Users can now buy factory-unlocked, no-plan iPhone 6s, 6s Plus units in US
As usual, following a month of carrier exclusivity, Apple has now begun selling factory-unlocked, SIM-free versions of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus at full retail price. The units have the advantage of allowing users to pick more customized plans that suit their needs, or change carriers at will, as well as be used in nearly any country globally with local providers. Broadly speaking, buying an unlocked iPhone outright is also generally the least expensive option in terms of total cost of ownership and highest resell value.
Westminster gives approval for makeover of London's first Apple Store
Calling the current Regent Street Apple Store's interior "tired and outdated," the City of Westminster has granted Apple authorization to make significant changes to the store, including a rare granting of permission to make some exterior modifications. The renovations are thought to be intended to bring the London store more in line with the latest design template, which has recently been showcased with a new Apple Store in Brussels. The company expects, according to plans put forth last May to remove double the size of the entrance, remove the front portion of the mezzanine, and change the current staircase from one into two, among other changes.
Amazon Flex will pay drivers to deliver Prime Now orders
Amazon has launched a service that allows its customers to pick up some extra cash, by working as a part-time delivery driver for the retailer. Leaked last month, Amazon Flex will pay drivers to perform deliveries for it's Prime Now one-hour delivery service in a number of markets, with participants being paid between $18 and $25 per hour to hand over products to other customers within an hour or two of being ordered.
Check-in app bases guess on Apple Store foot traffic from previous debut days
Social app Foursquare is making a prediction that Apple will sell between 13 million and 15 million iPhones over its retail opening weekend, based on historical data it has of foot traffic to Apple Stores on the day new iPhones debut, correlated with how many sales resulted. Based on users who "check in" to Foursquare at an Apple Store on the day a new iPhone debuts, the site believes Apple will handily beat both analyst's predictions as well as its own 10 million unit record from last year.
Joswiak in New York, Ahrendts in London, Wozniak in California
[Updated with Tim Cook spotting] At least three of Apple's executive team, and its co-founder, have been spotted at various Apple Stores as part of the celebrations surrounding the launch of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus around the world on Friday. Apple's retail chief, Dame Angela Ahrendts was at the Covent Garden store in London, while CEO Tim Cook was spotted in Georgetown, and VP of iPhone Marketing Greg Joswiak appeared at the icon "glass cube" Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The day also marked the debut of new gray t-shirts for the worldwide retail team. Steve Wozniak, as is his custom, stood in line with fans in Santa Clara to get his new iPhone.
Austria, Ireland, Denmark to have Apple Watch at retail on September 25
Three more countries will begin selling the Apple Watch at retail, following in the steps of Belgium, which opened its first-ever Apple Store (which included the Apple Watch) in Brussels earlier on Saturday. Austria, Denmark, and Ireland will begin selling the Apple Watch on Friday, September 25, the same day it will go on sale from US carriers T-Mobile and Sprint. Also gaining the Apple Watch in the coming weeks are Australia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Company to rely more on natural light, stone facades in new design
The new design for standalone, non-flagship Apple Stores as mentioned in our recent story on the approval process happening in Tennessee has been revealed in filings with the Germantown Design Review Commission. The new design, which will also be used in stores opening overseas this fall, is not a radical departure from existing designs, but replaces the stainless steel facade with a granite paneling, and increases the use of natural light, plants, and other environmental elements.
Apple now selling third-party Apple Watch accessories in Apple Stores
Apple Stores around the US are now selling third-party Apple Watch accessories at the stores, often featuring packaging co-designed with Apple in an effort to give accessories a more uniform look. The first of these new products is the NightStand for Apple Watch, created by ElevationLabs. The new unit is only available in retail stores, and has not yet appeared online.
Classes and workshops more popular, also being revamped
As previously reported, Apple is retiring the $99 per year "One to One" training program in favor of an upgraded and free workshops program as of September 28. The company, in a leaked memo to employees, cited lower attendance as the primary reason for the sunsetting of the paid program, and has reorganized its workshop scheduling pages on its website to make it easier for users to schedule classes.
Part of ongoing consolidation between retail and online stores
As part of an ongoing revamp focused on greater integration between online and retail experiences, Apple has made some changes to its now-integrated retail areas of the its website, specifically to clean up and consolidate workshop scheduling and appointments. The new system is similar to the Genius Bar reservation system, and allows users to quickly locate workshops, One to One classes, and Joint Venture events.
