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WeChat iPhone Downloads Surge in the U.S. Ahead of Trump Ban

Gerrit De Vynck
·2-min read

(Bloomberg) -- IPhone users in the U.S. are rushing to install messaging app WeChat days before President Donald Trump is set to ban downloads in the country.

WeChat downloads surged to make it the 100th most-downloaded app in the U.S. on Friday, according to mobile analytics firm SensorTower. It has typically ranked between 1,000th and 1,500th this year. Friday is the first time the app has entered the top 500 so far in 2020, a spokesperson for SensorTower said in an email.

The U.S. government on Friday moved to ban WeChat, run by China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd., and another popular Chinese-owned app TikTok, citing national security concerns. The prohibitions are slated to take effect on Sunday, and will prevent U.S. consumers for downloading the apps or installing updates.

WeChat will also be hit on Sunday with a ban on using American companies to run transactions and conduct internet traffic, meaning people still using the app will likely experience slowdowns and glitches because third-party tech services that keep it running won’t work anymore.

“WeChat U.S. for all practical purposes will be shut down,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Fox Business.

TikTok’s ranking as the fourth-most popular app on the iPhone store was unchanged on Friday, SensorTower said. It hasn’t dropped out of the top 15 for all of 2020.

The video-sharing app’s owner ByteDance Ltd. is negotiating a deal to hand control of its U.S. operations and data to Oracle Corp. in order to satisfy U.S. concerns that the data of Americans who use the app could fall into the hands of the Chinese government. TikTok will still be able to do business with American companies until Nov. 12. That means the app, which is extremely popular with young Americans, will likely keep working for users until after the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Chinese officials, who will have to approve the final TikTok deal, have called the U.S. actions against the two apps “economic bullying.”

(Updates with quote from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in fourth paragraph)

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