PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

Microsoft Mandates iPhones-Only Rule for Workers in China

Microsoft is requiring staff in China to use iPhones for work starting in September.

The measure essentially bans Android-powered devices for these workers and is part of Microsoft’s Secure Future Initiative, designed to make sure all employees use the Microsoft Authenticator password manager and Identity Pass app, Bloomberg reported Monday (July 8).

Microsoft will require its hundreds of employees based in China to use only Apple devices to verify their identities when logging in to work computers or phones, the report said, citing an internal memo.

The move underscores the increasing differences between mobile ecosystems in China and other countries, per the report. For example, Apple’s iOS store is available in China, but Google’s isn’t, leaving Chinese companies like Huawei to operate their own platforms.

Microsoft decided to block access from those devices to its corporate resources as they lack Google’s mobile services in the country, according to the report. Staff members using Android devices will be provided with an iPhone 15.

The move could call renewed attention to the iPhone’s standing in China, the report said. Since last year, an increasing number of Chinese government agencies and state-owned companies have required staff to stop using iPhones at work, citing security worries.

Those same concerns led the Cyberspace Administration of China in April to order Apple to remove WhatsApp, Threads, Telegram and Signal from its App Store in China.

Apple’s place in the Chinese smartphone market has risen and fallen over the past year. The most recent reporting showed that the company ended May with 11% of the Chinese smartphone market, even as iPhone sales rose 0.9% year over year,

“While Apple bulls may note the data is backwards looking and is not likely indicative of Apple’s AI smartphone opportunity next year, we note that iPhone share loss to Huawei and other Chinese OEMs acts as a material governor on iPhone unit growth,” UBS analyst David Vogt wrote this month.

Meanwhile, last month saw a report that companies such as Google and OpenAI had begun conducting more vetting of staff and prospective hires due to concerns about Chinese espionage.