From an app store named after the Persian word for 'apple,' to a payments platform called ZarinPal, Iran's most popular apps are strikingly similar to their Western equivalents

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  • International sanctions imposed on Iran over the last two decades have made access to technology difficult for Iranians.
  • Many Iranians aren’t able to access apps and platforms most Westerners take for granted, like Netflix and Uber.
  • That has led Iranian developers to build apps that mimic their Western counterparts.
  • Some of those apps are extremely similar in design and function to the Western originals.
  • For example, Iranians aren’t able to access Apple’s App Store, but they can use Sib, an Iranian app store with an apple for a logo and a name meaning “apple” in Persian.
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International sanctions imposed on Iran over the last two decades have made access to technology difficult for Iranians.

While much of the world has taken advantage of the creation of iPhones and technology platforms like Netflix and Uber, Iranian citizens have been somewhat left behind in rise of the global tech.

Restricted access to mass market apps and platforms, however, has prompted developers inside the country to get creative and meet the growing demand for new technology from Iranians who want to order food and transport from their phones, and watch movies on their computers.

Many of the most popular apps in Iran are eerily similar to those at the top of the charts in the West, often using similar color schemes, fonts, and interfaces to their Western counterparts.

For example, because of sanctions Iranians aren’t able to access Apple’s App Store, but they can use Sib, an Iranian app store with an apple for a logo and a name meaning “apple” in Persian.

Here are a list of popular Iranian apps and their Western counterparts side by side.

There are several messaging apps on the Iranian app market. They work in a similar way to applications such as WhatsApp, one example is iGap.

Domestically-made messaging apps such as iGap are steadily growing in popularity in Iran, according to a report from BBC Monitoring.

 

 

Aparat is a video sharing website and mobile application on the Iranian app market, it works broadly in the same way as Youtube.

According to Aparat’s website, 10.5 million videos are streamed on the site every day. 

Content is broadly similar to what’s on YouTube — funny videos, sports highlights, and kids shows among the most popular content. Like YouTube, Aparat is available to view on both desktop and mobile devices through an app. 

 

 

 

US e-commerce marketplace Groupon links customers with local traders, offering discounts and exclusive deals. Iranians use the site Takhfifan in a similar way—to find discount codes for everything from restaurants to cinema and concert tickets.

Users are able to browse and search for hundreds of deals based on their location, as well as share offers with others and receive notifications on deals nearby.  

Bike-sharing app Bdood, which translates into English as “without fumes” allows people in Tehran to rent bikes around the city. It aims to bring a more eco-friendly mode of transportation to an infamously polluted city.

Bdood works largely in the same way as Uber Jump, whereby people are able to rent a bike to travel from one part of the city to another.

The orange and silver color scheme on the bikes is strikingly similar to that of Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing giant.

Read More: A buzzy Iranian app is trying to bring bike-sharing to Tehran, but women are having a hard time signing up. 

Taxi hailing app Snapp is one of the most successful tech companies in Iran.

The company, which has been dubbed the “Uber of Iran” launched in 2014, and according to Bloomberg operates in 34 cities across the country and partners with 1.5 million drivers, generating two million fares a day. 

 

Snapp also has a subsidiary application Snapp Box, a service whereby users can send food or other items to another address.

Like its Western counterpart Uber, Snapp offers customers the chance to have food delivered through its app. It also offers grocery deliveries and a travel booking service. 

 

Another subsidiary of Snapp is Snapp Trip. It works largely in the same way as the US-based travel aggregator and search engine Expedia.

Zillow is a US-owned online real estate database. Iranian app Manzeland offers a similar service to Iranians.

Digikala is the biggest e-commerce startup in Iran. It launched in 2006 and functions largely in the same manner as Amazon in the US.

Divar acts as an intermediary platform for people to buy and sell second hand or new goods online. It is similar to Craigslist in the US, although it has more of a focus on physical goods.

Waze is a GPS navigation software application owned by Google. It is used by some in the country, but domestically-made application Neshan is a popular alternative.

 

 

 

Netflix is available in 190 countries globally, including several countries in the Middle East. Iran, however, is not one of them.

The Iranian website IMVBox offers a similar service and has acquired rights to 1,600 Iranian films that are free to watch on its website.

Although IMVBox focuses on Iranian content, it’s layout and red and black color scheme are strikingly similar to that of Netflix.

Melovaz is a music streaming website in Iran with music from artists inside the country, as well as the likes of Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift.

The artwork on the left is from a playlist from Spotify, however Melovaz have their own version which is edited to exclude Rihanna’s face. 

Other female singers such as Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande have also been removed from their album covers on the site. 

Read more: Fans are calling out an Iranian music streaming site for erasing women from their own album covers

 

 

Iran’s answer to Google is Parsijoo. The company describes itself as an independent knowledge-base internet company operating a Persian language search engine.

Cedar maps is an Iranian alternative to Google Maps.

US-based event management and ticketing website Eventbrite also has its own Iranian equivalent — Evand.

Artsy is an online search engine and online platform for discovering and collecting art work. Iranian-made app Artibition allows users to browse, buy and sell paintings, calligraphy and sculpture on an online marketplace.

The two companies have extremely similar logos, both using a plain text letter “A” inside a box.

Craft-loving Iranians can now use online platform Choonak to market and sell their products. The app works in the same way as Etsy.

Paypal can be said to have revolutionized the e-commerce world by making online sales safer and easier for people wanting to purchase goods and services online. The somewhat similarly named ZarinPal hopes to bring the same to Iranian e-commerce.

According to the Google Play store, Zarinpal enables you to perform simple and secure financial transactions on the internet.

Bale, which is also the Persian word for Yes, is an internet messaging platform equivalent to Facebook chat.

People in Iran use the platform Profile.ir to detail their resumés online, although LinkedIn is still used widely in Iran.

Global freelancing platform Upwork facilitates collaboration between independent professionals and potential employers. Ponisha is the app hoping to do the same for people in Iran.

Iranian app Dunro follows in the steps of Foursquare. It provides personalized recommendations of places to go, such as restaurants and cafes with the user’s location in mind.

Kikojas is Iran’s answer to Yelp—the US business directory and review forum.

Iranian developers have even made their own platform to download apps for the iPhone in response to the fact that Apple’s App Store is not accessible in the country.

An Iranian version of the app store is named “Sib” — the Persian word for apple, and features an apple as a logo.