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FaceTime in the Middle East: The story so far [Updated March 11]

After over 3 weeks of noticing the lack of FaceTime on the iPhone 4 pages of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan here’s what we know so far about the lack of FaceTime in these Arab countries:

This post will be updated with the latest news regarding the issue so make sure to bookmark it.

• iPhone 4 units with FaceTime disabled have the following model numbers: MC603AE and MC605AE for units sold in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar. MC603AB and MC605AB for units sold in Egypt (and Jordan once it’s available).
• FaceTime works on iPhone 4 units running iOS 4.0.2 but if you update to iOS 4.1 FaceTime will be disabled on these phones.
• FaceTime is available in Tunisia according to Apple Tunisie page.
• iPhone 4 units imported from UK, Hong Kong, Canada etc have no issues with FaceTime. Carrier Settings do not disable FaceTime as far as we know.
• Mobily’s response is mixed: Mobily CEO blames Apple while customer support blames CITC.
• Mobily’s iPhone 4 page and brochures still list FaceTime as a feature. Here’s a photograph of FaceTime being featured on Mobily’s brochure sent to us by Abu Abdulla:

• There’s legal action from a Saudi lawyer to reactivate FaceTime.
• Apple did not officially respond regarding FaceTime being disabled but they did add a note regarding FaceTime in some Middle Eastern countries.
• According to this thread on EmiratesMac iPod touches sold by iStyle in UAE have FaceTime disabled.
Update: I have posted my theory regarding the reason why Apple disabled FaceTime in Saudi Arabia.

Update October 19: FaceTime does not work on iPod touch 4G units sold by Arab Computers/Arab Business Machine and carry the model numbers: MC547AB, MC540AB and MC544AB.
Update October 19: Apple confirmed that by not listing FaceTime as a feature on Middle East iPod touch pages.
Update October 19: FaceTime coming soon to the Middle East, at least to Qatar and apparently Government policies in Qatar prevented initial FaceTime availability.
Update October 19: As for Egypt, according to Vodafone Egypt, the country’s NTRA decided to block FaceTime.

• Update October 24: Apple released FaceTime for Mac. It works but you cannot set your country to either Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait or Egypt.

Update on Jan 15: iOS 4.3: No FaceTime for Middle East.

Update on March 11: FaceTime is restore via carrier update on Vodafone Egypt, Mobinil Egypt, Orange Jordan and Vodafone Qatar. Still waiting for carriers in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

What do you think? What is the reason for disabling FaceTime in the region? What should we do about it?

Arabic version of this post on SaudiMac Arabic Edition.

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Comments (26)

  • Fausal

    I think that theyre scared of what might happen if they enabled it
    I mean the bb problem

    • FAIASL

      no no no ppl ur wrong. its the regulations did any one of u remembered when mobile phones with camra started selling in KSA they were put to baannnn. It it will create men women problem
      now every shop sells them just wait for few weeks i think same story here

  • VideoOIP

    This facetime nonsense is joke, which makes it even more frustrating.. We just can’t stop acting like a primitive third world country. Many of you will disagree with what I just stated, but I’m  speaking interms of the common mentality and social ignorance. I’ll tell you why!

     Facetime is just a video calling service (or feature or whatever) that enables users to place video calls on their device (iPhone or iPod) over a Wi-fi. Can you think of any other medieval device that does that?! Oh yes a COMPUTER! Skype and a Wi-fi connection would do the trick.  

    I am not sure what are the reasons that caused apple to disable FaceTime for some countries in the region. It doesn’t matter at this point. Apple clearly states it in it’s  website according to a previous article in this blog. We can all agree that Apple is a big Corp. that knows how to sell. They are not stupid. How come there is no word from apple till now? because they don’t want to show that they are involved now that Mobily  could be facing a lawsuit against it’s costumers. This is relevant because a ruling against Mobily will harm Apple as well. Since, Apple still controls the devices, and can easily turn the feature back on with the next upgrade. Apple chooses to be passive about this matter at least for the time being.

    let me hypothetically say that this goes to court and Mobily losses. Now Mobily has to bring back facetime back to it’s iPhone. Now here comes the politics. Apple enables it once again. Then the nytimes writes an article about all this. Apple can not be passive about the situation anymore. Apple can simply fire it back on CITC or Mobily. now the whole world knows the story, and they can see for themselves how primitive our way of things actually are. It will not be the first time we make a fool of ourselves, and with this rate it won’t be the last. 

    The scenario that I’ve just described, is similar with to the BB issue just a couple of months ago. However, the BB issue was a matter of national security. Encrypted msgz are sent thru bb servers…(we all know the story here). Nevertheless, this is a legitimate reason. Maybe not for democratic countries, but I don’t want to get into that right now. 

