Let me start out by saying that I like Apple and many of the products that they have developed. I am not an Apple Fanboy, but there are those who could make an argument for that. I have an iPod (from several years ago when it was the ONLY option for a decent MP3 player), an iPhone (an old 3G that was given to me for free), an iPad (that I bought a month after they came out), and my wife has a MacBook.
I use my iPad a lot, probably 2 to 3 hours a day. It is a great device and I love it. A number of people that I have recommended it to have purchased one and are happy with it. I could write an entire blog post extolling the Apple ecosystem.
Part of my job is to research new technology that can be used by local people when working on translation, literacy, scripture engagement, dictionaries, etc. On the very day that the iPad was announced I wrote an email about possible uses that I immediately saw. Two and a half years later I am even more excited about the possibilities that devices like the iPad offer, but I have run into a major road block that makes me wonder if an Apple device can really be used in Africa: the credit card.
Last month while I was in the US I purchased an iPad for a Ghanaian co-worker who needed it for his job. From my own experience, most of the Apps that I use on a daily basis are free. I knew he would need a few Apps that needed to be paid for, so I also bought him an Apple Gift Card. I did not register it, create an Apple ID, or even take it out of the box until I got back to Ghana.
Last week I helped him install iTunes on his computer and we tried to setup an Apple ID for him so that he could download Apps from the App Store. This process required him to enter a credit card number. He does not have a credit card, just like the majority of Ghanaians. Note: the iTunes Store correctly identified that we were in Ghana.
Looking online I found several people who recommended a workaround from Apple that allows you to setup an account without a credit card. We tried it. The first day we got an error message that really told me nothing. A Google search only found three results which were unrelated. The second day we got a generic error about the system being unable to process the request. The third day we received no errors, it just did not go through.
So I had the brilliant idea to go online and create an Apple ID through the Apple site rather than through iTunes, thinking that was the problem. I created the Apple ID without any problem, no request for a credit card. But when I tried to use it in the App Store to download a free App, it required that I add a credit card.
I have now been working on this problem for a week and have not found a solution. It begs the question, why is a credit card required for the App Store?
- It makes purchasing items from the App Store easier, especially on the iPad because you don’t have to type in your payment information each time. That may be true, but there are a lot of free Apps available. The Apps that I spend 90% of my time on are all free downloads.
- It provides a security mechanism to help Apple verify the identity of a user when they need tech support. A few years ago that may have been true, but now it is a liability. A few days ago a reporter had his Gmail, Twitter, Amazon, and Apple accounts hijacked because of Apple’s use of that information.
Really, I cannot think of a good reason why a credit card number is required on the App Store. The App Store is the only way that you can install Apps unto the iPad unless you jailbreak it. This unnecessary requirement leaves the iPad inaccessible to a large percentage of the world’s population therefore seriously reducing its usefulness to people that I work with.
Shortly after writing this post I was able to get things working. By creating a new Apple ID from the iPad itself, I was able to choose a payment option of “none” and it worked. The bummer is that I had to use a different email address for the Apple ID, because the original email address was already tied to the first Apple ID that I created. Did I mention that once you create an Apple ID you can never delete it?
My idea of using a gift card as a payment method is a bust! Because I set that I was in Ghana on the Apple ID, it will not let me use a Gift Card purchased in the US. I don’t believe I have seen Apple Gift Cards available in Ghana, and credit cards are not an option as already mentioned. So, we are back to square one of no way to purchase Apps.