Apple CEO Tim Cook Hopes Apps Pulled From China’s App Store Will One Day Return

Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Wednesday he is optimistic that some apps pulled from China's App Store to comply with regulatory rules will eventually be reinstated (via Reuters). Cook made the comments at the economic Fortune Forum in the southern city of Guangzhou, in the latest stint of his week-long China visit.

Apple CEO Tim Cook at World Internet Conference in Wuzhen (Image: Reuters)
"My hope over time is that some of the things, the couple of things that's been pulled, come back. I have great hope on that and great optimism on that," Cook said, adding that he always tries to find areas to work together and if he gets criticized for that, so be it.
Apple has come in for criticism from local users and rights groups for acceding to government requests that it pull some apps from its Chinese App Store, including VPN services used to gain access to online services banned in China.

During the Forum, Cook also said that he believes strongly in freedoms – a comment that has been interpreted as response to a U.S. democratic senator's remarks on Tuesday that Apple had a moral obligation to promote freedom of expression.

"[T]ech companies must continue to push back on Chinese suppression of free expression," Vermont senator Patrick Leahy told CNBC. Leahy said he believed Apple was in danger of not fulfilling its "obligation to promote free expression and other basic human rights."

In October, senators Leahy and Ted Cruz wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking why the company removed third-party VPN apps from its App Store in China.

Apple responded in a letter, explaining that it had "questioned the legal basis of the request" and had provided formal comments on Chinese cybersecurity law through trade associations. However, Apple stopped short of condemning the Chinese government's censorship, instead telling the senators that "actions are our most powerful statement."

Cook kicked off his China visit on Sunday, at the country's state-run World Internet Conference, which aims to develop an "open" digital economy, despite its regular practice of online censorship and regulation.

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Tim Cook Touts Apple’s Contribution to Chinese Economy at State-Run Web Summit

Chinese developers have earned more selling apps on Apple's iOS platform than devs from any other country, Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Sunday (via Bloomberg). His comments were made in a keynote speech given at China's annual state-run World Internet Conference, which aims to develop the digital economy, while operating under the rubric of respecting the right of sovereign nations to regulate and control public internet access.

Cook said developers on its iOS platform number 1.8 million in China, collectively earning a total of $16.9 billion, which is roughly a quarter of total global App Store earnings. Apple said earlier this year that the global developer community has earned over $70 billion since the App Store launched in 2008.

Tim Cook delivers a speech at the Fourth World Internet Conference (Photo: IC)
"The theme of this conference – developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits – is a vision we at Apple share," Cook said. "We are proud to have worked alongside many of our partners in China to help build a community that will join a common future in cyberspace."
China's cyber regulation has stepped up in the last year, with new rules coming into force that require companies to store data locally and make data available for surveillance measures. Apple was the first foreign tech firm to announce amendments to its data storage arrangements in China, when the cybersecurity laws came into effect in June.
"Much has been said of the potential downsides of AI, but I don't worry about machines thinking like humans. I worry about people thinking like machines," he said. "We all have to work to infuse technology with humanity, with our values."

Technology of the future should have openness, creativity and safeguards to protect users while providing privacy and decency, he added.
Cook's words appeared carefully chosen so as not to upset his Chinese hosts, who routinely curtail access to online services seen as a potential threat to the country's internal cohesion. Facebook and Instagram have been blocked by China's Cyberspace Administration since 2009 and 2014, respectively. Encrypted messaging service Telegram was also blocked inside China after it became popular with the country's human rights lawyers, while several VPN apps – which are commonly used to evade censorship and access services abroad – were recently pulled from China's App Store in compliance with stricter state rules.

The Wuzhen-based conference was opened earlier on Sunday with comments from Chinese president Xi Junping, read by the head of the government's publicity department, in which Xi advocated for "cyber sovereignty", the idea that states should be permitted to manage and contain their own internet without external interference.
"Developments online are raising many new challenges to sovereignty and security, and China is willing to work with the international community to respect cyberspace sovereignty and promote partnerships," said Xi in the note. "The development of China's cyberspace is entering a fast lane... China's doors will only become more and more open."
China remains the world's biggest smartphone market, one which historically Apple has struggled to penetrate. The company shipped an estimated 11 million iPhones in China last quarter, up 40 percent from the year-ago quarter, despite six consecutive quarters of declining iPhone sales in the region.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook to Attend China’s World Internet Conference Next Week

Apple CEO Tim Cook will attend China's state-run internet conference next week, reports the Wall Street Journal. The annual World Internet Conference starts on Sunday in Wuzhen and is organized by the central government's Cyberspace Administration.

