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Apple Online Stores and National Borders

May 20th, 2010

Apple has been a bit weird about their online stores and international locations. The U.S. iPhone App Store was at first completely accessible from Japan, so long as you had an account there. But then, last June, with iPhone OS 3, they changed and shut that down. Now, with the iPhone, you can only purchase apps from the store in the country you are in. Which means that if I am using my iPhone to purchase apps, I have to pay yen (usually a 50% higher price than with dollars) and get only apps made available in that store–and not all apps are available.

So, my U.S. account is no good, right? Well, not so fast: you can still get on your laptop or desktop computer, go to the App Store using iTunes, and buy apps from the U.S. store there. In what is a bizarre inconsistency, computer purchases for the iPhone from the U.S. store while in Japan is OK. Just transfer them to your iPhone next time you sync. Similarly, apps bought in the U.S. won’t accept updates overseas, but you can get the updates via iTunes. Like I said, weird.

When the iPad came out, I tried using the U.S. app store. At first, it worked–but then the iPad figured out it was in Japan, and shut down that avenue. Similarly, the Apple iBook store also worked for a few hours, and also shut down after seeing it was overseas. It stayed that way for a few weeks. Then, yesterday, I suddenly found I could access both again! But only for about 20 minutes; the first time I actually tried to “purchase” a free item, it stopped working, and neither would let me in again. Drats.

Well, today, the international iPad app store went online. I tried the App Store, and indeed, it was just like the iPhone: you could buy apps from the Japanese store, but not from the U.S. store, not on the device itself.

Weird thing: the iBooks store is online, and you can buy stuff. At least for now. Whether that’s an intentional thing or they just kinda goofed is a different question; we’ll have to see if it persists. In the meantime, I downloaded a whole bunch of free stuff for my iBooks app. Will look at the non-free stuff if the store stays up.

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  1. K. Engels
    May 22nd, 2010 at 13:29 | #1

    I was really annoyed once when I tried to subscribe to an Albanian podcast (which shows up in the search results of the US itunes store) only to have a dialog box pop up that said the content wasn’t available in my region!? It was a freaking podcast! And the dialog box had a large string of text (url parameters) instead of being a clean “sorry, not in your region” dialog.

  2. Leszek Cyfer
    June 7th, 2010 at 23:44 | #2

    I think it’s some DRM agreements brewing behind the curtain…

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