Software, Languages, and Tablets

Let me tell you a story.  An Italian man from half way around the world comes to my shop in Wisconsin.  He had just purchased an iPad from the local Walmart and needs to activate it by connecting it to his iTunes account which was created in Switzerland.

Before this, I had never used an iPad.  To tell the truth, I've never used an iOS device beyond tinkering for a few moments.  But, the idea was simple enough: sign in to his iTunes account and connect the device to activate it.  Then, it would be a simple matter of updating the software to iOS 5.  So, it was set forth and done.

The next day, my foreign friend returns.  His iTunes and other applications are in German.  It turns out that all apps will default to the country that the account is registered in.  Apple's instructions don't cover situations like this.  They say to change the International language in the iPad settings and that should be the end of it.  Such was not the case.  Sure it would change the iPad's language settings to whatever I chose, but apps and iTunes itself remained in German.  There is an option within iTunes, near the bottom on the right.  It's a little flag and clicking it will allow you to change the store's country.  But this still won't change the language.  The language is locked to whatever country the account was registered in.  Since the account was registered in Switzerland, the only supported language for iTunes was German.

With his help, the account was registered to the United States.  The iPad was plugged back in and synced up.  Still, the apps remained locked in German.  It was at this point where I resorted to Google translate and began breaking down the options on the iPad in German.  After awkwardly typing in German for the first time in my life, I was able to log out of the account and sign back in.  Once this was done, the apps and iTunes converted to English.  Needless to say, it was a frustrating affair considering there are no clear cut instructions from Apple and I was not familiar with the device, software, or language.

It was a great learning experience, but another nail in the Apple coffin for me.  "It just works." is something I hear over and over again at Apple keynotes and conferences.  I'm not so sure of that anymore.