We should say no to Apple!

It seems that this time Apple is determined not to allow Iranian apps to be offered in App Store. Many apps are in review phase or totally deleted or requests for update are not accepted or no one dares to send a request so that its remained app on App Store isn’t deleted. But ios is not the only programming!


It seems that this time Apple is determined not to allow Iranian apps to be offered in App Store. Many apps are in review phase or totally deleted or requests for update are not accepted .

No one dares to send a request so that its remained app on App Store isn’t deleted. But ios is not the only programming!

Therefore Shanbe Magazine has tried to hold a meeting with the presence of Mehdi Bahrami founder of Fardad company, Milad Noori founder of Poonez startup, Ali NadaliZadeh founder of Tad Studio, Shahin Katebi one of founders of Sib and Amirhossein Nateghi developer of Quiz of Kings game to talk about the market of programming in Iran and the job situation of programmer especially the future of ios developers.

  • You work in the field of ios professionally; what was your reaction when you heard that Iranian apps are removed from App Store?

Milad: first I thought that the problem should be related to payment portals and it would be solved soon. Thus I was optimistic.

Shahin: I didn’t think that it was very serious and this problem would be solved for sure. I thought it was like problems occurred in february last year for some of software and it would be solved.

But now the apps are that had done connection with banks and payments very securely, are removed. We have sent an app to App Store and it is at review phase for a month. While in the past review phase took one week and after one or two days the app was put in App Store.

Ali: the concern of App Store about Iranian apps doesn’t go back to recent days or last six months. Its concerns started from banks. They did this to us in relation of Sibcheh2.

That is seven or eight months before they stopped enterprise system of Sibcheh2, they focused on banks and removed banks like Mellat, Saman and … in App Store.

Banks moved to our solution and we provided their required services to them. After that Apple focused on Sibcheh. But this is not specific to Iran and before Iran, China was faced with such problems.

In China they acted against other stores. After what had done to Sibcheh2, we changed our strategy; that is all developers were to put their apps on App Store and we act like facilitator for receiving app.

In other words, everyone who wants to buy an Iranian app and can’t pay in dollars, pays in Rials automatically. Sibcheh offers secure purchase but Apple may stop it.

Besides Sibcheh, we have Tad gaming studio. One of our games has been in review phase for two weeks and although no one can recognize it as an Iranian game, it is clear that it wants to work in the Middle East.

Amirhossein: we have the game of Quiz of Kings. We have waited to see what will happen to other apps and we didn’t dare to send the update of the game to App Store because it may be deleted.

Although only 10 percent of our users are ios, but one fifth of our income is from ios version and its deletion from App Store creates a big risk for our business but we aren’t optimistic.

Mehdi: Apple hasn’t only focused on apps related to Iranian business. I have a friend in one of Apple companies and he said to me that Apple fears that people in Iranian business may be on the list of America’s sanctions.

That is it isn’t only related to software sanction of Iran and the main reason is those who gain profit from those businesses. Now Apple deletes all free and paid apps and services.

The situation of our own application is not clear after seven days in review phase and although we had many correspondences that it doesn’t have anything to do with Iran.

Even we don’t send update version of startups with which we work although their updated version is ready because their app is on App Store and it may be deleted.

  • For how long can we stay in this standby mode and only stick to the fact that because it hasn’t deleted yet, we avoid from updating or adding new features?

Milad: we consider ourselves in standby mode but in fact we are shut down.

Shahin: we are still hopeful and thus we prefer to wait.

Amirhossein: although our product is not rejected from App Store but because its Android version is becoming updated, after a while users want the updated version of ios as well.

If we don’t update it, such an app would become dead and we would lose ios user. Thus this situation is unstable and useless.

Ali: Apple would keep the app. There are millions of apps in App Store a big part of which are not seen at all. But Apple usually deals with famous apps that are known in media outside Iran and make money.

Shahin: being Iranian from zero to 100 and having Iranian investors have affected on their deletion.

Milad: three or four years ago when we opened development account in Apple, it didn’t recognize us. But we used foreign identity.

