People living in the United Arab Emirates will finally be able to use Apple’s FaceTime video calling service. The new iOS 13.6 update has added FaceTime video call support for users in the UAE. FaceTime and other video calling services were restricted in Dubai, UAE for years. The local telecom regulators appear to have lifted the restrictions.
Apple silent about FaceTime video call support with iOS 13.6
According to MacMagazine and local Twitter users in the UAE, FaceTime video call support is now available with the iOS 13.6 update. It has been a quiet rollout though. The iPhones purchased within the UAE will be able to use FaceTime. The devices currently in use will also be able to use it. Previously, only iPhones purchased in other countries could use FaceTime in the UAE.
The UAE has unblocked FaceTime video call support just days after it lifted the ban on other video calling services such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype for Business. The UAE lifted the ban “on an exceptional basis” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought business travel to a halt.
For some reason, Apple has been quiet about FaceTime video call support in the UAE with the iOS 13.6 update. The company’s support document doesn’t acknowledge the service’s availability in the UAE. The Cupertino company has also not mentioned it in its iOS 13.6 release notes.
The new software update also brings a symptoms section for COVID-19, a new Apple News+ audio component, and support for CarKey.
Why had the Dubai and other UAE states banned FaceTime?
The UAE telecom regulators banned services like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, and Google Hangouts a long time ago. Carriers have lobbied against such services because it would hurt their revenue. Another reason behind the ban is that these services use end-to-end encryption, which prevents the UAE agencies from monitoring communications to prevent dissent and terrorism. The iPhones sold in the UAE had FaceTime video calls disabled.
The iPhones brought from other countries could use FaceTime without any issues. People were also using VPN services to bypass government restrictions. Apple has been in talks with the UAE government about lifting the FaceTime ban since at least 2018. In the absence of FaceTime, Apple risked losing customers to other video chatting services from local vendors.