Apple Agrees to Help India With Anti-Spam App After Initially Refusing Due to Privacy Concerns

Apple has agreed to help the Indian government develop an anti-spam app for iOS devices, after initially refusing to do so because of privacy concerns, according to Reuters.

In early September we reported that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) attempted to get its Do Not Disturb (DND) software on the App Store. The app lets users share spam call and text message logs with the agency, which then sends the data to mobile operators for them to block the spammers.

Apple originally told regulators that the DND app violates its privacy policy, however today's report suggests the tech giant has had a change of heart.
Facing public criticism from the regulator, Apple executives flew to New Delhi last month and told officials the company would help develop the app, but only with limited capabilities, according to a government official aware of the matter.

Apple's executives have told India that its current iOS platform might not allow for some of the government's requests, such as making call logs available within the app that would allow users to report them as spam, the official said.
According to Indian officials, Apple has offered to help develop an app that can solve the regulator's requirements "to an extent".

Meanwhile, an Apple spokesman has confirmed that the new iOS features to combat spam text messages would help the government build the app, but he didn't comment on the app's potential inability to access call logs for reporting spam. The spokesman also underlined the fact that Apple had not changed its stance on privacy.

Marketing cold calls and unsolicited commercial text messages have become a big problem in India. Mobile users have the option to register themselves under a "do not disturb" service to block marketers, but businesses have gamed the system by using multiple phone numbers for promotions, according to Reuters. TRAI's Do Not Disturb app has been available on Android since last year and has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Before the app launches, it asks the user to allow it access to contacts and view text messages. Users can then start reporting numbers as spam. This kind of access has evidently concerned Apple. "The app can peep into logs, Apple had conveyed that their (privacy) policy does not allow this," said a cited industry source familiar with the matter. Those concerns prompted Apple to ask for talks with state regulators, but the proposal has apparently frustrated officials.
"The whole exercise in organizing the proposed meeting would be a waste of resources ... please share concrete solutions that have a likelihood of addressing the issues we have been discussing over the past one year," the regulator wrote in September.
Later the same month, Apple told TRAI it had identified potential solutions, but that it would need to have further discussions with the regulator's technical staff. Those discussions are said to have taken place in October, with Apple subsequently confirming that it would help develop the first version of the app with limited features.

Apple has been in talks with the Indian government to open retail stores and to gain permission to sell used iPhones imported into the country. The company is also seeking economic concessions including tax breaks as it sets up local manufacturing plants there, but those efforts could have been negatively impacted by Apple's refusal to approve the anti-spam software.

Tag: India

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Apple Supplier Looks Set to Expand iPhone Assembly Facilities in India

Apple's main iPhone assembler in India is scouting for additional land in Bangalore to expand its existing facilities, according to a new report today by Bloomberg.

Wistron executives reportedly toured the city last week and have shortlisted plots covering around 100 acres, including one plot close to the airport. The Taiwanese manufacturer may use the planned facilities to supply other brands, too, but Wistron has so far kept shtum on the matter.


Wistron began making the iPhone SE in India in May of this year. Since that time, Apple has been seeking exemptions from the country's government that will allow it to set up more units to assemble iPhones. The company has asked state officials for a range of tax and policy changes to help build out its iPhone assembly infrastructure in India, and today's report suggests that it may have gotten its way.

India recently ousted the U.S. to become the world's second largest smartphone market after China, according to market research conducted by industry analyst Canalys. However, Apple has so far struggled to make a significant dent, mainly because its smartphones are so much more expensive than rivals such as Oppo and Xiaomi. But also because the government levies tariffs on devices manufactured outside the country, hence Apple's eagerness to assemble more iPhones there.

During Apple's earnings call last week, CEO Tim Cook said the company has "great momentum in India, where revenue doubled year over year". But he also said that to gain ground, Apple would have to work on many fronts.

"It's building stores. It's building channels. It's building markets. It's building the developer ecosystem," said Cook. "It's having the right product lineup for the market. And I feel like we're making good progress there and are gaining understanding of the market, but we still have a long way to go."

Related Roundup: iPhone SE
Tag: India
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Caution)

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India Ousts U.S. to Become World’s Second Biggest Smartphone Market

India has ousted the U.S. to become the world's second largest smartphone market after China, according to a new market research report on Thursday.