Apple didn’t allow us to have payment portal and then we added this portal with special trends. Now when Apple sees that some Iranian apps have portals and some don’t have it and work unknown, it has deleted all.

Amirhossein: Even Apple which has more than 6 million users in Iran and gain billion dollars from them, doesn’t take risk and wants to act based on USA rules.

Shahin: Apple’s phones are being sold in this situation. Thus when it doesn’t lose its market, it can act however it wants.

Amirhossein: In long term, the market of Apple phone sales would be hurt.

Mehdi: the sanction USA would put on Apple is much more than the figure it gains from Iran market. In last three months, Apple has sold 42 million iphones across the world which is the least level of sales. Thus it can ignore 5 or 6 million Iranian users.

Amirhossein: that it keep apps in review phase can be hopeful that the situation may change because it could reject them all.

Ali: I am notified from one of my friends in Apple that about one and a half years ago Apple marketing unit was so eager to enter Iran market.

That is its market is not small and it is attractive for Apple because in Iran and Middle East, people pay much money for electronic devices. But USA sanctions and fear of banning its activities have caused them to move with caution.

  • Why has Apple taken the lead to sanction Iranian apps and services and is more aligned with Trump’s policies in your opinion?

Ali: these sanctions are not specific to Apple. We participated in a festival named imga in the Middle East one month ago which was for independent games.

16 Iranian games were candidates and they put the names on their site as well but that day they removed all games and Iran from the list and we can’t even participate. Thus these sanctions would reach other fields.

Shahin: or for example gsma Conference which is the biggest conference in the field of mobile and is hold in Spain, it doesn’t allow Iranian companies to participate.

Amirhossein: This worrying news is heard from Google. Some accounts are closed and this trend is going to be more.

Milad: Google Play doesn’t have manual review system and when you enter the app, it would be placed automatically on Google Play and it may find out after one year that it is an Iranian app.

Also Google Play tracking system is in such a way that it installs apps that tracked. Thus for example we see that Snapp in Café Bazaar is installed one million times but has only 10,000 installs in Google Play and it doesn’t attract the attentions.

Another issue is that we don’t know how many Iranian apps are deleted and whether only famous apps are deleted or small apps are deleted too?

Based on these sayings, it seems that there is a global danger warning for Iran ecosystem; that is if festivals and fairs in other countries want to put sanctions on us, more serious problems would arise.

Mehdi: exactly. As others mentioned, such actions against Iranian apps isn’t related to recent months and Apple is examining this for many years so that it can act against Iranian apps with certainty. Thus if Google hasn’t acted yet, it may be examining and may show its position within one or two years later.

  • What is the solution in this situation and what should be done? Even if Apple solves this problem, it is possible that such a thing happens or other systems like Google do such a thing.

Amirhissein: when what Apple does is based on policies and decision of USA government, developers can do nothing. Unless the government negotiates.

I mean that because of presence of Café Bazaar, Google’s sanctions are seen less. Can we consider an alternative like Café Bazaar for ios devices as well?

But Sibcheh or Farasib now offer services under the term of enterprise systems and because they get license from Apple and if they find out that they offer alternative services, they would block them.

Milad: even if there is an alternative for App Store, in the end we only pay attention to Iranian users. But we can’t ask foreign tourists to download tourism, transportation and map softwares from Café Bazaar or the alternative system of App Store.

Thus, we would lose these tourists. We provided three languages in Ponz app and one of its languages is Arabic and the Arabic version which is specific to Dubai, is to be introduced in Gtex but this app is rejected from App Store and we can’t tell Arabic user that we have deleted from App Store because they can’t understand.
Should Iranians forget Apple?

Ali: we all live Apple’s products and buy them but according to current political situation of a country like Iran there are always issues.

Thus open source solutions are more suitable for Iran; that is if Apple wants to consider a special strategy, we should forget that.

Now one seventh of my income from games is from Apple and we have indeed created this market; that is we have created a market on which we have no control.

Anyway, we must have waited for such a day and there is always this risk. When a company sells 6 million devices in one country and provides no service to its customers, maybe the government should regulate the market and stop the growth of such a market.

