Besieged by spam calls and messages, Indian smartphone users have waited years for Apple to allow a government-developed spam-fighting solution onto iPhones. Now India’s government is giving Apple and its carrier partners a January 2019 deadline for compliance with a new anti-spam regulation, or else iPhones will be blocked from the country’s cellular networks.
As India Today reports, Indian telecom regulatory agency TRAI has spent years dealing with smartphone spam complaints, going so far as to self-develop an app called Do Not Disturb (DND) to stop spammers. But while Google permitted the DND app to be downloaded from the Google Play Store starting in 2016, Apple has refused to allow it into the iOS App Store on privacy grounds, as it accesses a user’s call and message records.
Now TRAI is requiring that all Indian telecom companies enable all smartphone users in the country to install the latest version of DND, called DND 2.0, on their Android or iPhone devices. A new regulation published yesterday sets a six-month deadline for implementation, which would be Saturday, January 19, 2019, and requires telecoms to “derecognize” non-conforming devices from their networks at that point.
Apple looked to be moving forward on the issue over the last year, though it apparently wasn’t willing to accept the Indian government’s earlier demands without pushback. The Indian edition of the Huffington Post says that Apple agreed to cooperate with TRAI on building the DND app last October, but wouldn’t share call and message logs.
In June, Apple debuted iOS 12 with the ability to report unwanted calls and text messages from within the Phone and Messages apps, but the feature — dubbed “Unwanted Communication” — doesn’t appear to be active in iOS 12 betas. It may be included and exclusive to India and TRAI, but if that were the case, TRAI probably wouldn’t have issued a new regulation.
Given Apple’s public statements that it complies with the laws of every country where it does business, it’s fair to assume that it will work quickly with Indian authorities to implement the spam filter and avoid the ban. Doing so might even benefit the company’s iPhone business, which has reportedly stagnated over the past year due to cultural and leadership issues, despite Apple’s efforts to build local factories and reduce iPhone prices within the country. Three top Apple India executives reportedly quit in the past week for reasons unknown.
Indian customers are said to receive a daily average of between five and ten spam calls and as many messages. If Android users have access to the DND app and iPhone users do not, Apple might inadvertently be giving spammers the upper hand with its users, undermining the “premium experience” generally marketed for its devices.