China Orders Apple to Remove WhatsApp, Threads, Signal, and Telegram From Chinese App Store

Aaron Tilley, Liza Lin, and Jeff Horwitz, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads as well as messaging platforms Signal and Telegram were taken off the Chinese App Store Friday. Apple said it was told to remove certain apps because of national security concerns, without specifying which.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” an Apple spokesperson said.

These messaging apps, which allow users to exchange messages and share files individually and in large groups, combined have around three billion users globally. They can only be accessed in China through virtual private networks that take users outside China’s Great Firewall, but are still commonly used.

I’m surprised any of these apps had been available in China until now. Two questions:

  • Are these apps still on the iPhones of Chinese people who already had them installed? I don’t recall Apple ever using the kill switch that revokes the developer signing for already-installed copies of apps pulled from the App Store. E.g., iGBA, the rip-off Nintendo emulator that briefly rocketed to the top of the charts last weekend — pulled from the App Store early this week, but if you installed it while it was available, you can still use it.

  • Do Android phones in China offer sideloading?

Update: The answer re: sideloading is yes, and both Signal and WhatsApp offer direct downloads of their latest Android builds.

Friday, 19 April 2024