April 1st may have been April Fool’s Day joke, but it wasn’t a joke for Russia when it passed its law requiring all domestic smart devices to be pre-installed with Russian apps. The law was first passed in 2019 to help Russia’s own software company gain a foothold on popular devices like iPhones and the best Android phones. It was originally supposed to come into force in July 2020, but has been pushed back.
What does that mean? For iPhones, this means that setting up a new smartphone requires an additional step that gives users a list of locally created apps to download:
For Android phones sold in Russia, the process is likely to be similar, as Android devices usually offer a list of apps that can be installed upon activation. Up to 16 apps (via Vedomosti) will come pre-installed on new phones manufactured after April 1st, although this may depend on how OEMs operate. Some manufacturers such as Huawei are already pre-installing Russian apps in the country on devices such as the Huawei P40 Pro Plus. Still, the new bill, dubbed the “Law Against Apple”, has been seen as problematic for users, especially iPhone owners, as Apple typically has tighter control over its pre-installed apps.
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Fortunately, it seems like users don’t have to download these apps and are simply given the option, at least on iPhones. These are already available in the respective Android and iOS app stores, so that users can find and download them at any time if they wish. Apps like the Yandex browser and Mail.ru email client will likely benefit the most from the law, but the country will also be reviewing its selection of apps to ensure more software developers are recognized:
The ministry is not at all interested in popular apps that are on the mandatory pre-installation list taking a dominant position. When alternatives appear on the market, prove interesting to users and quickly gain popularity, they will be included in this selection and also offered for pre-installation.
The new Russian law hopes to put its apps in the spotlight to reduce reliance on foreign software while tightening control over the internet. This also applies to tablets, desktops and smart TVs that are sold in the country.