Beginning in April, new iPhones and other iOS devices sold in Russia will include an extra setup step. Alongside questions about language preference and whether to enable Siri, users will see a screen that prompts them to install a list of apps from Russian developers. It’s not just a regional peculiarity. It’s a concession Apple has made to legal pressure from Moscow—one that could have implications far beyond Russia’s borders.
The law in question dates back to 2019, when Russia dictated that all computers, smartphones, smart TVs, and so on sold there must come preloaded with a selection of state-approved apps that includes browsers, messenger platforms, and even antivirus services. Apple has stopped short of that; the suggested apps aren’t pre-installed, and users can opt not to download them. But the company’s decision to bend its rules on pre-installs could inspire other repressive regimes to make similar demands—or even more invasive ones.