The App Store Nightmare

Edit: The specific error message I was getting is a bug in the App Store relating to disabling SpotLight on your Mac. Once this was fixed, apps from my Swedish region again started updating on the machine, so it seems Apple Support’s claim about IP address limitations is bogus. Why would they say there is one though?

I recently moved from Sweden to the US. Now that my bank is here in the US, I switched my Apple account over to the US region.

Doing so made everything under “Purchases” and “Updates” disappear in the Mac App Store. After a long frustrating email exchange I was told by the App Store support that apps are tied to a region, so if you have downloaded an app in one region it’s forever tied to that region. Their message was: You have to keep your account in the Swedish region to receive updates. Note that this applies even to free stuff like Twitter!

So at this point I created another account, to be able to download US apps. Everything was fine for a while, although I would have to sign in and out of both my accounts to get updates going. I was getting updates.

Today however a new problem emerged as I tried to update Xcode (which is on my Swedish account.) It’s no longer showing in “Purchases”, and “Updates”. Navigating to the Xcode page however shows an “Update” button. Clicking that brings up this ominous dialogue


Signing in to my US account, I’m greeted with the same dialog.

Puzzled, I sent an email to the Mac App Store Support explaining I could no longer get updates for my apps, regardless of the account I used. Here’s the takeaway from that email:

Please know that since the app was purchase on your iTunes account in Sweden, you may not be able to update app, now that your IP address is in the US. Content in the iTunes store is country specific.ย Andreas, for this issue, you may need to call our AppleCare technical support team. A technical Advisor will be able to tell you about Apple’s complimentary and fee-based support. The technical Advisor can also assist you in determining what option might be most helpful to you in this case.

So because I have a US IP address I can no longer update my Swedish apps? I took the advice and called Apple Support. A lady informed me that because I didn’t have active AppleCare for my Macs there was nothing they could do. She offered me to by a one-time pass for $49 or a three year plan for $249. Paying $49 to help Apple debug their DRM? WTF!

I’m so pissed off at Apple right now I don’t know what to do except write it up as a warning to others.

To summarize:

  • If you switch regions, you can no longer update (or even see) your apps in the App Store. This goes even for free apps like Twitter and Xcode. So you need to keep your region set to the one where you purchased the app. But..
  • If you’re in the US, you can’t download updates for your non-US apps due to IP address constraints.ย (This seems possible again now that SpotLight is enabled.)
  • There’s no way to migrate an app from one account to another (even for freebies such as Twitter)
  • There’s no way to permanently remove an app from an account (to reinstall it on another)
  • App Store Support can do nothing to help you
  • Apple Support requires AppleCare to do anything about it (if they can, that’s unknown)

So this leaves me with the following options:

  1. Completely nuke my machine, create a new US Apple account and repurchase everything (yeah, right)
  2. Pay $49 to have Apple Support look into the issue
  3. Give up and use Linux (I hear Windows 8 will have a locked-down App store too)

If this is any indication of the future of software distribution in general, I think I’m going to just give up and go into farming. AFAIK there are no DRM or geolocation limitations on farming equipment yet.

44 thoughts on “The App Store Nightmare

  1. Acctually, all the apps are still there, and updates show up on Mac AppStore, and on the iPhone App Store — but not in iTunes. Furthermore, all purchases of things you’ve already bought before are free.

    You do lose all the records, though (they just go invisible, you can switch back). Also I’m pretty sure the restraints are not IP-based, as I updated my apps from my then-Polish (now Dutch) account in the US when I was there, and quite a few people in Poland still have an US account that works well (a common way of acquiring music back in the day before an official Polish store showed up).

    It’s generally a pain in the behind, but the fact is that publishers *do* use the regional restriction facility, and Apple essentially has to provide them with it, and at least keep up the appearances of them actually working.

  2. … or set up a VPN connection back to Sweden to update your Swedish apps. That’s how I access US-only or UK-only content from Canada.

