I am writing from Iran! I came here for my sister’s wedding. I would like to share my recent experience in using mobile apps and Internet in Iran. A few days before the wedding, I went to a barbershop with my brother-in-law. Using public transportation in Tehran for the most part of the city costs hours, that’s why uber-like services are blooming. We got there using one of the major apps. The barber saw my android device and said something like: “Good choice! you won’t have the 1009 error, like us iPhone users”. I asked what is he talking about, and it turns out that Apple, following the recent US sanctions against Iran, decided to put sanctions on all kinds of purchases from Iran, including any free apps on App Store. The general solution is to basically sign out of apple services including App Store. Then, the apps you had purchased before traveling to Iran will work without the error message. A day after the wedding something else happened! Apple completely removed apps which had backing companies in Iran from App Store1, including the one I used. Well, it wasn’t because these companies were in Iran, It was because they couldn’t adapt the Apple’s payment platform in Iran’s banking system, instead their product was relying on available mobile payments in Iran.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple blocks services to users in Iran! Similar cases happened before. Just like car companies that during the 90’s stoped providing official spare parts and service centers inside Iran. Trade ministry of Iran responded to that case by making it illegal to import such cars. With reasoning that the costumers’ safety is in danger if these cars cannot get proper services inside Iran. I don’t know if something similar can happen to iPhone and IT-products. It seems Iran considers this as a violation to free trades.

The new and young minister of ICT, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, responded to this new event on Twitter, by expressing the magnitude of iPhone market in Iran and possible legal actions that Iran can take against this.

Basically, he says Apple with 11% share from mobile users in Iran is not respecting the costumers right and they will seeks for finding possible legal actions. (So based on my general interest in machine translation, I tried the twitter’s Bing translation and also Google’s translation from Persian to English on this tweet, it was they all got the first sentence wrong!)

Anyway,.. clearly, businesses, service providers, startups, and costumers in Iran hurt from the Apple’s decision but government regulations not always tries to help both groups. The government of Iran is famous for its censorship tools which blocks websites and access to certain parts of Internet. However, with infrastructural developments now more users have access to 3G and 4G Internet on their mobile phones which increased the demand for online mobile services. I actually used the 3G and 4G Internet by buying a one-month package. But, I just recently when the period reached to its end I received a notification message with details of internet costs if I exit the package. Surprisingly, the price for using Internet with servers outside Iran I have to pay more comparing to using part of the Internet and websites inside Iran! This is a text-book example of none-neutral Internet service.

Next time, I will be back and write something about my work hopefully.