Apple deletes WhatsApp, Threads from Chinese app store on orders from Beijing

Apple deletes WhatsApp, Threads from Chinese app store on orders from Beijing

Apple has removed WhatsApp and Threads from its app store in China, following an order from the country’s internet watchdog citing national security concerns.

“We are responsible for following the laws in the countries where we operate, even if we disagree,” an Apple spokesperson told CNN on Friday. “The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of this app from China’s storefront based on their national security concerns. The app remains available for download on all other storefronts where it appears.”

The apps, both owned by Meta (META), have already been blocked in China and are not widely used. They can be accessed in the country only by using a virtual private network (VPN) that can encrypt internet traffic and disguise the user’s online identity.

The removal of apps by Apple ( AAPL ) represents “further distance between the separated universes of technology” in the country and beyond, said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based investment adviser BDA China.

“It will be difficult for consumers and businesses (in China) dealing with family, friends or customers abroad. Even if they use a VPN to access their existing WhatsApp application, this will eventually become obsolete and require updating,” he said.

Other popular Western social media apps including X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram and Messenger are still available in Apple’s China app store, according to a review by CNN.

The tech giant’s announcement comes against a backdrop of plunging iPhone sales in the world’s second-largest economy. Its smartphone sales fell an astonishing 10% in the first quarter of the year, according to market research firm IDC.

The company has lost momentum in China as nationalism, a rough economy and increased competition have hurt Apple over the past few months.

The resurgence of Huawei and other Chinese brands, including Xiaomi and OPPO/OnePlus, is likely to continue, according to IDC. Chinese consumers who once considered Apple are now turning to the country’s national brand.

In addition to being a major production center, China remains an important market for Apple as it is the largest market behind the United States. The company continues to offer discounts in the country to help boost sales.

Its CEO Tim Cook visited Shanghai just last month to open the second largest Apple store in the world.

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