    I agree that it sucks, and that Apple appear to have fucked up big-time, but I believe in working around bureaucratic problems; fixing them takes forever

  3. I have done farming, the current situation in the US is that technically anything you might think of doing is probably illegal unless you are Monsanto. Also, be careful to refuse to sign any documents the feds present you with related to farming, nearly all of them have specific clauses where you permanently waive your fourth amendment rights.

  4. About that farming idea … you might want to look into Monsanto. They sell seeds engineered so you have to buy them again next year (can’t use part of your crop for next year’s seeds) and I hear they are very strict about regions as well.

    That said, I’ve been using my US Apple Store account over here in Slovenia since forever. It’s never been an issue … that I can remember.

  5. As more days pass, and more things like this happen (software treating the user as a threat), “Free as in freedom” starts to sound more and more like something worth working for, doesn’t it?

  6. Andreas, blogging about your less than positive experience with App Store Support is a great first step to finding a solution. Hopefully Apple is aware of such circumstances (that is, customers moving from one country to another) and maybe they can do something about it to prevent future disruptions in the services you mention. Best of luck.

    Your story also sheds light on a rather fascinating aspect of the digital economy. Namely, the vague and inconsistent interpretation of region laws for products and services consumed in an age where so-called “regions” of cyberspace arguably don’t (or rather should not) exist.

    If we think of the popular concept of cloud computing, digital products and services sold and consumed in one country should ideally be accessible everywhere, regardless of a person’s physical location.
    But the reality is much different. The Web is full of digital borders based on media laws written decades ago.
    This is the reason why the Netflix movie selection is vastly different between the U.S. and Canada; why Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Platform for Blogs is only available for U.S. and U.K. residents; why Canadians can’t watch Hulu, and why Americans can’t view BBC iPlayer TV content.

  7. I have a similar scenario going on. I have an Apple ID that I use to switch back and forth between my Panamanian purchases and my Canadian purchases. Fortunately, I have never encountered a problem like this. I can willfully switch between countries to redownload apps. No such problems with updating, this I can do regardless of country as long as my Apple ID has the purchase somewhere, including Xcode.

  8. This happened to me once when I had two accounts at one time, but both were in the US. In the case of your moving to another country, I would expect Apple to consider that scenario and support that. We are living in the global village now of course. But on the other hand, there is really no reason for any company to follow any logic-based plan of action ๐Ÿ˜‰ LOL

  9. Yep, VPN is your best but temporary option. Long term is to repurchase all your apps again from the US account. Crazy suggestion is gift apps to yourself from Swedish to US account.

  10. It’s funny if you think about it, the region lock has usually been a thing big publishers demanded, but it was small indies that made the App store a success, and we still got the stupid region locks.

  11. CMIIW, I think the availability of apps from App Store are depended on a country’s specific regulations.

  12. Can you use TOR to update iTunes? if so you can set the exit point for TOR in the torrc file and basically use it as a VPN for any country.

  13. Farming is a good choice…
    work for 40 yrs, buy a very good country side land.. bake bread, do some farming… smoke some cigar, damn!!

  14. Sweden has a bunch of proxies. And I’m sure if worse came to worst you could rent a vpn service for less than $45 anyway.

  15. Apple are doing this kind of shit all across the board. After buying the first 3 iPhone models like a zealous fanboy and having all 3 go faulty in little over a year, I learned the hard way just how far Apple will go to make money for nothing. Never again.

    I’m now a happy Android user and wouldn’t switch back to Apple crap if they paid me. Asus make hardware every bit as good as Apple anyway. Why a tech-savvy person would voluntarily opt in to Apple’s walled garden is beyond me.

  16. I had two weeks saga trying to get free Mountain Lion update for MacBook Air purchased early July. Apple wouldn’t accept invoice from… Apple as proof of purchase! At the end I was almost ready to pay $20 for update just get over incredibly stupid replies from Apple. I’ve been big supporter of everything Apple for years but few things over the last few months make me thing it’s going MS way… Seem like canaries in a mine…

    • Great. I bought Lion Server but it has disappeared from my account and now Apple replies for how to get it back are nonsensical. Sadly, looks like I’m not the only one. Damn Apple, I don’t understand why so many people act as if they can do now wrong (not you or other commenters here, of course, but the fanbouis. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. The same happened to me when I tried to update XCode on my Mac – but I only ever used ONE iTunes account on this Mac! So this clearly had to be some kind of bug or simply a wrongly worded error message.

