April 1 may have been April Fools Day, but it was no joke for Russia as it moved to enact its law forcing all domestic smart devices to come preinstalled with Russian apps. The law was first passed in 2019 as an effort to help Russia’s own software companies gain more traction on popular devices like iPhones and the best Android phones. It was initially scheduled to go into effect in July of 2020 but was pushed back.
So what does this mean? For iPhones it means that setting up a new smartphone will require an extra step, offering users a list of locally-made apps to download:
The process is likely to be similar for Android phones sold in Russia since Android devices usually offer a list of apps to install upon activation. As many as 16 apps (via Vedomosti) will come preinstalled on new phones produced after April 1, although it could depend on how OEMs choose to proceed. Some manufacturers, like Huawei, already preinstall Russian apps in the country on devices like the Huawei P40 Pro Plus. Still, the new bill, which has been dubbed “the law against Apple,” has been seen as problematic for users, especially iPhone owners, given that Apple normally has tighter control over its preinstalled apps.
Fortunately, it seems as if users are not required to download these apps and are simply presented with the option, at least on iPhones. These are already present in the respective Android and iOS app stores, so users can always find and download them after-the-fact if they choose. Apps like the Yandex browser and the Mail.ru email client are likely to benefit the most from the law, but the country will also review its selection of apps to ensure more software developers are given recognition:
The Ministry is not at all interested in seeing popular apps included in the mandatory pre-installation list take dominant positions. If alternatives emerge on the market, prove interesting to users and gain popularity quickly, they will be included in this selection and also offered for pre-installation.
The new Russian law hopes to put its apps front-and-center to lessen its dependence on foreign software while also tightening its control over the internet. It will additionally affect tablets, desktops, and smart TVs sold in the country.