According to the conference's website, other foreign executives and officials set to attend include Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook VP Vaughan Smith, LinkedIn co-founder and VP Allan Blue, and Microsoft executive VP Harry Shum.


The event will host a range of discussions including the future of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and methods of combating criminal activity and terrorism online, all of which feed into the summit's main aim of advancing the digital economy "for openness and shared benefits". What the press material doesn't mention is the Cyberspace Administration's role in online censorship and its history of blocking access to unapproved sites.

Skype became the latest victim of its strict internet filters when it was removed from the App Store last month. Earlier this year, Apple was forced to remove many VPN apps from the App Store in China due to the administration's regulations, while other apps affected in the past or present include WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and the New York Times app.

During a Q3 earnings call in August, Cook said Apple believes in engaging with governments around the world even when it disagrees with rules or restrictions. Regarding the removal of VPN apps from China's App Store, Cook said that over time Apple hoped to see the restriction loosened, because "innovation requires freedom to collaborate and communicate".
Some folks have tried to link it to the [Apple-FBI dispute] last year — they're very different. In the case of the US, the law in the US supported us. It was very clear. In the case of China, the law is also very clear there, and like we would if the US changed the law here, we would have to abide by it in both cases. That doesn't mean we don't state our point of view, in the appropriate way — we always do that.
To what extent Cook will voice concerns about Chinese law at the summit is unclear, however his attendance reflects the country's growing importance to Apple's business as it seeks to boost revenue in the region. Apple shipped an estimated 11 million iPhones in China last quarter, up 40 percent from the year-ago quarter, according to research firm Canalys. The strong growth put an end to six consecutive quarters of declining iPhone sales in the region. However, that growth could be short lived.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus sales have quickly "run out of steam" in mainland China, despite being heavily discounted by online retailers, according to the South China Morning Post. And while the iPhone X could help Apple in the fourth quarter, its high price and supply constraints might inhibit the company's growth in China in the short term, according to Canalys.

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Tag: China

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Apple Has Removed Skype From App Store in China to Comply With Local Law

Microsoft has confirmed that Skype has been "temporarily removed" from the App Store on iPhone and iPad, according to a statement given to The New York Times.

Apple told The New York Times that it was forced to remove a number of voice and video calling apps from the App Store in China to comply with laws in the country.
We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
Skype has been unavailable on the App Store since at least late October, according to users on Twitter and other websites. The service appears to function normally still for users who have already installed the app.

Skype is the latest victim of China's strict internet filters, colloquially known as the Great Firewall. Earlier this year, Apple was forced to remove many VPN apps from the App Store in China due to regulations, while other apps affected in the past or present include WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Microsoft wouldn't comment on why Skype is also unavailable on at least a few major third-party Android app stores. Many of Google's services, including Gmail and YouTube, have been blocked in China for several years.

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Tim Cook Visits China Where iPhone Sales Finally Rebounded Last Quarter After Lengthy Skid

Apple chief Tim Cook was among a group of leaders who met China's President Xi Jinping on Monday at an annual gathering of advisers to the Tsinghua University business school in the capital Beijing, according to Reuters.


Apple declined to comment on details of his visit. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, who also attended, stated that "every year this trip is a great way to keep up with the pace of innovation and entrepreneurship in China."

The meeting occurred just days before Apple launches its much-anticipated iPhone X in 55 countries, including China, with hopes the high-end smartphone can revive the company's sales in the world's second largest economy.

Apple shipped an estimated 11 million iPhones in China last quarter, up 40 percent from the year-ago quarter, according to research firm Canalys. The strong growth put an end to six consecutive quarters of declining iPhone sales in the region.


Canalys believes Apple's rebound, buoyed by the launch of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus last month, could be short lived.
"Apple's growth this quarter is only temporary. The high sell-in caters to the pent-up demand of iPhone upgraders in the absence of the iPhone X. Price cuts on earlier models after announcing the iPhone 8 have also helped. However, Apple is unlikely to sustain this growth in Q4," said Canalys Research Analyst Mo Jia.

