Apple removes 25,000 ‘illegal’ apps from App Store in China

Apple has reportedly pulled more than 25,000 apps from its App Store in China that were deemed to fall foul of Chinese regulations. At least 4,000 of these apps were tagged with the word “gambling,” according to Bloomberg, while the 25,000 figure comes from state broadcaster CCTV.

“Gambling apps are illegal and not allowed on the App Store in China,” Apple said in an statement sent to Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. “We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store.”

“Apple itself has set up the rules on how to allow apps onto its store, but it didn’t follow that, resulting in the proliferation of bogus lottery apps and gambling apps,” The Wall Street Journal quoted CCTV as saying on Sunday.

The move follows a period of increasingly negative state media coverage of Apple in China, often accusing the company of not doing enough to combat illegal online activity. In the past, Apple has frequently had to take steps to fall in line with Chinese authorities, previously removing apps for VPN services and The New York Times.

The news of a mass removal of gambling apps isn’t surprising, then, but it’s a reminder of how American companies are forced to bend to the Chinese government’s rules if they want to do business in the country. The issue has gained prominence recently because of Google’s controversial plan to re-enter China with a censored news and search app, which has sparked protests within the company.

Japan regulator reportedly looking into whether Apple secretly crushed an App Store competitor

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission is looking into whether Apple improperly pressured Yahoo Japan to shut down a game streaming platform that competed with the iOS App Store, according to Nikkei. Yahoo Japan’s Game Plus service allowed people to stream full games made for other platforms and to play HTML5 games on mobile phones, which would have allowed iPhone owners to get games without going through the App Store.

Nikkei reports that Yahoo Japan slashed the program’s budget last fall, just months after it launched, and told partners that it was due to pressure from Apple. It’s said to have begun filing complaints with Japan’s FTC around the same time.

Developers essentially have no good alternative to the App Store on iOS. Their only other option is the web, which is a wonderful place for websites, but the web is rarely as fast or flashy as a native app. There are a great number of features that only native apps can take advantage of, which requires going through the App Store and giving Apple a 30 percent cut of most sales.

Yahoo Japan’s service was meant, in part, to be an alternative to that, offering better terms to developers, according to Nikkei, and fewer restrictions around how games were updated and sold. Final Fantasy creator Square Enix had even signed on and produced an exclusive game for the platform, which has since been pulled.

While it’s hard to imagine a web platform stealing much attention away from the App Store, any alternative that works well enough would be a threat. That’s particularly important as Apple focuses more and more on revenue from its services division. As an example of what can happen: Google is expected to lose $50 million in just the next five months because Epic Games was able to skirt the Play Store when launching Fortnite on Android.

Of course, game streaming is a difficult business that no one’s really managed to crack in a successful way just yet. So it’s unclear how competitive this service would have been. But Nikkei’s report would indicate that it was seen as a potential challenger. Nikkei didn’t receive comment from Apple or Yahoo Japan.

Yahoo Japan is no longer related to Yahoo (Yahoo had a stake in Yahoo Japan, but that stake remained behind in a holding company when Yahoo was purchased by Verizon). While it’s an independent entity, SoftBank owns very nearly half of Yahoo Japan, and this may have contributed to Game Plus’ demise. SoftBank handles payments to the App Store made by its mobile phone subscribers, taking a cut from those payments, and Nikkei reports that the company got involved with Yahoo to protect that revenue stream.

If that’s the case, it complicates what’s going on. And Nikkei warned that, because the companies involved may not be interested in helping with the investigation, it’s very possible the FTC won’t be able to prove any improper actions were taken.

Apple just recently managed to get out of another investigation from Japan’s FTC. The commission said that Apple may have violated antitrust rules by forcing a specific payment scheme on service providers selling the iPhone, but the company wasn’t punished because it agreed to make changes.

Turkey’s president wants the country to boycott US-based electronics makers

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Apple and other US-based technology companies out this week in an effort to drum up support for a boycott of their products and a push to buy Turkish-made gadgets. “Every product that we buy in foreign currency from outside, we will produce them here and sell abroad,” Erdoğan said during a speech in Ankara. “We will boycott the electronics products of the U.S.”

He went on to specifically mention Apple and suggest that people could switch from the iPhone to Samsung products. “If they have the iPhone, there is Samsung,” he said. Erdoğan also mentioned Turkey’s own Vestel, which makes the Venus smartphones, among other devices, as an alternative. “We are going to produce enough for ourselves,” he said. “We have to serve better quality goods than we are importing from them.”

Turkey’s currency, the lira, has fallen to record lows recently, and it’s putting pressure on Erdoğan to improve the situation. At the same time, US president Donald Trump doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports, which is likely what led to Erdoğan’s outcry over US gadgets. As an aside, Erdoğan famously appeared on TV through FaceTime during Turkey’s military coup in 2016.

Apple announces free repair for devices damaged by Japanese floods

Apple will repair for free any iPhones, Macs, iPads, and iPods damaged as a result of the devastating floods and mudflows that occurred in southwestern Japan earlier this month, the company announced in a support article, as spotted by 9to5Mac.

Any resident who has a device that needs repair is instructed to call Apple Support directly at 0120-27753-5, and not to submit a request online. Proof of ownership may be required and Apple is offering the free repairs through the end of September 2018. The complimentary repairs are not being extended to accessories and Beats items.

Apple cautions that some areas affected by the floods might have temporarily suspended courier pickup and delivery, leading to longer wait times for those who need repairs. You can read the entire statement on Apple’s Japanese blog.