That is to remove Apple devices from Iran market gradually because for me as a developer it doesn’t matter whether my customer has Android or ios device.

The important thing for me is access to the customer. When there is no ios in the market, the customer would use Android devices.

Milad is right and this market would be local and across Iran and for example foreign tourists don’t use it. But I support customer’s right because when he buys a product, he should receive after sale services.

  • If there were no political issues involved, Apple may come to Iran and provide after sale services but apparently political pressures aren’t only for Iran and other countries have problems with Apple.

Mehdi: countries like Russia and China have faced such issues for long but they have launched local systems to solve such problems, not in the form of local App Store but systems specific to their countries.

Now no one uses Google Map in China, but they use local maps which is better than Google Map. All facilities and information are available to a company by cooperation with the government, in order to produce an application and this problem has been solved.

But China government has found a solution before Apple could become popular among its people and create a big market and limitation and now it can even make Apple to limit access of Chinese users to some applications but in Iran there wasn’t a program and people didn’t think about any solution.

Ali: sometimes they have thought about it. For example internal search engine was operated by several universities but many fields have been forgotten and Apple’s devices have been sold in Iran market and become popular but we didn’t have any solution to manage the market.

Even Apple has the feature to remove an app remotely. Or imagine one Iranian military organization that uses Windows operating system which is an American product, should accept that this company may get what information it wants. Or even using hp printer has the same problem because it can send the information.

AmirHossein: internal search engine was useless and it didn’t have any result.

  • I have a question and want a short and exact answer. Now what is your proposed solution for solving such an issue?

Milad: I think now we don’t have any solution for solving the problem of ios. Launching an enterprise account like CafeBazaar is not possible and legal.

AmirHossein: such a solution would lead to failure.

Shahin: referring to enterprises isn’t a legal solution. The government can’t set rules for it and the only solution is putting Apple devices aside. I don’t really know how much we can move people from Apple to Android.

Ali: the government has the experience of Viber. It blocked Viber and Telegram grew very quickly.

Mehdi: moving from one software to another doesn’t have any cost for them but this is not the case when people move from one device to another. Right now people are waiting for iphone 10 and want to buy it.

AmirHossein: putting Apple aside in the market would happen in long term.

Shahin: using Apple devices in Iran is somehow related to topics of brands and culture and shows social levels to some extent.

Milad: the problem is that people don’t know such an issue exists and they shouldn’t buy Apple; that is they are not aware.

Mehdi: people who have Apple are those that buy and use services and products of startups. I have worked with several startups and in recent years their ios users were more than Android users. With such a problem, a large part of users and customers of startups would be lost.

AmirHossein: maybe if Trump be replaced, the whole Apple policy would be changed. Any way the government should make an important decision about it.

Milad: this risk is always there. Businesses that want to start now, don’t count on ios.

  • Apart from problems that may happen outside Iran borders, with which problems do programmer face in their businesses?

Milad: one of the problems now is that the ecosystem has created attractions and many people want to invest on this field. These people don’t have any information and ask weird questions; for example they say what is the price of an app like Snap?!

There are programmers who are at home and get 4 million tomans for a 20-million-toman program and because the owner of the businesses doesn’t have knowledge, he thinks that 4 million is right and we ask for more. Even some people want us to guarantee that they would become rich?!

Ali: there are also people who have come from industrial and traditional sections of market to the ecosystem and don’t know anything about prices and wages and don’t know they should pay for example 50 million tomans for designing the app of their business if they want to invest one billion. I call these people startup tourists who come and go.

Mehdi: the important point is that programming companies are usually small and new companies that don’t have exact information about taxes and insurance and high fines are considered for them.

Another issue is related to the involvement of taste in government supports and investments in this field. Because few people get facilities or projects and they don’t have the qualification for that.

Others pointed to search engines. I think many businesses can be formed in these fields; businesses that can replace foreign search engines.

The government should enter this field and support so that programming companies can design and produce the alternatives.