Despite being touted as widely expensive, excitement for the launch of the iPhone X is building in China. "While the iPhone X launches this week, its pricing structure and supply are inhibiting. The iPhone X will enjoy a healthy grey market status, but its popularity is unlikely to help Apple in the short term," added Jia.
iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus have quickly "run out of steam" in mainland China, despite being heavily discounted by online retailers such as Suning.com and JD.com, according to the South China Morning Post.
"The iPhone 8 might be the most poorly sold flagship iPhone model in China, as such huge discounts have never been seen before in the country," said Zhao Ziming, a senior analyst at Pintu Tank in Beijing.
While the iPhone X could help Apple in the fourth quarter, its high price and supply constraints might inhibit the company's growth in China in the short term, according to Canalys research analyst Mo Jia.

Apple was the fifth largest smartphone maker in China last quarter, behind local brands Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, and Xiaomi, according to Canalys.


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U.S. Senators Ask Apple Why VPN Apps Were Removed From China App Store

Two U.S. senators have written to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking why the company removed third-party VPN apps from its App Store in China (via CNBC). Reports that Apple had pulled the VPN apps first arrived in July, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

In the open letter dated October 17, Senators Patrick Leahy and Ted Cruz write that China has an "abysmal" human rights record when it comes to freedom of expression and free access to online and offline information, and say they are "concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance of the internet".

Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas, left) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
"While Apple's many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the internet privately does not enable people in China to 'speak up'."

"To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese government it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China's new regulations targeting online anonymity."
The senators go on to note that Cook was awarded the free speech award at Newseum's 2017 Free Expression Awards, where he said: "First we defend, we work to defend these freedoms by enabling people around the world to speak up. And second, we do it by speaking up ourselves."

In the bipartisan request, the senators then ask Cook to explain Apple's actions by answering a list of questions, including whether Apple was personally asked to remove the VPN apps by Chinese officials, and if the company expressed its concerns to the Chinese authorities before the country's anti-freedom laws were enacted.

In addition, the senators question what Apple has done to promote free speech in China and whether it has pushed for human rights and better treatment of oppressed groups in the country.

During an earnings call, Cook spoke about his decision to remove the VPN apps. "We would rather not remove apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law where we do business." Cook went on to say that he hopes China will ease up on the restrictions over time.

Apple has yet to respond to the letter.

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Apple Watch Series 3 Facing LTE Setbacks in China, Likely Due to Government ‘Security Concerns’

The cellular capabilities of the Apple Watch Series 3 remain unavailable to new carrier plan subscribers in China, after having been "abruptly cut off...without explanation" just one week after the device's launch in September. A new report published today by The Wall Street Journal has looked into the LTE setbacks faced by the Apple Watch in the country, which is predicted to face ongoing issues over the next couple of months.

Originally, Apple Watch Series 3 models on launch were supported by the carrier China Unicom, but on September 28 -- almost one week after the September 22 launch -- Unicom cut off new LTE subscriptions for the device. Those who had signed up for a subscription prior to that date remain unaffected, but now anyone trying to sign up for LTE on their Apple Watch are unable to do so. Unicom said on its website that the feature had been available "on a trial basis" and didn't specify when it might resume.

But in China, the feature was abruptly cut off for new subscribers, without explanation, after a brief availability with one telecom company.

Industry analysts say the suspension likely stemmed from Chinese government security concerns to do with tracking users of the device, which uses different technology than standard mobile phones.
On the Apple Watch Series 3 cellular support site, all Chinese carriers -- China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom -- now say "coming later this year." Previously, Unicom specified the following: "Cellular service available only for mobile lines opened in Guangdong, Henan, Hunan, Shanghai, and Tianjin." A few days after September 28, Apple updated the page with the new reference to support later in 2017.

Industry analysts cited "security concerns" likely raised by the government in China related to tracking wearers of Apple's device. Because the Apple Watch uses different technology than standard smartphones, China's strict regulation policies can't simply be outfitted for the new LTE product.

Specifically, analysts believe the problem lies in China's user identification system. When users purchase a smartphone in the country, they register for a SIM card under their real names with a network carrier. But, the Apple Watch contains a tiny embedded SIM card (eSIM), which is placed in the device by Apple, not carriers. Analysts believe this raises questions of "how carriers and regulators can track the device user's identity," because the eSIM "isn't mature enough yet in China."
The benefit of a device carrying an eSIM is that, with software, users can choose a telecom operator and a communications plan. But in China, that new system raises the question of how carriers and regulators can track the device user’s identity.

