Downloading content from the US iTunes Store, outside the United States

I’m getting increasingly tired of seeing apps launched in the US iTunes Store and not here in the UK.  And the worst culprit seems to be, would you believe, Microsoft?!  For example, the Bing app – freely available in the US, but not here.  Sure, some of the content is US-specific but not all of it – and it’s been around in the States for ages now!

Then, I heard that OneNote has shipped on iOS.  Yes, OneNote. Microsoft’s fantastic note-taking app, on iOS. Further more, it’s currently free of charge (for a limited period). Ever since I bought an iPad, I thought that OneNote would be brillaint on that platform and, as good as Evernote is, it’s just not good enough.

Sadly, the OneNote Mobile app for iPhone is only available in the US iTunes Store but there is a workaround:

  1. Purchase a US iTunes gift card. If you have friends in the States, they might be able to help (they can e-mail you the code on the back of the card) or there are sites on the web that will sell you a code, usually for a hefty commission fee…
  2. Launch iTunes and sign out from the local iTunes Store.
  3. Switch to the US iTunes Store – for example attempt to buy some content that’s only available in the US (and iTunes will prompt you to switch stores) – it needs to be free content though (like a free iPhone app), in order to display a payment option of none in a later step.
  4. Redeem  the code from a US-issued iTunes gift card, creating a new iTunes account in the process.  You’ll need an e-mail address that’s not already associated with iTunes and a valid address in the States.  If you’re staying with friends, or at a hotel, that would work.
  5. Select the payment type of none, then continue the process to complete the account opening process and download the content.  Your new account will be credited with the value of the gift card.

I don’t know if this breaches terms and conditions on the Apple store (maybe if they were shorter, and written in plain English, I might actually read them…) but it works. As for legitimacy, I might be writing this from the United States, in which case using my hotel address and a gift card seems perfectly acceptable.  At least it does right now – Apple may try an tighten things up later but what’s in it for them? This way they can sell content in multiple regions from the same customer… and I’m talking about apps here, it’s not as though I’m advocating circumvention of media distribution rights for music/video. Of course, I’m not a lawyer – and I can’t be held responsible for anyone else’s actions based on the advice in this blog post.

Content not authorised in iTunesWhen you sync your device with iTunes, you will probably get an error indicating that the apps are not authorised on the computer.  Simply follow the instructions to authorise the computer for use with that iTunes Store (Authorize This Computer on the Store menu in iTunes).

Content syncing with a device in iTunesAfter doing so, the next device sync should copy the app (iTunes will have one library containing content from both the US and the local iTunes Stores) and you can freely switch back and forth between US and local iTunes accounts to make new purchases.

As it happens, OneNote Mobile for iPhone is exactly what it says – it’s an iPhone app and doesn’t make full use of the larger screen on the iPad.  This is a missed opportunity for Microsoft – the best iOS apps detect the device and present an appropriate view to make full use of the display capabilities – and they could have a knock-out app running on a competitor’s platform. Hey ho.

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