Thousands have been flocking to the brand new Apple store on Huaihai Lu since the mainland release of the iPhone 4 this past Saturday. However, many are becoming frustrated with their new purchase after discovering the mapping app on the Chinese version of the iPhone is rigged in line with government propaganda.
The map that comes along with the new iPhone is censored to comply with the official stance of the Chinese government on border divisions. Arunachal Pradesh, for example, is a territory currently in dispute between China and India. But even as the region is administered by India, any Chinese iPhone will show that it belongs to China. Further, owners report that access to an international map, previously made possible via a VPN, is no longer. The new incarnation is VPN-proof.
It’s not the first time Apple has changed its products to please Beijing as Chinese iPhones previously had their wifi capabilities disabled. Nor is it even the only country Apple will bend over backwards for. The technology giant has altered features on their phones sold in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to fit in with each governments’ restrictions.
Another frustrating quirk is the persistent use of Chinese when naming places outside of China. Take Canada for instance, where street names are shown solely in Chinese characters. One exasperated buyer points out, “No taxi driver in Toronto is going to know the Chinese street names. Without having English it makes the maps app entirely useless outside of China…I’m going to Munich soon and I was hoping to use this app…looks like my new phone is failing me.” Compare that to a Hong Kong iPhone where international locations are shown in English and sometimes also a local script.
This news is not surprising altogether. This is the same party who also banned the Lonely Planet China guide over conflicting accounts of the Tibetan border after all. But the discovery is perhaps best summed up by this iPhone 4 owner, “…the Maps app reminds me of those cold-war era Soviet radios, without a dial, able to receive just one (propaganda) channel.”
In any case, potential iPhone buyers, you’ve been warned.