Figures aggregated by industry analyst Canalys show smartphone shipments in India in the third quarter of this year rose above 40 million units for the first time, representing 23 percent annual growth.

"This growth comes as a relief to the smartphone industry. Doubts about India’s market potential are clearly dispelled by this result," said Canalys Research Analyst Ishan Dutt. "There are close to 100 mobile device brands sold in India, with more vendors arriving every quarter. In addition, India has one of the most complex channel landscapes, but with low barriers to entry. Growth will continue. Low smartphone penetration and the explosion of LTE are the main drivers."
Samsung and Xiaomi, which shipped 9.4 million and 9.2 million units respectively, accounted for almost half of the total market, with Xiaomi expected to overtake Samsung if things continue. Meanwhile, Chinese trio Vivo, Oppo, and Lenovo also posted strong sales in Q3 2017.

Apple's sales, which were too low to make the chart, still indicated impressive growth, with iPhone shipments more than doubling to 900,000 units compared to Q3 2016. However, the relatively high price of iPhones has so far meant smaller adoption rates despite the introduction of lower-priced devices and discounted older models.

It's also worth considering that Apple only began local production in India earlier this year, while the Indian government has been mulling tax and policy exemptions sought by Apple for setting up more facilities to assemble iPhones.

Apple currently assembles iPhones at plants run by supplier Wistron, thereby satisfying India's requirement that 30 percent of products sold by foreign companies be manufactured or produced within the country. Apple also wants to open its first physical retail store in India as early as 2018, and the company is reportedly looking to open four to five flagship-class stores in the country over the next five to ten years.

Meanwhile, China remains the biggest smartphone market by some margin, with more than 110 million shipments per quarter.

Tag: India

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Eddy Cue Says He ‘Disagrees Vehemently’ With Those Who Believe Apple’s Pace of Innovation Has Slowed

Just over a decade after the iPhone launched, and six years after Steve Jobs passed, some critics believe that Apple's pace of innovation has slowed. Unsurprisingly, Apple's services chief Eddy Cue doesn't share that opinion.


"I disagree vehemently with that and I think we've been incredibly innovative," said Cue, in a recent interview with Indian publication Livemint.

Cue pointed out that both the iPad and Apple Watch launched after the iPhone, while noting that revolutionary products take time. He also believes that Apple's work on Mac, macOS, and iOS has led the market.
Apple historically has a track record of coming out with industry-defining products, whether it's the Mac or iPhone or iPod. But over the past decade, there's a been perception that the pace of innovation and the pace at which Apple has come out with game-changing, breakthrough products has slowed somewhat. What do you have to say about that?

No way! First of all, the iPhone is 10 years old. That is the last decade. The iPad came after that and the Watch came after that. So, I disagree vehemently with that and I think we’ve been incredibly innovative. That doesn’t even take into account the work that has been done on the Mac, iOS and MacOS, from that standpoint where I think we’ve led the market. When you think of the products that we’ve built over time, you own a lot of them. And you just assume that every year was a new product. But it wasn’t. You can’t do revolutionary new products, every two months or six months or whatever. They take time.
The rest of the interview was primarily focused on Apple's roadmap for India, which Cue described as a "very long-term opportunity."

Cue said Apple is focused on three areas in India, including the App Store, Apple Maps, and a bundle of other services such as iCloud and Apple Music. Of note, he said Apple is "working on" bringing Apple Pay to India.
The digital payments business is widely being seen as the biggest battleground in India now and in the near future. What are Apple's plans on that front?

Our head of Apple Pay, Jennifer Bailey, is here with me. And Apple Pay is something that we definitely want in India. The challenge with payment mechanisms is that there isn't really a lot of global scale. You deal with individual markets at a time … but India is one of those markets where we hope to bring Apple Pay to.
Cue said Apple doesn't have an exact launch date to announce for Apple Pay in India at this point since it's not "a 100 percent" yet.

In the full-length interview, Cue also reflects upon the leadership styles of past and present Apple CEOs Tim Cook and Steve Jobs, and on Apple's increasing efforts to produce original content.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay

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Apple Opening Two Mac Labs in India That Will Teach Students How to Create Music Using Logic Pro X

Apple today announced it will be opening two so-called "Mac Labs" at the KM Music Conservatory's campuses in the Indian cities of Chennai and Mumbai. The labs will teach students how to create music using Logic Pro X.


