By Holly Dagres, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Imagine trying to hail an Uber on a street corner only for the Uber app on your iPhone to suddenly stop working. That’s what happened to some Iranians when Apple pulled Snapp, a popular local ride-hailing app, from its App Store on Aug. 24.
The US technology company purged over a dozen popular Iranian apps, including Alopeyk, an on-demand delivery service; Delion, a food delivery service; Digikala, an online store; Takhfifan, a coupon service; and Zoraq, a travel-booking service.
Now when the name of a popular Iranian app is typed into Apple’s App Store search engine, suggestions for alternative titles pop up, or in some cases, the following message appears: “The item you requested is not currently available in the US store.”
Amid the confusion, Iranian iOS app developers received a message from Apple, stating, “Under the US sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute, or do business with apps or developers connected to certain US embargoed countries.” The week after Apple’s purge, Google followed suit, removing Iranian apps for Android phones from Google Play.
Tyler Cullis, an associate sanctions attorney with Ferrari & Associates, P.C., told Al-Monitor, “It is unclear why Apple and Google were permitting the hosting of Iranian apps on their respective app stores in the first place, but the decision to remove them appears consistent with US sanctions laws.”
There is indeed the possibility that Apple and Google may have misinterpreted US sanctions law. In March 2010, under the Barack Obama administration, the United States granted a license — known as the General License D-1, or Personal Communications GL — authorizing a range of activities, including permitting Iranians to access and download mobile phone apps from US app stores.