Regional differences in Apple products


Apropos of the recent news that the Apple Watch ECG feature is limited by region where the device was originally sold (that you can’t circumvent via a regional setting in software), I thought it’d be interesting to put together a list of other features limited to region that aren’t necessarily tied to being an altogether different models, but via software.

Apple has been recording original country of purchase long before ACL granted us at least two years of warranty to devices sold in Australia, but what other features have we been missing out on?

  • Apple Watch Series 4 - ECG feature limited to the US (for now)
  • iPhone 7, 7 Plus, Apple Watch Series 2 - Suica contactless payments when purchased in Japan (and as of the iPhone 8, 8 Plus or later, or Apple Watch Series 3 or later, can now be added to any device?)
  • all iPhones since the 3GS in 2009 - compulsory shutter sound every time you take a photo in Japan and South Korea
  • all iPhones, iPads, and iPods since about 2009 - EU volume limit, although interestingly, I don’t believe this is a thing for devices without a headphone jack - possibly due to not being able to reliably limit volume output via Bluetooth?

I considered adding the iPhone XS/XS Max’s distinction of having two physical SIM card slots if you buy one from China, but seeing as that’s a physical difference (and probably a different SKU), I’m not including it.

Have I missed any region-locked features?


Don’t iPhones sold in India have to have an alarm function of some description if you are attacked?


Huh, interesting. The Apple KB article on using Emergency SOS mentions that you only need to press the side button three times before the device will activate auto-call and sound an alarm, as opposed to the usual five, but there’s no indication of any other difference.


Don’t forget “state owned datacenter for China” and soon… a special backdoor to iMessage & iCloud for us living in Australia. :grimacing::man_facepalming:


State-owned data-centres don’t count because they’re not something the average Joe can go to an Apple Store and buy.

But this gets curiouser and curiouser: the Apple KB article on heart rate monitoring says Apple Watch uses a combination of green LEDs for “active” HR monitoring, and infrared LEDs for “background” HR monitoring, which I didn’t know.

It also says walking average and heart rate variability are measured using green LEDs, and for whatever reason, heart rate variability isn’t available in mainland China, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey — I wonder why? This seems like an incredibly curious feature to omit from an equally strange selection of countries.


I’m guessing I read here about how the UK wont allow Apple to activate its heart monitoring on the iWatch because it needs to undergo heavy duty studies first… I guess China etc could have similar such issues.


Except the cynic in me thinks the UK would do it for public safety while China would do it for easy access espionage


I believe that the applicable health certification/testing body in each country has to test and approve the device for legal (and no doubt ethical) reasons. It will be interesting to see when (if ever) it gets looked at and approved here in NZ.


I really thought that was a global requirement.

The last of the Nokia’s I had would not disable the shutter sound either by reducing volume or setting mute. I was surprised when the iPhone still let it be muted.


Not a hardware difference but still a regulatory issue I guess is Apple Pay Cash and the ability to pay other Apple users through iMessage which is still only a US feature a year after its launch.