    A quick google-search for “You have updates available…” showed a lot of people having the same problem, and the solution from this post did the trick for me:

    • This was it! I had disabled SpotLight on my Air to save some battery life.

      There doesn’t seem to be any geolocation limitation for updates as the App Store support people wrote in their email.

      Thank you for mentioning this!

  18. I agree with most complaints here, but I’m absolutely sure that IP-based restrictions for downloadable apps (including updates) are not into effect, as I have multiple accounts (US, Brazil, UK and Canada), all working and updating.

    IP-based restrictions are for audio/video related content on iTunes Store.

  19. Ryan S. :
    After buying the first 3 iPhone models like a zealous fanboy and having all 3 go faulty in little over a year

    there may be a fandroid out there who gives this comment (true or not) some weight but Apple is not rated number one in customer support every year because they make low quality products that they will not support.
    Sell your story somewhere else.

  20. I think you messed up my changing your account to a US one. I have a Japanese and US account and use them in tandom. To update my Japanese apps all I got to do is log out of one and log into the other. I’ve had no problems updating apps or buying apps from the US store in Japan or the opposite. Initially setting up a second account merely needs a prepaid card from that region or a credit card billed in that country. Sorry you had such a hard time.

  21. This will probably be called trolling by most (even though it’s not), by I’d say you are the one to have chosen a product that is well known to be restrictive :s.
    I had the exact same problem with spotify, paypal, and more when changing country. And in each case , I had no other solution but to start all over again.

    The only solution for this to be avoided in the future is to make your voice heard as much as possible, and then maybe . . .

    That being said, the same kind of story will also be heard with the other platforms, none is known to be the perfect solution. As far as I am concerned, I had absolutely no problem changing country with android. I did have some problems with several applications.

  22. I moved to the US from the UK in March. My purchases tab is empty, but all my previously purchased apps can be downloaded for free. Xcode updated itself several times already.

    OTOH my Xbox Live account cannot be transitioned to a US account. All my purchases and gamer points are lost forever. MS don’t care.

    OTOH my Amazon account is completely screwed. Amazon don’t reply to my emails.

    OTOH Blizzard required me to email them a picture of my new driver’s license before they would transition me to a US account. This meant waiting several months, since it took me that long to get some US ID.

  23. I’ve been having a similar experience working with the UK store. Apparently, it is related to the different licensing agreements and taxes.

    In the case of the UK store, I need to have a UK address and Credit Card to make purchases. The IP address is not relevant because even British people travel.

    The way around this is to set up two different iTunes store accounts. One with a Swedish Address and Credit card, and one with a US address and card. This is how I work my iPad.

    I think Sleepytako is doing pretty much the same as I am.

  24. Thanks! I’ve just migrated to Poland to study Medic when I discover this.
    This, is a nightmare for anyone that is using the iTunes. I really don’t understand why do they lock apps to a single region =.=

  25. I feel your frustration there are so many little niggly problems around App Store and ID’s, I’ve lost my rag endless times, I regularly access offshore sites that should be banned in my region by ISP simply using a VPN’ hides my IP and makes accessing these areas very simple. Every device allows VPN , phones, pods , macs, pads, I use it regularly so my ISP doesn’t know my true usage limits also they only see encrypted data, might be worth a shot, when you have it activated your IP becomes invisible.

  26. I have the same issue but have not moved country. I bought the MAc and software in the UK and am still in the UK but I still get the message that tells me to update using the account I used to purchase the app.

  27. This totally sucks and I am in the same situation.

    But this has nothing to do with DRMs: IT Architect at Apple just suck and wrongly designed their information system.

    Amazon is able to handle all of that very easily with it’s stores / app stores and they have DRMs too.

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