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FaceTime goes missing in Saudi Arabia, much of Middle East

Update 9/24: It looks like the early indications may be correct. One of the UAE's carriers tweeted that FaceTime will not be available there.

Update 8am Tues: Several commenters have raised points about this story, most of which fall into two categories: "I already have an iPhone in Country X and FaceTime works fine" & "I work for the cell carrier in Country Y and we're not blocking FaceTime."

We appreciate the feedback, but neither of these data points is directly connected to the story. For users who already have iPhones in the affected countries, you didn't buy them there -- at least not officially -- and gray-market or unlocked phones from other regions would naturally have FaceTime. From the cell carrier perspective, 'not blocking FaceTime' is irrelevant, since FaceTime is Wi-Fi only and does not transmit over 3G. One point that may be relevant: restrictions on VoIP technology in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which could create a regulatory block for FaceTime.

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Looking forward to that new iPhone 4 in Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Yemen? If the preview pages on the various international editions of Apple.com are any guide, you may be missing a key new feature. A Facebook thread from SaudiMac points out that the website graphics for all those countries, plus several others in the Middle East, have lost their FaceTime graphic. You can see the before & after versions of the Saudi site above.

This adjustment to the product sites -- just ahead of the anticipated late September launch of the phone in these countries -- may represent merely a cosmetic tweak, keeping the cultural sensitivities of these largely Islamic countries in mind. Or it might mean the feature itself is going to be blocked for iPhone users there; note that it's not just the image that's changed, the current versions of the iPhone pages omit the description of FaceTime as well. We don't know yet, and although we have an email in to Apple's media relations team for comment, chances are we won't hear anything official.

If you've got a line to an Apple reseller or cellphone carrier in one of the FaceTime-redacted locales, please send us a quick heads-up.

Thanks Khaled



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iPhone

Update 9/24: It looks like the early indications may be correct. One of the UAE's carriers tweeted that FaceTime will not be available...