Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Overcoming the Hindrances of iPading in Europe

Elliott recently asked me to share my initial thoughts on the "Affordances of iPading in Europe". While I would love to write a glorifying report on the broad range of European application scenarios, reality still looks somewhat different. Let me therefore start off by exploring the current "Hindrances of iPading in Europe", which Nigel Paine has also been facing, and focus on the affordances in future posts.

Hindrance No.1 -- Getting an iPad
As you may know, international sales of the iPad have been pushed out for at least a month due to the strong demand "at home". This makes getting an iPad the first hindrance for European users. Apple ships iPads only to the US. Unless you are planning an oversea trip, you need to find a third party with a US address to ship it to you.

Hindrance No.2 -- Getting access to the iPad App Store
You have successfully overcome "Hindrance No.1" and are holding an iPad in your hands. Before you can do anything with it, you must connect it to iTunes on your PC/Mac. This is when the iPad gets set to your iTunes country location and language defaults. After this procedure your iPad comes up with a localized user interface (mine was German) and is ready to go. You configure your wireles lan, play around with the default installation but what you really want is access to Apple's "whole new world of iPad apps"!

Unfortunately, the European iPad App Stores are still closed and you can neither access your regional store via iTunes on your PC/Mac nor launch it from your iPad (hitting the App Store button results in an error message). European iPhone users are probably familiar with the challenges of the regional iTunes store concept (you can e.g. not redeem gift cards from other countries in your local store).

With some workarounds you can download a limited set of iPad apps via iTunes on your PC/Mac. Nevertheless, currently the only real option to get access to thousands of apps made just for the iPad is to set up an account with the US iTunes store. This involves another obstacle as you can only register with a US credit card (=address in the US). European PayPal accounts do not work either. The key workaround here is to select "none" as the payment option as highlighted in the instructions, which at least provides you with access to the free iPad apps. If you still want to purchase any apps, I recommend getting a US iTunes store gift card and e-code from eBay.

Hindrance No.3 -- Getting access to apps for US citizens and residents
You have an iPad, you got connected to the US iPad App Store and life is good! The iPad Learning Lab research team keeps pointing out how fantastic NetFlix and other US services are and you are downloading the app from the US iTunes store. Unfortunately, the app refuses to work because the service is not available outside of the US and the app identifies your European IP address. I have not tried this out yet but here is where Services like Black VPN promise to solve the issue especially for US citizens traveling abroad.

So much about the hindrances. You may follow the instructions at your own risk (I have not synced my other Apple devices since). I can tell you that it is definitely worth the efforts especially with the European launch being at least another month out! The iPad is an amazing device with a high potential to fundamentally change the way we approach learning. Watch out for my impressions, experiences and the affordances in future posts.

Are there any other European early adopters out there? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences and collaboratively work with you on exploring the European (learning) affordances of the iPad!


  1. I got an introduction to Celia´s iPad at the weekend and I was really excited to hold it in my hands. However - the hindrances explained above would definatly stop me from trying to get an iPad now (as being located in Europe (Germany)).
    I really like the userfriendly and intuitive way it´s setup. I was absolutly impressed of a young boy at elementary school age who just saw me opening an apps. When it was his turn to hold the iPad in his hands he was able to scroll and find exactly that apps - without any explanation. Amazing!

  2. Here is a little work-around for getting apps for an iPad outside of the US-- at least until the official launch in your country.

    "How-to fix the iPad “App Store is not supported in your country” error for international users"

    Now I can get back to the serious business of hitting 'refresh' in my browser to see when my own iPad 3G will be shipped.

  3. @Tom - Excactly! That is how it has worked for me (see also my references in the paragraph on hindrance No.2) and made me a very happy European iPad user!! Talk to you later today! - Celia