Rush to put Watch in all stores accompanies revamp of Apple SWASs
Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly has announced that the retailer will change course on the Apple Watch, and rush to put the wearable in all 1,050 of its retail locations in the US "by the end of September," instead of the 300 outlets it was previously planning for. In addition, the iPhone maker's "Store Within a Store" branded Apple sections within Best Buy stores in some 740 locations are undergoing renovations in time for the holiday season.
In-store tuition scheme allegedly being phased out by Apple
Apple may be making another change to its retail stores, by allegedly ending its "One to One" subscription-based tutoring scheme. A report claims the program will be shutting down in favor of providing more free workshops, allowing multiple people to learn the same topic at the same time, which increases the number of people visiting the store as well as making more efficient use of its employees.
Current-C backer drug chain to capitulate, accept NFC-based payments
Rite-Aid, a drugstore chain that turned off access to NFC-based mobile payment systems despite protests as part of its compliance with a rival system still to appear, CurrentC, has relented and will begin offering support for Apple Pay and other wireless payment options starting August 15, the company said. Announced last year, Current-C has yet to appear, leading to increasing customer frustration with stores that don't offer mobile payment options.
Beacons will provide Target customers with in-store deal notifications
Target is going to start experimenting with using beacons in some of its stores, to try and nudge customers towards certain products. The retailer will be fitting out 50 of its stores across the United States with the system, which will push notifications and recommendations to customer smartphones about offers and other deals over Bluetooth, as it attempts to increase sales in a challenging retail environment with cheaper online competition.
Canton Road Apple Store continues aggressive Apple China expansion
Apple has opened up its latest Apple Store in China, with the Canton Road location in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui district being the fourth outlet for the city. CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter to thank the "thousands of Hong Kong customers" visiting the new location and joining in the celebration of the store launch, with the 23rd Apple Store constructed in China being part of a major retail expansion in the country for the company.
Apple has confirmed the pull, but not the fairly apparent reason why
After months of speculation on the future of the product with Apple, the popular Nest smart thermostat -- co-developed by ex-Apple employee Tony Fadell, and now owned by Google -- has been purged from both Apple's online store, and also the retail arm of the company. In its place is now the Ecobee 3 HomeKit thermostat.
Standard retail procedure questioned, suit represents 12K retail workers
Despite a previous dismissal of an earlier version of the lawsuit, a US District Court judge has ruled that Apple must face a trial in a class-action lawsuit over the practice of "bag checks," a standard retail loss-prevention technique that is widespread among retailers. The specific dispute in the case involving Apple was that employees complained they were being detained for up to 15 minutes after their shift had ended, without compensation for the lost time.
Gartner disagrees, claims US Mac sales down from year-ago quarter
The latest estimates for retail sales and marketshare from industry analyst firm IDC claim that Mac sales have risen significantly, even in the face of an overall and deepening industry slump in traditional notebook and desktop PCs. For the June quarter that ended at the end of last month, IDC estimates that Mac shipments were up 16.1 percent worldwide from the year-ago quarter while the PC market generally saw an 11.8 percent contraction year-over-year. Apple was the only major computer maker to show a gain in the report.
Apple CEO asks execs to investigate retail employee complaints
According to documents unsealed in an ongoing lawsuit brought by Apple retail workers against the company, Apple Store employees took to writing emails directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook to complain about the way employee bag check searches, which are intended to guard against pilfering and loss, are conducted. The lawsuit contends that employees are subject to "demeaning" procedures that also cost them excessive time and lost wages.
Some US stores following Euro trend of 'blending in' to area style
The latest Apple Store to open in New York City -- the Upper East Side location, the seventh in greater NYC -- is somewhat hard to spot, particularly compared to some other area Apple stores, such as the iconic glass cube that marks the entrance to the Fifth Avenue store. The Upper East Side store, inside the Beaux Arts building from the 1920s that used to house US Mortgage and Trust bank, has no outward appearance of its current function, save for a small black flag with the Apple logo on the outside.
Apple Stores to carry UP2 and UP3, other models in near future
Although Apple retail stores cleared out most fitness bands and similar health-related accessories in April in anticipation of the release of the Apple Watch, the company did continue to stock some basic bands such Jawbone's Up Move clip-on unit. On Thursday, a Jawbone senior executive revealed in Japan that the company's other models would be returning to the Apple Store in Japan and other regions, including the US, this summer.
Space Black Stainless Steel with Space Black Link Bracelet still constrained
Apple today announced that the highly sought-after Apple Watch will be available in Italy, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan beginning Friday, June 26 from the Apple Online Store, Apple's retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers. Alongside the international expansion, Apple noted that US retail availability of the wearable is imminent, with an estimate commencement starting on or around June 19, a week ahead of the international expansion.
