UAE residents were left confused on Saturday when the popular free video calling app ToTok appeared to have been removed from the Apple App Store.
ToTok offered an alternative to the video calling features on WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype, which are blocked in the UAE, and was particularly popular among residents with family abroad.
On Saturday, attempts to download the app from the Google Play Store by Android users in the UAE were successful but Apple users worldwide were told the app was no longer available. Meanwhile, Android users in the UK who tried to download the app were told it was no longer available in their region.
Users worldwide who downloaded the app before this weekend were still able to use the video calling service on Saturday.
Residents took to Twitter to question why the app had been removed from the Apple App Store, tagging Etisalat and du in their tweets. Others directed their questions to Apple Support but no response was offered at the time of publishing.
The disruption comes weeks after Botim — a Singaporean provider that is licensed by the UAE’s telecoms regulator and has tie-ups with Etisalat and du — announced it would begin providing its services under the ToTok brand. Botim users were prompted to download the ToTok app through an invitation link, but on Saturday, the link led Apple users of Botim to an error message.
ToTok requires no subscription and can be used for messaging or conference calls of up to 20 people. The app would likely have been very popular over the coming week as residents contact their families over the Christmas holidays.
Prior to ToTok, residents had to use paid-for services provided by the country’s telecommunication providers, Etisalat and du on a small number of apps, including Botim.
At the time, users of those apps were required to subscribe to special internet voice and video calling packages costing up to Dh100 a month to use them.
Some customers, confused by what it meant for the service they pay for, took to social media to discuss the issue and question whether ToTok really was free.
“I’m paying Dh50/100 for internet calling service in my home internet and mobile using BOTIM. Now, after the free app ToTok, why you still charging?” one user asked Etisalat and du last week.
Etisalat’s care centre responded: “Please note that ToTok is not part of our internet calling plan, you may use other application which is included with internet calling plan. You may check the available apps.”
Updated: December 21, 2019 09:01 PM