Apple also said it will fund 10 full time musical scholarships at the learning institution for students from underprivileged backgrounds.


Apple's services chief Eddy Cue traveled to Mumbai this week, where he announced the news in person alongside A.R. Rahman, an Oscar-winning composer, producer, musician, and founder of the KM Music Conservatory.
"It's an honour to be in Mumbai and I am humbled to be in the presence of the talented A.R. Rahman to make this announcement together," said Cue. "Apple Music and the KM Music Conservatory share a deep love in discovering, sharing and nurturing musical talent and we're proud to be supporting such an institution that is investing in the future arts and music community."
The A.R. Rahman Foundation founded the KM Music Conservatory in 2008. The higher education institution offers a range of part-time and full-time courses in Western and Indian classical music and audio technology.


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India Considering Exemptions Sought by Apple for Stores and Assembly Plants

The Indian government is now in the process of considering exemptions sought by Apple for setting up more units to assemble iPhones, according to a top bureaucrat in the country's commerce and industry ministry (via Reuters).

The news came shortly after India's Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) gave Chinese smartphone maker Oppo clearance to open its own single-brand retail stores in the country, suggesting Apple has a good chance of gaining approval for its own state requests.


The Oppo decision is also positive for companies like Xiaomi and Vivo, which have been trying to get similar approvals, according to Counterpoint Research.

Apple has asked federal government officials for a range of tax and policy changes to help build out its iPhone assembly infrastructure in India.

Apple officially began assembling iPhones in May at plants run by supplier Wistron, thereby satisfying India's requirement that 30 percent of products sold by foreign companies be manufactured or produced within the country.

The phones have been available to buy in reseller stores since around June. Apple's website in India currently has a "Where to Buy" page for all iPhone models, directing users to resellers Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone.

Like Oppo, Apple is also seeking permission to open its own retail stores in India. Apple wants to open its first physical retail store in India as early as 2018, and the company is reportedly looking to open four to five flagship-class stores in the country over the next five to ten years.

Tag: India

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Google Launches ‘Tez’ Mobile Payments Service in India for Android and iOS

Google today launched a new mobile payment app in India that allows users to connect their bank accounts directly to the service and employs ultrasound technology in lieu of an NFC chip to transfer money between devices.

Called Tez (Hindi for "fast"), Google's new payment platform links customers' bank accounts to Android and iOS via the Unified Payment Interface (UPI), a state-backed payments system. Google has partnered with State Bank of India, the country's biggest lender, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, and Axis Bank, with 55 banks in total said to be supporting the service across India.


Tez uses a technology called audio QR that allows mobile users to transfer cash between devices using an inaudible ultrasonic frequency to identify the payer and payee. The system works with any mobile device with a mic and speaker and the Tez app installed, and therefore doesn't require an NFC chip.

India is home to 300 million smartphone users, but most handsets in the country don't feature NFC, so Google's audio QR solution is being marketed as a secure mainstream alternative. Apart from typical mobile transactions to pay for everyday items, Google says small businesses can also use the app to accept payments into their bank accounts, with payments from mobile merchants supported, too.


According to Bloomberg, digital transactions have surged after the Indian Government banned high-value cash notes in 2016. Tez is available on both Android and iOS, and Google plans to release the app in other emerging countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. Apple has yet to launch Apple Pay in any of the aforementioned countries and is still negotiating with the Indian government about bringing its own mobile payment system to the country. Apple Pay Cash, Apple's peer-to-peer mobile payment feature, is set to launch in the U.S. with the official release iOS 11 this month.

Tags: Google, India, Tez

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Apple Risks Ire of Indian Government Over Refusal to Approve State’s Anti-Spam App

Apple's refusal to approve the Indian government's anti-spam iPhone app has infuriated state regulators, which could work against the company's efforts to increase its market share in the country, a report on Wednesday revealed.

According to Bloomberg, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has so far been unable to get its Do Not Disturb (DND) software on the App Store. The app allows people to share spam call and text message logs with the agency, which then sends the data to mobile operators for them to block the spammers. However, Apple has told regulators that the app violates its privacy policy.
“Nobody's asking Apple to violate its privacy policy," said Ram Sewak Sharma, chairman of the Delhi-based telecom regulator. "It is a ridiculous situation, no company can be allowed to be the guardian of a user's data."

