Apple’s App Store mysteriously went dark in Iran yesterday

Enlarge / Tehran, the capital city of Iran. (credit: A.Davey via Creative Commons)

Yesterday, users in Iran lost access to Apple’s App Store. When users attempted to connect or download apps, they received a message saying that the App Store was “unavailable in the country or region” in which they resided. The cessation of services began around noon GMT yesterday, and services resumed around 5:00am GMT this morning, according to social media posts and sources who spoke with Bleeping Computer. A virtual private network (VPN) could still reach the App Store normally.

Media coverage and social media posts were quick to speculate that the store’s downtime was an Apple-imposed ban driven by US economic sanctions against Iran, as Apple is based in the US. However, we are not yet aware of evidence to support this. An accidental outage is also possible, as is a block imposed by Iran’s government—Iran has previously blocked the Google Play store, though that block was later lifted. Apple has not responded to our requests for clarification.

Because of US sanctions, Apple has no formal presence or operation in Iran, and its App Store is not officially supported there. The company does not sell phones there, nor does it work with any vendors that do. It nevertheless had an 11-percent market share in the country as of last year, as Iranians have purchased millions of iPhones smuggled in from other countries. Iranian app developers have published apps to the App Store for use by Iranian iPhone owners.

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