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Usually more extended thoughts by Michael Camilleri.

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Japanese App Sakoku

Update: In iOS 11.3, Apple enabled automatic updating of apps downloaded from other app stores. This works for apps already installed on the device.

Admittedly, I’m an unusual case for the App Store. By nationality, I’m Australian but I live in Japan and use an American App Store account. As a result, I’m acutely aware of the geographic restrictions certain app owners put on their apps.

With Australian apps, it’s mostly what you’d expect: media streaming ones where a licensing component is involved. It’s a little frustrating when it’s an app for a bank or other service but at least these aren’t apps you frequently need, or want, to update.

Things are different in Japan where this kind of geographic restricting seems far more commonly practised. With smaller developers, you can imagine they figure it’s just not worth any additional trouble that could arise from being in foreign stores (eg. from non-Japanese speaking users, patent trolls, etc).

But it’s not just the little guy. Yahoo Japan, arguably the Japanese Internet company, is one of the worst offenders. This is particularly frustrating because in several areas (notably maps and weather) their data in Japan is superior to everyone else’s. It sucks to not be able to use their apps.1

Yahoo does make available their Yahoo Auctions app available in the U.S. Store so it’s not something they’re philosophically against. Perhaps it’s a case of licensing (connected to the use of the Yahoo brand). The Yahoo Auctions app is merely called ヤフオク and almost entirely omits Yahoo’s branding so there’s some circumstantial evidence for that.

In any event, this weird app sakoku is something I wish Japanese companies (and, in particular, Yahoo) wouldn’t do. ✺

  1. Strictly speaking, apps from different App Stores can be run on the same iOS device. The problem is that if a version of that app isn’t available in the store to which you’re logged in, then they won’t ever update.