The Apple Music Japanese Metadata Mess Continues

Kana gojuon (fifty sounds) sorting for Japanese artists on Apple Music and iCloud Music Library has never worked for me since those services started in 2015. No matter how much I enter and tweak kana sort fields in iTunes, 12 hours later iCloud Music Library on iOS ignores everything and sends kanji named artists to the bottom of the list under ‘#’.

Just for kicks I decided to engage Apple Support about the problem. The Japanese support staff was very professional and kind. It took 3 sessions of taking screenshots on iOS Apple Music and macOS iTunes, and collecting a sysdiagnose log to upload to Apple Support. I have done these a few times but had to admire the composure of the Apple support technician. I could never stay that cool walking a neophyte through the same data collection process.

He promised to call me with an update today and did so, “We heard from engineering but there is no solution for your issue.” I suspected as much but it was weirdly reassuring to know that Apple engineers could not fix it. He went on to explain that the kana sorting issue might be fixed in a future update. Or maybe not: it has been 4 years already, I’m not holding my breath.

Japan is the 2nd largest music market after the United States and far more profitable than other Asian countries. You would think that Apple would invest the time and effort to fix things. The strange thing is that kana sorting on iTunes and iTunes Match worked fine before Apple Music and iCloud Music Library. iTunes won’t be with us much longer, but it worked well for a long time. Goodbye old friend.

The Perils of Changing Your Apple ID Country

You can change your Apple ID country setting but there are risks as outlined by Apple Support and the recent “Apple deleted my movies” viral Tweet brouhaha. I guess Mr. da Silva neglected to read the Apple Support doc.

I myself would love to change my Apple ID Country setting from the US to Japan so that iMessages on macOS will finally show proper contact names instead of +81-80-xxxx-xxxx because iMessages in macOS Mojave still does not have a Location setting like FaceTime and iMessages do everywhere else.

Unfortunately when I do that I lose access to all of my iTunes USA purchased content built up over the years, just like Mr. da Silva. I hate it that all of my purchased digital content is locked to my credit card country. If it’s my content it should be my content everywhere right?

Oh well, it looks like another year of using iMessages on iPad instead of macOS.

macOS Mohave Messages app Location Thingy

iMessages Compared

The Amazon Prime Japan Market Sweet Spot

Apple TVIt’s astounding that Apple has sold AppleTV in Japan longer than iPhone without offering a single minute of Japanese TV content. AppleTV was initially offered as a device for playing iTunes movie content on a big screen. 10 years later on that still is AppleTV’s Japanese marketing pitch. If you want TV content on AppleTV in Japan use the NetflixHulu, Bandai Channel or AbemaTV apps.

Hulu (2014) and Netflix (2015) were the first companies from outside of Japan to offer licensed Japanese TV on-demand content, far behind the home competition. Netflix dipped its toe into the original content pool by picking up part of the third season production tab for the popular Shinya Shokudō (Midnight Diner) series (great show BTW). Hulu offers original Japanese content too.

And then there is Amazon Prime. A quick comparison.

Cloud Service JPY Monthly Cost
iCloud 2TB 1,300
Apple Music 817
iTunes Match 332
Netflix 1,050
Rounded Total ¥3,500

Amazon Prime costs about ¥400 a month. Customers get access to a lot of content on Prime Video and 1 millions songs on Prime Music. Not the whole thing of course but enough content for most of the people most of the time. Japanese friends who never cared about online content but occasionally buy things on Amazon are suddenly watching and listening to Amazon Prime.

What’s interesting about Prime Video however is that despite Amazon’s heavy content pitch to the hip young online generation, the popular movie title ranking is defintely not hip and young. More like the 60~70 retiree bracket.

The unequal comparison is simply meant to show the power of Amazon bundling which Apple does not do. Khoi Vihn made a very good point that Apple could encourage purchases by offering a discount window with video rentals.

That’s a start, but if Apple is getting into video streaming and content creation, they will have to intelligently streamline and bundle cloud services while being everything that all the other content providers are not. Japanese content included, preferrably geared for retirees.