In order to get the iPhone 3G into Egypt, Apple had to kill one of its newest features: GPS. Apparently, the Egyptian government was afraid that iPhone users would be able to use their iPhone to pinpoint sensitive locations such as government buildings and military bases. I’m not sure if this makes much sense because users can do the same thing with Google Maps. In any event, this isn’t the first time that a cellphone manufacturer has encountered resistance from the Egyptian government. Nokia, the largest handset manufacturer in the world, is still stuck in negotiations to bring their GPS enabled handsets to the market in Egypt.
On its website, Apple has a support document detailing the limited functionality an iPhone user would experience in Egypt. It notes:
GPS is not available while in Egypt or when using an Egyptian iPhone, and you may experience the following:
- An iPhone purchased in Egypt does not have GPS enabled
- An iPhone purchased in Egypt that is used outside of Egypt does not have GPS enabled
- Any iPhone used while roaming in Egypt does not have GPS enabled
- An unlocked iPhone used with an Egyptian carrier’s SIM does not have GPS enabled
- When using Maps in the scenarios above, the blue marker does not appear, and instead a circle is used to show your approximate location and other applications that use Location Services do not provide GPS coordinates.
Egypt’s stance on GPS shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given its track record with new technologies. It has been notoriously authoritarian with respect to the Internet, and it’s quite common for government authorities to arrest and jail bloggers who are critical of the government.
In any event, this is the first instance of Apple crippling their own product in order to get it into a specific market, and Apple will inevitably encounter similar demands from China before customers there will be able to pick up an iPhone 3G.
The New York Times has more on the story over here.