Washington: Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has called for a boycott of Apple products until the tech giant agrees to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attacks.
"Boycott Apple," Trump said at an election campaign rally in South Carolina yesterday, a day before the state holds its crucial Republican primary.
"What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until such time they give that security number," he said adding, "How do you like that? I just thought of that!"
Trump's call for boycott came after Apple CEO Tim Cook resisted a US court order to help FBI unlock the phone as part of a probe into last year's San Bernardino attacks, escalating a legal showdown over security and privacy in the US.
Cook describing the demand as "chilling" and called for a public debate over the issue of privacy and security.
"Tim Cook is looking to do a big number, probably to show how liberal he is. Who do they think they are?" Trump asked.
However, soon after calling for the boycott, Trump in a tweet acknowledged he carries two phones - iPhone and Samsung.
"I use both iPhone & Samsung. If Apple doesn't give info to authorities on the terrorists I'll only be using Samsung until they give info," the billionaire real-estate mogul said.
"The phone's not even owned by this young thug that killed all these people. The phone's owned by the government, OK, it's not even his phone," Trump said.
In almost all recent polls, Trump was shown leading by a huge margin against nearest rival Ted Cruz, the Texas Senator.
The Department of Justice yesterday filed a motion to force Apple to unlock the iPhone. Google and several other IT companies have backed Apple on the issue.
In its motion, the US government argued that the access it is requesting is limited to the phone of the suspect Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife is believed to have shot dead 14 people in the attacks last December.
"[The court order] does not provide 'hackers and criminals' access to iPhones; it does not require Apple to 'hack (its) own phones; it does not give the government 'the power to reach into anyone's device' without a warrant or court authorisation; and it does not compromise the security of personal information," the Justice Department motion said.
The White House said it supports strong encryption, but is also against terrorist having a safe haven in cyberspace.
"President (Barack Obama) does believe that strong encryption is good... But at the same time, we don't want to allow terrorists to establish a safe haven in cyberspace," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
Meanwhile, bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have invited FBI Director James Comey and Cook to discuss the issues surrounding encryption.