Hong Kong iTunes Store

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Hong Kong iTunes Store opened a month ago. Since then, basically every comment left on most Cantonese language songs are complaints. Users are complaining about the use of Mandarin Pinyin to transliterate the name of the songs and albums instead of using Traditional Chinese characters. The majority of the population in Hong Kong speaks Cantonese and Traditional Chinese characters are used in writing, unlike the rest of China where Mandarin is the official dialect and Simplified Chinese characters are used in writing. To make the matter worst, Hong Kong iTunes Store opens at a time when Hong Kong’s mistrust toward China is at its greatest. The population viewed the increasing intrusion of Mandarin as a threat of their way of life, as the influx of mainland tourists proliferate the use of their dialect. Storefronts catering tourists started using Simplified Chinese. The official swear-in ceremony of the new leader of Hong Kong was conducted in Mandarin. To the general public, the language problem in iTunes Store is just the latest example of another intrusion and interference from Beijing.

Of course that was just the undercurrent. The main problem with Mandarin Pinyin being used as metadata of the songs and albums is that it is difficult to read or understand for most people that are not familiar with it. Pinyin transliterates Mandarin Chinese into Roman letters, made every song title long and cumbersome. Granted there is the hidden benefit of non-Chinese speakers can pronounce them since they are now Roman Letters, but that is not the way to go to inconvenient the majority of your local customer base for the benefits of non-Chinese speakers.

I have been following Apple for far too long to know that being so insensitive of local cultures is very out of character for Apple. This is a company that goes through great length to blend-in to local culture as much as possible, to the point that the scaffolding of their future Barcelona store is wrapped around in mosaic that mirror the style of the fame architect Antoni Gaudí – who designed many treasured buildings in Barcelona, including Passeig de Gràcia. They even changed the iconic Apple logo into a colorful mosaic breaking their own logo design rule. And the writing on the scaffolding to announce the future arrival of the Apple Store – is in Catalan, the local dialect, not Spanish or English. As you can see, if they pay so much attention to just the scaffolding, something that will get trash after the store opens, why would they be so insensitive for iTunes Store, their storefront that sell customers their digital goods??

I, therefore, did some investigating and some experimentation, switching around settings and so on. I discovered something! (I hope this is an exclusive and that I am the first to discover this, cos that would be cool!!) The Cantonese songs and albums in the store are actually in Traditional Chinese characters all along!!!! It is just that for some unknown reason, they would not display without some changing of settings!!! So without further ado, here are the instructions to get the Traditional Chinese characters to appear on Hong Kong iTunes Store: (Instructions are intended for Mac only, I don’t have a PC so I can’t tell you if it is similar if you are using Windows!)

1) On your Mac, open up System Preference

2) Goto Language & Text, choose Chinese as the first prefer order

3) Log out of the machine and log back in

4) Open iTunes, log out of Hong Kong region and log onto U.S. Store

5) Log back into the Hong Kong Store

6) iTunes should now be in Traditional Chinese, including songs and albums

7) Go back to System Preference and change your Mac back to English

8) The iTunes store should remain in Traditional Chinese interface unless you change the region of the store again

And there you go! 繁體中文 in 香港 iTunes Store! Traditional Chinese characters in the Hong Kong iTunes Store!

Now if only Apple let me use my US Apple ID to buy songs from the Hong Kong Store! Come on I am ready to give you my cash and you won’t take it! When will Apple (or most likely the record companies) ease the geographical restrictions? :(