Milad: there are people selected for doing such projects but it doesn’t seem that they have the knowledge and maybe there isn’t any hope in design and production of a good product.

Four or five years ago, launching and producing local operating system had become prevalent. Millions of tomans were paid to non-qualified companies but it didn’t have any output.

Mehdi: high amount of money had been paid for local browsers but those people who were aware of that field don’t have access to these financial sources and no product would be produced in the end.

AmirHossein: investment for launching local browsers should be done by the government because investor from private section thinks that it can’t compete with Google.

When the government become involved in messaging and other local systems, Iranian users would not trust and feel that they are going to be limited or…

Ali: there are many powerful search engines and email service in China and Russia which are produced with governmental support but a company like Google doesn’t leave a market so easily. There are also companies that have entered this field and invested on it.

Mehdi: we should be aware and think about alternatives in the long term.

Milad: we have problems in local messaging as well; we work under Iran laws that is when a user does something wrong, the business owner would be punished and Iran legal system hasn’t understood yet that this is user’s fault not the designer of app or business owner.

Also we should consider filters for users; filters that aren’t in foreign messaging and the user sends each message right away without any delay.

A combination of such problems impedes doing many things and offering many services that can be launched by Iranian app developers in Iran.

Shahin: maybe when the market is limited to local apps and internal systems and messaging have become alternatives, local programmers would gain a profit but this won’t work by force.

We have these problems in automobile section because cars in the market that kill people most.
Let’s look closer to your filed of business. Why aren’t programmers seen in the ecosystem and when we want to point to a successful startup, we call their CEOs?

Milad: some businesses work based on their app and they may be designed and produced by one person but there are businesses that are formed by a team and it is probable that the names of all members aren’t known.

Shahin: programmers are like those who work behind the scenes and they are less seen.

AmirHossein: but the CEO of no startup can claim that he has done all the things because there is always a successful team behind a successful business.

Milad: one big problem we have in Iran as programmers is that when we refer to each company to negotiate and make a contract and offer a list of businesses for which we have provided software, they expect to meet several people.

They ask us how many we are and they want us to be a team of 50. Now the competitor of Four Square has 70 employees.

Four Square works globally but has a team consisted of 30 people or for example Telegram is operated by 8 people but Iranians think that their team should be consisted of many people.

Mehdi: In many big groups that are working in Iran, most forces don’t have definite tasks. Because when a group becomes bigger, it is hard to control it. while small technical team can offer bigger help.

Milad: now there are programmers that when make contract with our company, they say we are present for 8 hours and we can only work for 4 hours.

In Iran startup managers publish photos in social networks that for example we have become 100. Or only 10 people control the first page of their site while programmers of company should produce software to do routine jobs.

Cooperation of Iranian programmers with startups and companies is one year old because the programmer of for example Snapp isn’t looking for growth or doesn’t want to become CTO rather he work for a while and then goes to another company with better offer.

Ali: now in Silicon Valley the lifetime of cooperation between programmers has come to seven or eight months and we may not criticize programmers. But they have a solution.

AmirHossein: money isn’t all things and growth and personal improvement is important as well which requires a complete team.

Mehdi: successful companies always have a stable management group. Startups should look for protecting their technical workforces but in Iran the main people in successful startups are constantly being replaced and they take the knowledge with themselves and the system they leave, would become instable.

Milad: there are companies that hire three programmers instead of one. Although two of them don’t have any job to do but they learn how to work beside the main person so that if that person leaves the group, the other two replace him. This costs a lot for startups.

Ali: I think this method is good because it replaces the suitable force in time. The bigger problem is that all app programmers want to leave Iran.

  • Iranian ecosystem hasn’t trained prominent app programmers whom Google or Apple wants?

Ali: there are such immigrations from Iran right now and especially those who studied outside Iran receive many offers from big companies in Europe and America.

Milad: the knowledge of Iranian programmers isn’t less than the knowledge of today around the world.

  • But startup managers always talk about lack of human forces in the field of programming.

AmirHossein: we should ask startup founders about the amount of money which is paid for training good programmers?!

