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Russia is reported by Hungarian media to be arranging for black import of the new iPhones on a governmental scale.

Why does Apple not set the new OS up so that it would brick on its own if someone is using it, say, more than 90 days (plus some emergency times if needed) so that Russia couldn’t evade the corporate sanctions?

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    People generally don't like it when technology companies put backdoors to control their products, and they especially don't like it when they make it obvious that they do this. Also, the Russian government has more than enough technical knowledge to block operating system updates and spoof geolocations, so such techniques would likely be ineffective.
    – Obie 2.0
    Sep 9 at 6:00
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    Most likely because they are not legally required to do so. This is more a question about the actions of a corporation that about government and policies.
    – SJuan76
    Sep 9 at 7:05
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    Please give the source at least in Hungarian.
    – Stančikas
    Sep 9 at 7:26
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    Western businesses unlike western political elites don't tend to be russophobic and willing to burn money when they don't have to. They do comply with sanctions and sometimes with demands of angry mob, but why do anything apart from that?
    – kandi
    Sep 9 at 7:33
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    From a purely economic perspective, that would be a feature that reduces the usefullness and the market value of the product, and incurs a cost (maintenance of that geofencing code). From a technical perspective, as politics changes even faster than electronic devices become obsolete, you'd need a way to update the definitions of the blocked areas that cannot easily be manipulated by state actors, so implementation would not be as cheap/easy as this might sound at first.
    – Hulk
    Sep 9 at 8:34

2 Answers 2

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You are talking about Parallel Import, I believe. This is not a "black import."

Apple, of course, can block devices without new OS. There are many such cases. For example, an iPhone owner can lock their device if it has been stolen. Apple also locks devices stolen from markets. In terms of why Apple won't do this, there are many possible reasons.

  1. Loss of market. Russia is a big market for Apple. Therefore, it can formally follow the sanctions, but still continue to sell products. In addition, blocking devices could affect other markets, such as China.

  2. Politics changes, but costs do not. Therefore, this action will be a burnt bridge for Apple.

  3. Technical problems. How can you tell if a phone is Russian? By geolocation? But that could affect a non-Russian citizen who currently lives in Russia. By language? But many other countries use Russian, including Ukraine.

  4. Blocked devices are useless, but unblocked ones can collect useful information. I wouldn't be surprised if iPhones were used for espionage purposes.

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    There's also the question of what happens when war ends and sanctions are lifted. The firmware could be updated, but are bricked phones capable of receiving updates? And as you say, if e.g. Ukrainian or other international negotiators fly to Russia they might want their iPhones to work.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 9 at 10:47
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Usual trade restrictions are seen as sufficient, one another leaked device is seen as OK and will show how good the sanctioned devices are. GPS based geofencing is overkill.

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