The apps they don't want you to have

Sadly, while Apple have fixed many of the traditional irritating failings of the videogames industry, they still perpetrate the idiocy of region-locking. For no acceptable reason, a significant number of apps are still restricted to certain territories, even when they're free.

The most annoying aspect of the policy is that users of the US App Store alone can take advantage of the promo codes that many developers issue to give away some free copies of their games to alert users via forums and such. Fortunately, it turns out that it's really easy to get round it.

I was previously aware of the fact that it was possible to get foreign App Store accounts (much as it is for XBLA and PSN), but was terrified of trying it, because I wasn't sure how syncing the foreign-bought apps would work. I've tricked out my iPod with 59 app pages (via a handy exploit in the system, not by jailbreaking it), and anything that risked losing all the extra ones and having to start again brought me out in a cold sweat.

Fortunately, WoSblog associate C Grannell was on hand with some helpful tips, and a few short minutes later I had myself a fully-functional US App Store account and some US apps sitting happily on my iPod. Here's how.

  1. Go to Google Maps and find yourself a suitable American address. The easiest way is to search for, say "San Francisco McDonalds", which will provide you with pushpins highlighting the locations of all the chain's fast-food outlets in that city, usually complete with zip codes and phone numbers (both of which you'll need).

  2. Open up iTunes and log out of your account (top right corner of the screen). Click the "iTunes Store" button on the left-hand menu and scroll down to the bottom of the screen and you should find "Change Country". Click the link.

  3. Choose your country and go to the App Store. Pick a free app – for our example we're using Classic Pinball by Caltex. Click to download it, and a window will pop up telling you you don't have an account for that store and offering you the chance to create one. Click on "Create New Account".

  4. Enter your US details (you'll need a different email address to the one used for your normal account), selecting "None" as your payment method when asked.

  5. You should now have a US App Store account. Woo! Download whichever apps you want, but DON'T sync your iPod at this point.

  6. When you're done downloading, log out of the US account and back into your normal one. Now you can sync safely, and your new purchases will appear on your iPod.


And that's it. In future, whenever you want a US app just log out of your normal account, log in to the US one, download, log back out and into your normal account, and sync. Now you can grab not just apps that are US-only, but also stuff that's cheaper in other Stores (the splendid Wolfenstein RPG, for example, at the time of writing costs twice as much in the UK Store as it does in the US one) and worldwide apps with free promo codes that stupidly only work through US accounts.

(Even UK developers wanting to give free copies of their UK apps to UK reviewers can't do it unless the reviewer gets a US account.)

Sadly, it doesn't yet seem to be possible to access US-only apps that cost money unless you have a promo code or a US credit card. I'd hoped it'd be possible to link the App Store account to a PayPal account, but annoyingly Apple refuses to accept a PP account that doesn't have a US funding source.

So even a US App Store account wouldn't have helped you secure things like the US-only Paperboy Classic, which has now disappeared forever. But at least fewer things will now slip through the net.


6 Responses to “The apps they don't want you to have”

  1. Grim... Says:

    Ask an American chum to post you a prepaid US credit card?

  2. Irish Al Says:

    What jerks they are.

  3. How about getting a US Itunes gift card from eBay ?

  4. You used to be able to buy US gift-cards from Ebay to buy US exclusive stuff. Bit of a faff but some of them will just e-mail you the code. Haven't done this in years though.

  5. Regarding Apple's position, I totally agree with the idiocy in making promo codes US-only (a huge problem when it comes to non-US press coverage), but for everything else Apple's hands are tied by the content providers. At least these days there are relatively few US-only apps and games, and also few variations due to licensing (Scrabble being the most obvious major game in that area).
    On the promos side, at least apps can now be 'gifted' from any store, enabling publishers to supply copies to the press if they don't wish to go down the US promo route, albeit with the negative aspect of paying Apple its cut for the item sale.

  6. leftist Says:

    The trick there, which us Americans also use to buy exclusive music from other countries, is to simply purchase foreign iTunes gift cards from some seller and then credit them to the foreign account. You can then shop with them just as with a credit card.

    Incidentally, make sure your address is somewhere where iTunes purchases are not taxed so that your money goes as far as possible.

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