iPhones have become a political pawn in a brewing trade war between the US and Turkey. On Tuesday, Turkey’s President called for a boycott of US electronics and named the iPhone as one product local residents should shun.
“We will impose a boycott on US electronic products,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech. “If they have iPhones, there is Samsung on the other side.”
Erdogan made the comments in retaliation against US sanctions, which have helped worsen an economic crisis in the country. The Trump administration has been demanding that Turkish authorities free an American pastor who was arrested back in 2016 over charges he tried to overthrow Erdogan’s government.
To force Turkey into releasing the pastor, the Trump administration began doubling tariffs on imported Turkish steel and aluminum last week. The country’s local currency, the lira, has since plummeted in value.
In response to the sanctions, Erdogan has been urging local citizens to trade their US currency for the
Despite the harsh talk against Apple, The New York Times reports that Erdogan and his officials are frequently seen with iPhones in their hands. Two years ago, Erdogan even addressed the Turkish public using Apple’s FaceTime following a coup attempt.
In terms of smartphone sales, Turkey isn’t a major market for the iPhone. According to the research firm Canalys, the company shipped a mere 450,000 iPhones to Turkey in this year’s second quarter — a period when Apple shipped 41 million iPhones worldwide.
“My take is this: President Erdogan is making more of a political move than an economic move,” Canalys analyst Ben Stanton told PCMag. “His rhetoric reflects a desire to support Turkish electronics businesses like Vestel. But in reality, Apple is not a threat to Vestel.”
Stanton pointed to the growing presence of Chinese smartphones in the Turkish market. “If President Erdogan truly wants to support Turkish electronics, he must look to China as the primary threat. Companies like Huawei, for example, which increased its smartphone shipments in Turkey by over 200 percent in the last year,” he added.
Nevertheless, Apple ranks as the second largest smartphone vendor in the country with a 13 percent share, according to Canalys. Meanwhile, Samsung holds the top spot with a 38 percent share.