Apple deletes WhatsApp, Threads from China app store



Apple has taken down WhatsApp and Threads from its app store in China. This action follows an order from the country’s internet watchdog, citing national security concerns.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” said an Apple spokesperson to CNN on Friday. “The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns. These apps remain available for download on all other storefronts where they appear.”

Both WhatsApp and Threads, owned by Meta, were already blocked in China and were not widely used. They could only be accessed in the country using virtual private networks (VPNs) that can encrypt internet traffic and disguise the user’s online identity.

The removal of these apps by Apple represents a further separation between already isolated tech ecosystems in the country and beyond, according to Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based investment advisory BDA China.

“It will cause inconvenience to consumers and businesses (in China) who deal with family, friends, or customers overseas. Even if they use VPNs to access their existing WhatsApp apps, these over time will become obsolete and require updating,” he said.

While WhatsApp and Threads have been removed, other popular Western social media apps, including X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, are still available on Apple’s China app store.

This move by the tech giant comes amid plunging iPhone sales in the world’s second-largest economy. According to market research firm IDC, its smartphone sales dropped by a stunning 10% in the first quarter of this year.

Apple has been facing challenges in China due to nationalism, a rough economy, and increased competition, leading to a resurgence of Chinese brands like Huawei, Xiaomi, and OPPO/OnePlus, according to IDC. Chinese consumers who once considered Apple are now turning to their own national brands.

Despite these challenges, China remains an important market for Apple, being the second-largest market behind the United States. The company continues to offer discounts in the country to boost sales. CEO Tim Cook visited Shanghai just last month to open the second-biggest Apple store in the world.

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