Trump’s executive order could spark an iPhone exodus in China because Apple would be forced to pull WeChat —one of the most popular apps in the country— from the iOS app store.
President Trump’s executive order targeting Chinese messaging app WeChat risks creating a major unintended victim: Apple.
US users may have never heard of WeChat, but the app is a must-have for hundreds of millions people in China. It’s basically a chat service, social media hub, and mobile payment platform all rolled into one.
So imagine if your iPhone could no longer update or install it. Well, suddenly your snazzy smartphone has lost a popular way to chat with family, read about friends, and even pay the bills.
Trump’s executive order risks doing just that for millions of iPhone owners in China. 45 days from now, the White House can begin punishing US companies and individuals for making “transactions” that are related to WeChat. That means Apple will likely need to pull the product from the iOS app store — the only place iPhone owners can install the app (unless you jailbreak the device.)
“For Apple, it would be all iPhone sales in China will go to zero because no one in China will buy a WeChatless phone,” tweeted podcaster Carl Zha.
sideload the WeChat app on to a smartphone, negating the need to go through the company’s official app store, Google Play, (which is already banned in China.)
As a result, Trump’s executive order could spark an eventual iPhone exodus in China, pushing users to adopt Android phones from Chinese vendors such as Huawei, which the US has been trying to cripple.
Whether Apple will follow Trump’s executive order or protest it remains unclear. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But violating the order risks penalizing Apple and company executives with $1 million fines and potential jail time.
Still, some legal experts say Trump’s executive orders to ban WeChat violates the US’s First Amendment on free speech protections.
“Trump’s executive orders against WeChat and TikTok are yet another abuse of emergency powers under the broad guise of national security,” said the American Civil Liberties Union. “They would violate the First Amendment rights of users in the US who use these apps to communicate with family, friends, or business contacts.”
It’s also possible the Trump administration will create an exemption for Apple on the WeChat ban. The US Commerce Department has 45 days to identify which transactions will fall under the order. However, US Secretary fo State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday it’s precisely the Trump administration’s goal to remove “untrusted” Chinese apps from US app stores.
The Chinese tech giant Tencent, which owns WeChat, is still reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding, and so provided no comment.
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