The regulator is currently seeking public and stakeholder comments on a consultative paper on users’ control over their personal information and rules on the flow of data through telecommunications networks. The process, scheduled to be completed in September, could eventually lead to new rules governing user data. That could also become part of the telecom licensing process, Sharma said.
Apple has been in talks with the Indian government to open retail stores and to gain permission to sell used iPhones imported into the country. The company is also seeking economic concessions including tax breaks as it sets up local manufacturing plants there, but those efforts could be negatively impacted by Apple's refusal to approve the anti-spam software.

In 2016, Apple shipped 2.5 million iPhones in India, and this year one of its suppliers began assembling a limited number of iPhones in Bangalore. So far, India's government has declined Apple's request to import used iPhones and has yet to respond to the company's other demands.

Half a dozen meetings with Apple have reportedly failed to resolve the standoff over the anti-spam app. While Apple's privacy policy allows it to share user data with affiliates and strategic partners, Sharma said the Indian government's Do Not Disturb app only requires a limited, pre-approved level of data sharing. However, Apple's policy states that sharing data with any other entity isn't permitted.

"The problem of who controls user data is getting acute and we have to plug the loose ends," Sharma said. "This is not the regulator versus Apple, but Apple versus its own users."

Tag: India

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Indian Movie Company Eros Group Reportedly in Talks With Apple and Others to Sell Media Library

Eros Group, a movie production company based in India, is said to be looking at potentially selling its entire media library to Apple, further boosting the Cupertino company's foothold in the Indian smartphone and entertainment markets. The $1 billion deal is said to also include interest from companies like Amazon and Netflix as potential competitors to win Eros Group's library of films and music.

Still, nothing at this time is confirmed. The talks are in "very early stages," according to a source who spoke to Reuters, and even market watchers looking at the deal believe that the $1 billion estimation will be "substantially lower" if any agreement is made. When asked for a comment by Reuters, Eros Group didn't respond, and Apple said it does not comment on speculation, which is its usual response for such stories.

Apple CEO Tim Cook meeting with Indian PM Narendra Modi in 2016

The back catalogue of Eros Group's media library includes 3,000 films, many of which are major movies from Bollywood and are believed to help any streaming partner boost its presence in India. Eros Group reportedly began looking for a company to sell its library to about six months ago, including previous attempts to work out deals with Sony, Star, Viacom, and Zee.

Apple has recently gained a stronger foothold in India through the beginning of production on the first-ever iPhone devices assembled in the country, related to an iPhone SE plant in Bangalore. Aimed at consumers looking for cheaper devices, Apple's made in India iPhone SE smartphones began appearing at retailers in June, although at the time there had yet to be any price cut. If the company wins the deal with Eros Group -- potentially making iOS devices the exclusive home of Eros Group's film and music content -- it could be a way for Apple to convince more Indian customers to purchase iPhones.

Tag: India

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First Run of ‘Assembled in India’ iPhone SE Models Appear in Bangalore

The first iPhone SE devices that have been made in India are beginning to circulate around Bangalore, according to a report today by The Indian Express. The site noted that it's still hard to come by an iPhone SE with "Assembled in India" on its back, because Apple has kicked off its Indian iPhone production with just a small trial run of limited units.

Image via The Indian Express

The India-made iPhone SE models are mostly appearing in Bangalore, which is expected since that's where Apple's assembly plant is located. Apple officially began assembling iPhones in India in the middle of May, with sources predicting that retail outlets would get the first shipments over the next few weeks.

The handsets have been assembled by Apple supplier Wistron, and Apple's plans for local production of iPhone devices began as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" initiative last year. This past weekend, PM Nodi met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and a collection of other tech CEOs to discuss the Indian government's attempts to improve the country's business climate and convince American-based companies to extend manufacturing into India.

Unfortunately, the iPhone SE hasn't seen a price reduction yet in the country, despite Apple's local manufacturing goals finally being realized after so long, which the company hopes will eventually lead to lower-priced devices. The Bangalore-made iPhone SE models are said to be "priced the same as other models manufactured in China," and it's unclear when such a price reduction might come to the iPhone SE models made and sold in India.

Related Roundup: iPhone SE
Tag: India
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Caution)

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