    In this situation, there is no sane answer nor reason. If Mobilys claims are true that CITC whom banned facetime. Then what will CITC have to say to the disturbed public? that their regulations wanted to insure a competitive market, and stc and zain are left out. Then why Mobily is iPhone exclusive? Or perhaps it was banned for social and religious reasons. Thats even worse of a answer than the first one. Coz we have been through this many times before (radio, tv, phone with cam, etc..) the list goes on.

    In the end, like all the others in the list facetime ban will be removed. What is the price? We are just showing the world how ignorant we are! Ignorance is bliss they say. That’s true because it keeps happening again and again. They still can’t see what’s wrong :)

  • Mohamed Saadawi

    Apple face-time require some futures with the currier but our carriers not ready for it with large numbers.

    • John

      To the best of my knowledge, Facetime is initially only possible over Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi so therefore, it doesn’t affect anything to do with the carrier, that is, it is not using any bandwidth or time charges, right?
      So, why would the carrier remove the feature? From other posts, I see that Apple is getting the blame now, ha!

  • Burak

    Hi to all,

    I am trying to buy iphone 4 for the last 2-3 weeks but there is not any available in the market. I checked mobily , jarir, extra …etc. Its available only in a few I-techia stores but the prices are extremely high.
    The price for 32gb is 4999 SAR……………. And only 1 available…..
    Does anyone have any idea about that ? When will it be available in Mobily again ?
    I am in Riyadh……………

  • John

    Ha, lucky I read this column, and that iPhone 4 is hard to find, I will be in Canada in 3 weeks so I just bought it online at the Apple store. So, got it for around 2,550 SAR and it will have Facetime

  • Serge

    > iPhone 4 units with FaceTime disabled have the following model numbers: MC603AE and MC605AE for units sold in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar

    OK, so, if I buy an iPhone with these model numbers (factory unlocked right?) and take it abroad in a country where FaceTime works (France, US…), it will still not be activated because iOS 4.1 checks the model number and deactivates FaceTime where ever you are?

  • Omar

    WAKE UP SAUDIMAC…
    DARKVOID FROM EMIRATESMAC DID IT AND ACTIVATE FT AGES AGO….!
    go to:
    http://www.emiratesmac.com/forums/iphone/12114-facetime-iphone-4-du-etisalat-56.html

    I TESTED IT ON MY 4.1 IP4 WITH A GREENPOISN JAILBREAK , and it worked like charm

  • Omar

    BTW
    my model no. is MC605AE
    it’s save go ahead and FACETIME now :)

  • muhammad adil

    well, i have came across some sort of tweak on cydia last night by the name of “facetime enabler” which enables facetime on the listed disabled models, has anyone tried it yet?? i m still using os 4.0.2, so i would really like someone with a jailbroken phone with 4.1 os to try and confirm it.

  • xaucian

    an app on cydia called MiddleWhat claims to enable facetime and solve the problem

    Dear all..pls confirm here..

    xaucian.

  • Iphone4user

    I hope facetime will be enabled in iOs 4.2 that will be released on Nov. 24, 2010

  • Marc

    Guys,

    They block it for the same reason Etisalat UAE would audit customer LAN equipment connected to their business Internet services -

    MAINTAINING REVENUES

    It’s not a security issue – you can still send encrypted files over the net. It’s not for maintaing virtues and preventing vice/promoting virtue.

    These monopolists (Du & Etisalat fix their prices) want to keep their strangle hold on the vast fortunes telecomms can make and VoIP is too much of a threat to their business model.

    It’s up to you guys to force them to open up to real competition. Good luck.

  • mark

    i just got buy an iphone 4 last month model MC603AE im a filipino, i just want to ask if i go back to phil does the facetime works?? if i jailbreak it to 4.3.3? im running 4.3.2 (8H7) and one more thing if my mobily carrier is unlock then i use my sim card in the phil it will work in my country or do i need to jailbreak again?help me thanks

  • frey

    guys still stupid xplanations regarding facetime why they need to disable the facetime common sense guys what about other device like nokia samsung ericson etc u know what they can used the 3g with front camera with carrier mobily coz i know i used that before my mobile n95 bfore i can call with 3g using front camera in other device i have 4s the facetime is disable so what is the sense …

  • Tricia Sutherland

    I was able to use Facetime to phone my parents and children from Dubai to UK and South Africa but since ios6 upgrade i cannot anymore. I think this is unfair if the UAE have implemented this. Why would they? It is very sad that i now have to spend so much money on phone calls and cannot see the faces of my loved ones. I think that there are more good people needing this function than there are bad people using skype or FT for their own sordid use.

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