Purchasing apps in the HP Touchpad App Catalog – a guide for those outside “official countries”
Posted Oct 27 2011 5:38pm
You might think this is a no-brainer but for those living outside the “official list” of countries where one can purchase apps, “geo-restriction” has been a huge obstacle to getting apps. HP/Palm lifted it somewhat when they made free apps globally available but paid apps are still restricted to a few countries. If you say, wanted to purchase iSilo for webOS , you would notice the option is available only for the lucky ones living in one of 8 countries.
With the release of the Touchpad and webOS 3.x, “geo-restriction” was eased a bit in the sense that when one first launches the App Catalog on the device, you are able to select the country of choice, including one which offers paid apps, no matter where you are. Mind you, you are asked only ONCE, so you should choose the App Catalog which suits your needs. For most, that would mean choosing the US App Catalog, which is what I did.
The next hurdle is to register a valid credit card and this is tricky as you need a valid US credit card and a US address. You are in luck because there is a service which provides just this – US Unlocked . What this company provides you with is a pre-paid debit card (VISA or Mastercard) complete with a valid US address and phone number with which you can register for use with your Touchpad App Catalog account. There are setup and transaction fees to consider (see their Terms and Conditions ) but the fees in my opinion are quite reasonable. It does take a number of steps though. First you have to pay a set-up fee ($10) and furnish some particulars – a valid ID and utility bill for verification purposes. It takes several business days for your application to be approved so a modicum of patience is needed. Once approved you can top-up the credit in your account (Paypal is accepted) and you are ready to go. Well not quite.
There is one more caveat though and that is you are better off using a VPN with a US IP address whenever you register your US credit card in the App Catalog account preferences (found in the menu of the App Catalog) otherwise the card might get rejected. I also think using a paid VPN service is preferable since they tend to be more stable than free ones. The one I use is BlackVPN and if you choose the Single Server option (with USA as the country of choice) it costs only €5 a month. (by the way if you use SCDVDZN as a referral code you will get 2 additional months free the first time you sign up making it a total of three months for only €5 which is really worth it to test the service). Please note the default VPN application in the Touchpad may not work with BlackVPN unless you install the free PPTP VPN plugin (search for it in the App Catalog – it was certainly necessary for webOS 3.0.2 but I am not sure if this plugin is already included in the newest webOS 3.0.4 which was recently released and if so, then it’s not necessary). After you install the plugin you can login with the ID/Password provided by BlackVPN. I use services like checkip.org with the browser to be doubly sure I am getting a US IP address after logging in to the VPN server.
I managed to successfully register my US prepaid VISA card with the App Catalog this way. Use the address and phone number as provided by USunlocked.com. The card number and the 3 digit verification code are displayed on the image of the card in your USunlocked account. If the system prompts you with a query on the address (it might be related to the address formatting), I just selected to accept what I entered as the option without any problems, and the card was immediately accepted and I could begin app purchases.
There’s one more thing. I found that it is safer to continue using the VPN and US IP whenever you purchase apps since your card might get black-listed if you continue to purchase items using a non-US IP even though you have more than enough credit in the card. It sure sounds stupid to me in this era of global travel, but I guess that’s the security system built-in. I did test it out and after something like 3-4 successful purchases with a US IP, I tried some purchases without the VPN, and after one got through, the second one registered a “failed transaction”. If you get this problem, then all you need to do is perform a top-up for your USunlocked card (there is no need to re-apply for another one) since a top-up will provide you with a fresh new card number and new address for every top-up. I initially thought it was inconvenient but now I see the benefit of a new card ID! All you need to do then is to de-register your old card in the App Catalog account preferences, and register the new one (again make sure you are using the VPN and US IP address). My personal preference is not to keep too much in the card balance – perhaps $25-50 but not too little either since you would lose more having to pay top-up fees if you perform frequent top-ups.
You might also wonder is it worth it getting a paid VPN service just to be able to purchase apps? Well the other benefit of a US VPN is that you can stream Hulu on your Touchpad or if you get the excellent Video Flood app (worth the $1.99 imo) you can not only view podcasts but easily stream videos from US TV sites (which normally require a US IP).
Well that’s it. I hope this little guide helps you. I am glad I can at last purchase apps and more importantly show my appreciation to the developers out there. I can also if I want as a developer purchase my own paid apps (see my webOS medical app list ) in order to reply to feedback posted in the app reviews!