Tencent, Huawei, Ant Group, Baidu and even Lenovo and Xiaomi. But also the South Korean Samsung. But, strangely, Apple is not there.

A tougher market for independent developers

An absence noticed while a few weeks ago, Beijing banned its officials from using iPhones products by the apple brand, a decision that some have interpreted as yet another illustration of the tensions between Washington and Beijing. All this while the Chinese government has, for several years, extended surveillance of the use of smartphones and mobile applications. And put the tech sector under pressure.

All the lucky ones on this first list submitted files in compliance with the legal requirements set out by the Chinese Cyberspace Administration (CAC) and which came into force in the summer of 2022. Concretely, from now on, to be able to distribute a smartphone application in China, independent developers will have to go through an officially authorized platform. This will serve as an intermediary between developers and the Chinese market and will have to take responsibility for any illegal content in the applications.

A grace period until next spring

It must also clearly indicate the filing status of each application. A way for Beijing to block the way for all independent applications that are not deemed compliant. Even if the stated objective of these new rules is to fight online fraud…

These rules apply for new applications since the beginning of September. For applications that already exist and are available, the authorities have granted a grace period to platforms to comply. They have until March 31, 2024 to comply.

Apple doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to enforce the rules

A delay which perhaps explains the absence of Apple in the list published this Wednesday by Beijing. If the Apple brand did not comment on her absence to the press agencies who contacted her, she could in fact be playing for time. Because complying could, according to some industry experts, result in the disappearance from the Chinese market of hundreds, even thousands of applications that are currently available in China.

This obligation to clean up is not completely new, even if unlike Xiaomi or Tencent, Apple does not seem to have started asking developers to provide it with the information requested by the Chinese administration. However, at the beginning of August, according to the South China Morning Post, Apple had removed more than a hundred applications from its Chinese App Store to comply with new regulations on artificial intelligence.

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