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Telegram founder says China downloads have not fallen since Apple move

By Josh Ye

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Pavel Durov, billionaire founder and CEO of Telegram, said Apple's move last week to remove the chat app from its China app store had not caused any decrease in downloads from China and criticised Apple instead for its "walled garden" app policies.

Durov published a post in his public channel on Telegram on Monday in which he confirmed that Apple removed multiple apps including Telegram from its App Store in China last week. Apple said the Chinese government ordered the removal, citing "national security" concerns presented by these apps.

But Durov said Beijing's action was not a move against Telegram but a move against Apple itself. Rather than taking issues with the Chinese regulators, Durov focused much of his post on criticising the iPhone maker, taking aim at Apple's app policies.

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"Once again, Apple shot itself in the foot with its centralized 'walled garden' app policies," he said.

"Unlike iPhones, most Android phones allow sideloading apps outside app stores — such as the direct version of Telegram — so more users from China will migrate to Android...As a result of this change, the iPhone market share in China will keep shrinking."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last Friday, in addition to Telegram, Apple pulled WhatsApp, Meta's Threads and Signal from the App Store in China.

Apple's "walled garden" app policies, which reference Apple's long-time practice of not allowing iPhone users to install apps from any third-party app stores, have come under scrutiny in recent years.

Last month, Apple was forced to start allowing alternative app stores on its devices in the European Union as the bloc's new Digital Markets Act bars the "walled garden" practice.

Users in China have to use proxy tools such as virtual private network (VPN) to bypass China's "Great Firewall" - the country's extensive cybersystem of censorship - to access Telegram. Durov said Telegram remained popular in China.

"Access to Telegram requires a VPN in China, but Chinese people are smart - they like Telegram and find a way to use it," he said.

(Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by David Evans)