WTF? FaceTime Audio disabled on devices sold in China!

Friday evening a friend tried to call me using FaceTime Audio, a new feature in iOS 7. Strangely my iPad 3 rang but my new iPhone 5s didn’t. At first I thought nothing of it and decided to look into it over the weekend.

After further failed tests with my wife I trawled the internet for answers and discovered this thread  that implied that it was a problem with devices sold in China.

As this was the only thread I could find discussing this issue I decided to contact Apple Care and to my utter surprise I was told the following: 

“I know that for a list of iOS 7 features and availability, you can visit the Apple website. I can certainly understand how you feel in this situation as well, Paul, especially if FaceTime is a feature you utilize often. Please note that the decision to disable the FaceTime audio in devices sold in China is to adhere to regulations in that region.”

So apple have been asked by Chinese regulators to disable the FaceTime Audio functionality. But why? I can happily uses other VoIP applications such as Skype  Viber  Forfone  and even home grown WeChat so this is mind boggling to me. Even if it was the carriers that forced the restriction, the data plans in China are hardly generous enough to use VoIP regularly instead of a regular call. 

I try my best to understand why the Chinese authorities make various restrictions on the Internet, and for the most part they make sense (though I do not necessarilyt agree with them). And this one has me perplexed. I kind of feel I have an expensive device that is not functionally complete. I see I have 2 options:

  • Return my nice iPhone 5s for a full refund and purchase one from overseas such as Hong Kong or South Korea. Apart from the inconvenience this causes warranty issues because the Apple Stores in China will not honour warranty or even support you with devices purchased overseas.

  • Keep my iPhone 5s, know that it is fully covered by Apple and continue to use the VoIP applications I have been using for years, besides when I do use FaceTime it is inevitably for the superior video functionality.

What are your thoughts? What should I do?

Paul Git @PaulGit