Over 20 million Iranians are tech-savvy smartphone users; a majority of these smartphones are Androids, with Samsung being the most popular smartphone amongst Iranians.
Many people would love to try an iPhone but sanctions between the United States and Iran that complicate the relationship between Apple and the average Iranian.
“We don’t have international payment in Iran yet, that means no credit cards or any other method of international payment. So if a startup wants to sell its app or uses In-App Purchase, it has basically no choice in Iran. There are a few startups in the country that have In-App Purchase feature or are selling their apps on App Store, but they’ve registered their companies outside of Iran to be able to do this. So both Apple and these apps are losing money in the absence of the international payment. But in the recent cases, the problem doesn’t lie within the international payment but with the sanctions.” – MohammadReza Azali of Techrasa
Many Iran-based citizens were registering themselves outside of Iran to innovate around these issues, but it seems Apple has caught on recently.
If you were a startup trying to get your app on the App Store in Iran, this what you will see:
“Unfortunately, there is no App Store available for the territory of Iran. Additionally, apps facilitating transactions for businesses or entities based in Iran may not comply with the Iranian Transactions Sanctions Regulations (31CFR Part 560) when hosted on the App Store. For these reasons, we are unable to accept your application at this time. We encourage you to resubmit your application once international trade laws are revised to allow this functionality.“
Just a few days ago, Digikala, one of the biggest Iranian e-commerce company, was removed from the Apple store without warning.
Digikala uses the Shaparak payment system, an isolated system that is described as being similar to Muqarnas, instead of using an international system. (Muqarnas is a form of three-dimensional Islamic architectural art.) Sharparak systems do not violate Apple’s terms and conditions since they are not linked internationally.
The only way an Iranian can get an iPhone in Iran is to get one smuggled in.
However, when a country has a thriving system of Apple product smuggling, it comes at a steep price.
Anonymous sources reported to The Tempest how they’ve first-hand witnessed iPhones being sold in Iran, just a day after the official iPhone release in the U.S.
Even though these phones reach Iran quickly, they are quite expensive for the first few months. It is not uncommon for Iranians to pay 5-6 times the full price of the iPhone to have the newest technology.
“All of my wife’s friends have iPhones. Why can’t she have one?” asked one source, in frustration.
“Nothing can stop Iranians from getting what they want. We have complete fake Apple stores in Iran. They look just like Apple stores since they sell Macs, Apple watches, iPhones, etc.” said another source.
Apple has reportedly tried to open a store in Iran, but nothing came out of the deals in 2015.
It’s only natural for Iranians to want more choices between phones. If they want to decide between buying an Android and an iPhone, they shouldn’t have to pay a crazy amount of money for it.