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Apple Stores to transition to iPod touches for checkout?

updated 11:05 am EDT, Thu October 29, 2009

Switch already said to be in effect in one area

Apple is transitioning its current mobile checkout system away from the Pocket PC to the iPod touch, several sources claim. A distinguishing trait of Apple Stores is the ability of clerks to handle payments away from a fixed station; the company has, however, been using Pocket PCs for this purpose since 2005, in spite of launching the iPhone and iPod touch in 2007. The move to the Touch is said to be coming in time for the 2009 holiday shopping season, and already in effect at a Valley Fair Mall location in Santa Clara, California, possibly as a trial.

The Touch is said to have said have several advantages, such as speed, finger control, a small size and better reliability. Clerks must use a stylus to control the Pocket PC, and it is considered prone to crashing and losing its Wi-Fi connection. "I hate these things," one user is said to complain. "In the middle of a transaction, I'll hit 'next' and end up dumped back at the login screen. It's so frustrating." The unit is in fact alleged to have been partly responsible for long lines during the iPhone 3G launch in 2008.

A major advantage for Apple corporate should be expenses, as new Pocket PC terminals cost between $800 and $1,000, and the company must pay not only for their maintenance but backups to ensure breakdowns do not disrupt business. Using first-party hardware is expected to cut down on both initial and follow-up costs.

It is suggested that the Touch transition did not happen earlier mainly because of firmware limitations. Checkout clerks need barcode scanners and credit card readers, and these could not have been easily (or cheaply) supported for the Touch prior to iPhone 3.0. The code's support for third-party point-of-sale gear and software leaves little reason to use a Pocket PC.

Two separate initiatives also believed to be in progress at Apple Stores. These include allowing mobile checkout with cash payments, and giving all store staff same-colored t-shirts. Shoppers are said to be finding the current shirts -- which separate workers by role -- more of a confusion than a legitimate help.

by MacNN Staff



  1. sgirard

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I am always a little embarrassed every time I see an Apple rep pull the WinMo device out of their holster to complete a transaction with the stupid stylus. I hope this is true.

  1. Outdo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    From an ex-specialist

    As a former specialist, the use of the WiMo was mixed. The possible use of the Touch is somewhat problematic, given the lack of a built-in camera with which to scan barcodes.

    Unreported, however, is an alternative (or complementary) approach. It is the use of the so-called "runner" software installed in all "front of the house" machines since the summer. While ostensively used to get inventory from the back while keeping the specialist with the customer, it can easily become either the check-out itself or the software for the touch, since it operates somewhat like the Apple store website. With the runner, the scanning for checkout (and also for inventory control) could be done in the back room before the equipment is brought out front. The credit payment could be done via card swipes scattered throughout the store.


  1. bjojade

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Attachment required

    I'm guessing there will be some sort of attachment for the iPod to be able to scan the credit card. That same attachment could also include a barcode reader, be it camera based or preferably laser based.

    If this is available, I'd love it for my store as well, if only for the coolness factor...

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Was Apple Store 1st to handle

    retail transactions away from a central cash register?

    If so, why?

    Just wondering. Don't wish to be accused of being a fanboi, so I won't assume Apple was first to do it.

  1. PBG4 User

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Was Apple Store 1st to handle

    I've been waiting for payment away from a central register ever since I was able to complete payment for a lunch transaction right at my table in the Gare du Nord train station in Paris in 1998. I can't believe it took 10 years for me to see this type of transaction processing in the states and so far only at one store chain (Apple).

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Hope

    Seriously? What in the world are you embarrassed about?

    And are they going to get scanners for their iPods, or are they typing in the 16 digit cc number?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: From an ex-specialist

    With the runner, the scanning for checkout (and also for inventory control) could be done in the back room before the equipment is brought out front. The credit payment could be done via card swipes scattered throughout the store.

    This only helps if the product you are getting is in the 'back room'. However, the iPods/iPhones at my local store are in drawers in the store, and they sell third-party stuff off the shelves.

    And then you're still having to go from where you are to where the card swipe is.

  1. charlituna

    Joined: Dec 1969


    i have seen them

    i've been to one of the test stores and I've seen the whole mobile thing. it actually looks like Apple designed the rig themselves. it looks like if like one of those battery pack cases from Mophie or whatever. the touch is in the middle. the barcode scanner can actually scan several at once so it hits the UPC, the Serial etc together. and pretty quick. those WinMo things can take as much as 10 seconds to actually scan. the credit card slider is along the one side (under the Touch). they use some kind of 3rd party stylus for signing. Pogo or something. it was pretty slick

    and if that rig was designed by them that might be part of why the change wasn't done the second 3.0 was out. the rig wasn't ready. that or perhaps they couldn't test the problem until then and wanted to be more certain than a week or two that it was ready for everywhere

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