Milad: many programmers want to launch their own business after a short time and they mostly fail.

Ali: we should note that one of the best forces that can be hired in this company, is the one who has failed once.

  • Now there are accelerators in Iran that invest on launching startups; do you think that companies can be launched to train programmers?

Ali: now there are countries around the world that have launched programming campaigns and train professional people.

Because in other countries college students don’t have much knowledge but in one six-month camp many professional people can be trained.

AmirHossein: even accelerators can have a powerful monitoring section for training programmers. But now all are monitored without having a special experience.

Milad: now in Iran the monitors of an event that is held by each person, are the participants of his previous event.

  • What is the salary of programmers in Iran entrepreneurship ecosystem?

AmirHossein: I think the salaries are too high.

Milad: the  minimum salary has increased in Iran but the maximum one is decreased; that is a person who has 8 years of experience in one company receives 7 million tomans and a person whose experience is one year and a half receives 5,500,000 tomans.

While in other countries, those with such experience receives at least 5 times more than those with less experience.

Mehdi: the growth of startups and launching of many companies have caused these people to move from one company to another and claim different salaries.

Shahin: there are many programmers that want to become successful in one night.

  • What is the reason of the increase in programmers’ salaries?

Milad: it started when companies like Sheypoor, Snap and Rocket Internet and … entered the market.

Because since then salaries were between 3 million to 3,500,000 tomans. but these companies offered 8 million salaries and many programmers contributed to this growth.

Shahin: thus we have tried to register from graduates of universities in different periods and train them so that we don’t pay much to programmers.

We don’t have many good programmers in Iran. On the other hand, startup companies hire programmers of other companies with high salaries instead of training work force.

  • Can we point to the number of good programmers?

Ali: it equals the number of startups that their monthly income is over 15 million tomans.

AmirHossein: there aren’t few and we have good programmers but Iran ecosystem needs more very good programmers.

  • They say about programmers that they can bring currency; that is one of parts of ecosystem that app programmers can bring currency into the country by producing apps for European and American countries.You had experiences in this field and according to the limitations for Iranian identity, is this possible? Now Indians do it with lower wage.

AmirHossein: this is happening now and many people write apps for outside Iran. Indians receive less money because they have many developers.

Shahin: figures announced in Iranian companies equal Russian companies. We have programmed before and received figures such as 50,000 dollars for one app but Indians receive up to 5000 dollars for the same app with the same features. We could produce apps for foreigners with non-Iranian identities.

Milad: Indians produce low quality apps. The previous app of NetBarg was produced by Indians and when they asked us to give them a program, they knew that they have to pay more.

Ali: there are two points. One is that there is a market but we can hardly compete with Indians in terms of price because the one who orders sees price first.

Another point is that we can avoid export of currency by producing Iranian and domestic apps. For example, it is true that in the field of messaging Telegram doesn’t receive any fee from Iranian users but the traffic goes outside Iran, causes a big cost for Iranian users because they pay to isp and it is paid from there to infrastructure and from there to foreign company and the currency exit from Iran. Thus if an Iranian startup had a successful messaging, this currency would stay in Iran.

Mehdi: there is an important thing and that is the infrastructure for Indians to work is very open and all companies around the world don’t have any problem working with Indians but there are many barriers for Iranians.

I have talked a lot with foreign entrepreneurs and they have said that they aren’t happy with Indians and they prefer to work with foreigners who deliver high quality service but the problem is that they can’t work with Iranians and if they do, their first term is that the programmer doesn’t have the right to say that he has developed the app.

Even when they want to pay us, they face barriers. Even some say that they don’t believe that an Iranian can produce such apps. But there are many problems in working with Iranians.

Milad: there are companies in India that their job is cloning; that is they make clone for Uber and this clone is being sold to other companies.

In Iran they make clone for Divar and sell it to several people and this is the business prevalent in Iran. All people know that this clone is available to 50 other people and it may not be possible for them to grow.

There are also companies that say when you write this app once, why do you receive money for it?!

In general these problems exist and Indians have made such issues across the world but Iranian apps have good quality and can compete in global market.

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