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.