First HomeKit accessories said to ship just prior to Worldwide Developers Conference
Just ahead of Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, which kicks off June 8, a number of manufacturers are set to announce the first HomeKit-compatible products arriving at retail, according to sources. The home-automation technology allows common household products such as lighting systems, environment systems, alarms, doors, and other items to be controlled through iOS app and Siri.
First UAE store will be 50,000 square feet, planned for August opening
A new report from Dubai indicates that Apple will build the world's largest Apple Store in the country's Mall of the Emirates that should open this summer. The facility will be some 50,000 square feet in total, and will be the first Apple retail store in the United Arab Emirates and Middle East, though a second one is said to be in the planning stages. The country has had an online Apple store since 2011, but the new brick-and-mortar store is expected to open in August of this year.
Prime subscribers can ask Alexa to re-order previously bought items
Amazon has made it easier for owners of its Echo to do online shopping, in what is an expected expansion of the capabilities of the retailer's portable speaker. Prime subscribers are now being given the option of placing orders for items they shopped for previously by voice commands alone, via the Alexa digital assistant, half a year after the Echo initially launched.
Some stores had been supporting the service unofficially alongside NFC rivals
Contrary to earlier media reports that suggested Home Depot would drop the mobile payments service, in fact the company has announced that it formally plans to support Apple Pay throughout its entire US operation, making it the largest retailer thus far to support Apple's mobile-payments platform. The announcement comes alongside, and will not replace, stores' acceptance of payment rival PayPal, and the chain says it may continue to add other payment forms.
Spotlights on The Feature Thief mini-series, Amazon's sustainability, Deliveries app
If podcasts were eggs, The MacNN Podcast would be ready to deliver in a cardboard carton! We're up to episode 12, and we take a look at the top stories of the past week, including the retail debut -- such as it was -- of the Apple Watch, where a few select high-fashion stores did actually have stock to sell to walk-in customers. We also chat about the big industry news of the Time Warner-Comcast merger collapse, Randy Ubillos' retirement, and more.
Few locations have some actual selling stock, but mostly demos rule on former retail debut
While Apple has since abandoned its former April 24 retail launch day for the Apple Watch due to a global sellout, a few select stores -- almost entirely third-party fashion boutique sellers who secured allotments early -- are said to have or have had actual stock of Apple Watches to sell. Customers hoping to score one today are lining up outside these shops, even as Apple Retail chief Dame Angela Ahrendts spent the day in China.
Select high-end fashion stores to carry Sport, Watch models, no Edition
Most likely due to orders having been filled ahead of the April 10 pre-ordering debut of the Apple Watch, a handful of select high-end boutique outlets will actually have some Apple Watches for sale on April 24, as the company originally planned for its own stores. The boutiques are said to be receiving pre-alloted shipments of the Sport and Watch models, but the gold Edition version continues to be unavailable anywhere at retail.
Stores to offer workshop on Apple Watch starting April 24, despite shortages
Although the unexpected sellout of the Apple Watch will put a crimp of unavailability in the works, Apple is going ahead with new "Apple Watch Basics" workshops at some of its retail stores beginning April 24. The lucky relative few who will receive their pre-orders on or near launch day, along with those who are still waiting, are likely to be the chief participants in the workshops, which will run through May 8 in the US only. The classes will run approximately 60 minutes in order to cover all of the many key features of the new device.
Demand for the 'highly personal' product steep, retail sales impossible now
A letter by Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts has informed the Apple retail chain that Apple Watch won't be available in stores at all on the original launch date. April 24. Additionally, "high global interest combined with our initial supply" is preventing retail availability until June, at the earliest. Citing the need for the experience to be perfect for the user, Apple "will be able to get customers the model they want earlier and faster by taking orders online."
Report claims Jawbone wearable will perform American Express payments in future
Yet another wearable device will be offering alternative payments in the future, according to a report. According to the Wall Street Journal, American Express and Jawbone are planning to announce a new system that will allow AmEx card owners to use the manufacturer's fitness bands to make payments at a number of retailers in the United States.
Apple to open three new stores in time for Apple Watch retail debut
Apple plans to open at least three new stores in time for the retail debut of the Apple Watch -- though it is unclear if any of the stores will actually have Watches to sell, as the company has switched to an online pre-order system only ahead of the debut date. The stores will open in Hangzhou, China; Miami Beach, Florida; and Sao Paolo, Brazil. The latter two have already been officially announced for April 24 by Apple. Of these, Brazil is the only new store not to be part of the first wave of countries receiving the Apple Watch.
