Apple Quietly Adds Feature Restrictions to iPhone, Based on Location


  • 9to5Mac discovers a hidden system in iOS 16 that restricts specific features based on user’s location.
  • The new “countryd” system combines GPS, Wi-Fi router country code, and SIM card information to precisely determine user’s country.
  • The system could potentially enable app sideloading in Europe and make it more difficult to bypass regional restrictions.

An exclusive discovery by 9to5Mac has unveiled a hidden system within iOS 16 that allows Apple to limit specific features based on the user’s location.

This enhanced system aims to make it more difficult for users to bypass regional restrictions, while also allowing the device to automatically adjust when users travel to other regions.

Currently, Apple relies on hard-coding techniques to enforce such restrictions, tying them to a device’s region or its software settings.

However, with the new “countryd” system, which was discreetly added in iOS 16.2, Apple employs a more sophisticated approach to pinpoint the user’s location. This system combines GPS location, Wi-Fi router country code, and SIM card information to determine the user’s country.

9to5Mac’s investigation reveals that this system is intended for implementing restrictions as mandated by government regulators. One possible use case for “countryd” is the rumoured introduction of app sideloading in Europe, as reported by Bloomberg. For example, some nations don’t allow certain FaceTime features on the iPhone.

“FaceTime isn’t available or might not appear on devices purchased in United Arab Emirates,” says Apple. “Group FaceTime and FaceTime Audio are not available in China mainland on iPhone and iPad with cellular.”

This would allow users to install third-party apps through alternative methods outside of the official App Store. The new system would enable Apple to easily determine if a device is being used in an EU country and permit sideloading accordingly.

While Apple has yet to officially announce sideloading as a new iOS feature, the company is expected to unveil iOS 17 and other operating system updates at WWDC 2023 in June.

Furthermore, iOS 16.2 hints at the development of a “Custom Accessibility Mode” for iPhone, which could be introduced alongside iOS 17.