“The eSIM (system) isn’t mature enough yet in China,” one analyst said. “The government still needs to figure out how they can control the eSIM.”
Now, officials at China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology are said to be studying how to resolve the issue before granting any broad cellular access to the Apple Watch. This process, according to analysts, "could take months."

The Apple Watch LTE roadblock is the latest problem faced by Apple in China, after last year facing the shutdown of the iBooks and iTunes stores due to the release of a controversial independent movie. Over the summer, Apple then removed the majority of VPN apps from the App Store in China, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
Tag: China
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

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iPhone Movie ‘The Great Buddha+’ Receives Ten Golden Horse Nominations

Taiwanese movie "The Great Buddha+", a dark comedy shot extensively on an iPhone 6 Plus, has picked up ten nominations in the Golden Horse Awards, including best feature film and best new director (via Variety).

Directed by Huang Hsin-yao and produced and lensed by acclaimed photographer Chung Mung-hong, the black-and-white film follows the voyeuristic antics of a pair of small-town Taiwanese nobodies, highlighting Taiwanese social issues in the process.


The Golden Horse Awards, which will be announced on November 25 in Taipei, are often considered one of the most prestigious film awards for Mandarin-language cinema, with movies from Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong regularly vying for honors.

In the running for the best film prize this year are "The Great Buddha+", "The Bold, The Corrupt, and The Beautiful", "Free and Easy", "Love Education", and "Angels Wear White", which played recently in Venice and Toronto.

Tags: China, Taiwan

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Huawei Ad Teases ‘The Real AI Phone’, Mocks Facial Recognition in Clear Dig at Apple

Chinese mobile maker Huawei has taken to trolling Apple in a new Facebook ad that pokes fun at the iPhone X's neural engine and urges people to wait for "the real AI phone" – a reference to its upcoming flagship smartphone, the Mate 10, set to debut next month.

The short ad takes aim at Apple's Face ID feature on the new iPhone X, and uses a jaunty clown emoji animation on a smartphone display to imply that unlocking the device using facial authentication is prone to failure.


The tagline accompanying the ad reads, "Let's face it, facial recognition isn't for everyone. Unlock the future with #TheRealAIPhone. 16.10.2017". Apple famously had to defend itself against doubts about Face ID after a live onstage demo of the technology appeared to backfire.

As reported previously, Huawei's Mate 10 is the first phone in the company's line-up to feature the Kirin 970 AI mobile chipset, which has a built-in neural processing unit that utilizes machine learning, making it "20 times faster" than a traditional processor, according to the company.

The Kirin 970 is based on the same 10-nanometer technology as Apple's latest A11 Bionic processor found in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. Like the A11, the new Huawei chip is also said to be more energy efficient, especially when it comes to handling AI-related functions such as image and voice recognition.

Huawei surpassed Apple’s global smartphone sales for the first time in June and July, according to analysis by consulting firm Counterpoint Research, overtaking the U.S. tech giant as the world's second biggest smartphone brand. This appears to have boosted the Chinese mobile maker's confidence that its Mate 10 is the genuine frontrunner to rival Apple's $999 smartphone, particularly in a Chinese market dominated by inexpensive, high-spec alternatives.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Tags: China, Huawei

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Chinese Firm Didi Now Accepts Apple Pay Across its Ride-Hailing Services

Chinese ride-hailing company Didi has added Apple Pay as a payment option to the full range of its personal mobility services (via TechCrunch).

Apple's mobile payment platform can now be used to fund Didi Express, Didi Luxe, Didi Premier, and ofo, a partner bicycle rental service embedded into the main Didi app.

Image via Technode

Support of the digital wallet adds another Apple feature to the Didi service, with customers already able to use Siri to hail a ride and book one from within the Maps app and on their Apple Watch.

In addition to Apple Pay support, the company is also adding an English language service for Didi Luxe to offer luxury limousine services through the ride-hailing platform. Didi Luxe operates in Beijing and is expected to arrive in Shanghai in the next few months.

Last year, Apple made a much-publicized $1 billion investment in Didi, earning it a place on the company's board, so the gradual inclusion of Apple services is to be expected.

The further support of Apple Pay also comes at a good time for Apple, which is seeking to boost use of the mobile payment platform in China and fend off popular rivals like Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tags: China, Didi Chuxing

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