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Report: China Steps Up Nationwide Ban on iPhones

China is reportedly widening its ban on the use of Apple’s iPhone by government employees.

According to a Friday (Dec. 15) report by Bloomberg News, an increasing number of government agencies and state-owned businesses have instructed workers to cease bringing iPhones and other foreign devices to work. 

Sources tell Bloomberg that multiple agencies and businesses in at least eight provinces have told staff to begin carrying local devices, a significant increase over the handful of government agencies that were following the ban in September.

The report said this widening effort coincides with a boom in popularity of the Chinese mobile phone brand Huawei. PYMNTS has contacted Apple for comment but has not yet gotten a reply.

Plans for the ban were first reported in September, followed by the news weeks later that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology had issued new rules that could block Apple from offering many foreign apps on its iPhone app store in the country.

The rules aren’t specifically targeted toward Apple, but rather are part of China’s ongoing efforts to enhance data-security regulations.

“The latest move aims to close a loophole in the Great Firewall — China’s strict internet regulations — which allows Chinese iPhone users to download popular Western social media apps through virtual private networks,” PYMNTS wrote.

The crackdown could cost Apple revenue in the world’s largest mobile market at a time when iPhone sales have been lagging historical trends, with reports that although there has been healthy demand for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, sales for the iPhone 15 and Plus have been slower, with store inventories of those devices higher they were last year for the iPhone 14.

On the company’s quarterly earnings call last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook sought to ease concerns about the tech giant losing market share in China to competitors like Huawei, noting that the iPhone 15 models achieved a quarterly record for sales in mainland China during the September quarter.

Cook also visited China in October, meeting with Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, who assured him that the country would continue to expand market access for foreign companies and foster a market-oriented business environment.