Were you unable to attend Transform 2022? Check out all of the summit sessions in our on-demand library now! Watch here.

As we reported earlier this week, the Apple News app within the latest iOS 9 operating system is not accessible in China, stirring up some controversy. Although Apple has never officially introduced this English-only app to China, it blocks its use for those who have registered in the U.S. and attempt to activate in China. The move has aroused concerns that the U.S. company is quick to appease the Chinese government’s controversial censorship policies.

Apple still hasn’t commented publicly on what motivated the subtle move, but China’s history of distrusting foreign media, disabling VPNs, and maintaining a formidable firewall make political reasons a viable guess. Even though the app is not core to Apple’s product, the move is significant as a concession to Chinese restrictions.

But what about the rest of Apple’s services in China? Let’s turn the page back to look at some “exclusive” features that Chinese iPhone users do and don’t get compared to Apple’s other markets.

1. App Store

屏幕快照 2015-10-12 上午8.17.40 Apple has a region lock policy for the App Store, meaning that China has a specific store, like many other countries. However, the region you are in only depends on the App Store where your Apple ID registered, and unlike the Apple News app, users can register to any country’s App Store without providing a local credit card. Therefore, Chinese users can log in to the U.S. app store in China and grab apps that don’t exist in the Chinese store (there are a lot!) once they’ve topped up their account. However, registering in the U.S. store means they lose the ability to download China-only apps like Xiami Music or Buka Manga.

How to enable this in China? Log out of your current Apple ID and find the nation icon at the bottom right of the app store inside the iTunes, tap on any free apps, and create a new account in the popup window.

Is this political? Yes and no. Apple has its universal rules in terms of the contents and functions in an app, and for the most part the absent apps have conditional copyright permission or the owners have some regional business strategies. Some apps (like browsers) built with VPN functionality are rejected from Chinese App Store, however, because it violates local law, which is politically motivated.

2. Facetime/Facetime Audio

屏幕快照 2015-10-12 上午8.30.17 屏幕快照 2015-10-13 下午7.39.23 When iPhones have been shipped globally, some countries have forbidden Facetime to protect the profit of local carriers. That’s absolutely the case for China’s big three telecom companies. Consumers not only can’t find the audio function on their China model iPhones, but they also can’t receive Facetime calls from non-China models. Despite this, Facetime video works fine. My guess is that voice calling takes less bandwidth, while video calling can drive the consumption of the carrier’s data.

How to enable this in China? Jailbreak your phone and search Facetime Audio Enabler in Cydia.

3. Beats 1 radio station


屏幕快照 2015-10-13 下午8.10.29

So it is not literally worldwide

Apple Music! The exciting music-streaming service that kept Chinese consumers waiting too long is finally live here on Apple devices. But if you tap on the Radio tab inside the app, the Beats 1 radio station is missing. When I switch back to my primary U.S. account and try to connect this live streaming radio, a 403 error appears. Beats 1 is a key part of Apple Music, but sadly, not a China option.

How to enable this in China? Use a U.S. account as well as a VPN.

4. Apple Pay


The translation indicates Pay is ready. Not quite.

Apple Pay is coming, but has not yet to come to China fully at this point. Users from Weiphone.com have opened the Apple Pay settings page by changing the default location to the U.S. inside the phone, but cannot add any cards to it.

How to enable this in China? There is no way — you have to wait.

5. China-only keyboard? Not anymore

1382003623 In the iOS 7 and iOS 8 age, a special keyboard named 10-key Pinyin keyboard was bonded to only iPhones sold in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Before this official release, many local customers jailbroke their iPhone to implement a third party of this kind of pinyin input method, which was welcomed by many middle-aged iPhone users. At first, this was specifically designed for China and Hong Kong users, but in iOS 9 it has become universal.

How to enable this in China? Jailbreak and edit /private/var/mobile/Library/Caches/com.apple.MobileGestalt.plist or Update to iOS 9.

6. Not only in China…

Another famous region only features in iPhone include the non-removable shutter sound within the camera app. In Japan and Korea, the clicky shutter sound can’t be reduced or muted because of the disturbing trend of snapping photos up girls’ skirts in the bus or metro. To protect potential victims, iPhone and other phone companies modify their products, voluntarily, to make the sound audible. Strange, huh?

How to disable this in Japan/Korea? Taig, the Jailbreak Tool, has a built-in option to remove the shutter sound when jailbreaking. Though we don’t recommend taking photos up people’s skirts.

So what about Apple News?

The way to enable Apple News on an iPhone is quite complex compared to all other hidden functions. First you have to change the location to U.S., turn on airplane mode, then turn on WiFi and VPN, and fingers crossed you may get lucky. I also tried to enable the News on an iPad with location detection on and it works well under the VPN network without opening the airplane mode. So my guess is that Apple uses carrier information to target the real location when restricting the device.

This is the first time Apple has used the cellular network to detect real location, which means I have to “silence” my phone to read the News, which is definitely not ideal for casual usage.

This story originally appeared on TechNode. Copyright 2015

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.