Apple to open another store in Hangzhou, China on day of Apple Watch launch
As if April 24 won't be a busy enough day for Apple with the retail debut of the Apple Watch in a wave of nine countries, the company will also open a brand new second Apple Store in Hangzhou, China on that Friday as well. The new location will be a more typical mall-type store in the MixC mall in Vietiane City, and comes just three months after the first Hangzhou store in West Lake, which was a two-story standalone store.
CEO offers employees a half-off discount on sport, steel editions
Following a suggestion from a retail employee during a meeting in Germany, Apple CEO Tim Cook has met the suggestion half way: he has decided to offer all Apple employees, including retail workers, a 50 percent discount off the cost of either aluminum "sport" version or the stainless steel version of the Apple Watch, or $550 off the cost of the 18kt gold Edition versions. The discount is only available for 90 days, starting April 10.
Amazon expands Prime Now one-hour deliveries to Dallas
Amazon Prime Now, the retailer's high-speed delivery service, is opening up in Dallas. Just as with its other Prime Now locations, Prime subscribers in the fourth location will be able to use a mobile app on iOS and Android to place orders for groceries and household goods, between 8am and 10pm seven days a week, with TechCrunch reporting it still costs $8 for one-hour deliveries, while two-hour deliveries are free.
Leading reseller B&H gets Apple mini-store at brick-and-mortar Manhattan HQ
Although many MacNN readers will be familiar with B&H Photo Video through the company's online site via its frequent mention in our various deals posts, the firm is actually the largest non-chain electronics retailer in the United States, having a midtown Manhattan location since 1973 and being a widely-recognized photo, video, and Apple specialist. Earlier this week, the store opened its Apple-authorized "store within a store" focusing on Apple products.
Apple hints that Apple Watch has received FCC approval
Apple on Tuesday removed disclaimer language from its Apple Watch web page, signalling that it has obtained approval for sale of the device in at least the US, if not all the major countries where Apple is currently planning to launch the Apple Watch at retail beginning April 24. The Watch will be available for preview and pre-ordering -- but not for sale -- at Apple Stores beginning April 10 in select countries.
Company building facility devoted to Apple Watch inside Tokyo department store
In a previously-unannounced move, Apple is creating a store dedicated to just selling the Apple Watch (and accessories) as part of an existing upscale department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The "store-within-a-store," borrowing from previous Apple retail concepts, could be come a permanent display for the fashionable Apple Watch if sales merit it. The department store, Isetan, is placing the mini-shop near its main entrance.
Report claims non-Apple device trade-in program starting in coming weeks
Owners of Android smartphones may soon be able to earn some money by trading in their old devices, this time via Apple. A report claims Apple is looking to start accepting non-Apple devices in an upcoming refresh of its recycling and trade-in program, with the program providing Android switchers with gift cards that can then be used to purchase iPhones.
Pad & Quill, Twelve South, others announce Watch-related gear
The race to get Apple Watch accessories to market in time for the arrival of the forthcoming device is in full swing, with a number of iOS accessory companies offering charging stands and other options for owners of the device. In addition, Apple Stores have started posting banners of the Apple Watch a month before it will make its retail debut, and testers combing through iOS 8.3's Apple Watch elements have discovered details on the Activity app, including a dark mode.
Currys PC World hosts first Google-branded store in UK
Google has taken inspiration from the retail efforts of other tech companies, including Microsoft and Samsung, in opening its first "store within a store" under the Google brand. Called "The Google Shop," the store is located inside a branch of national retailer Currys PC World on Tottenham Court Road in London, and will be used to showcase a selection of Android devices, Chromebooks, and the Chromecast.
Apple Watch, abilities will expand over time, replace car keys as well
In a new interview with the UK newspaper the Telegraph, Apple CEO Tim Cook has revealed a few new tidbits about the forthcoming Apple Watch, as well as some of the larger vision behind such innovations as the watch, and Apple Pay, and Touch ID -- an all-out attempt to reduce the ephemera people need to carry with them, from wallets to car keys. In the same report, Cook also confirmed that Apple will "tweak" its retail look to accommodate Apple Watch buyers, who are likely to be even more upscale than average Apple customers.
Customers can walk in, provide phone number, and be summoned to the store
According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the latest changes to Apple retail by Angela Ahrendts is coming to stores soon. Most Apple retail stores will shift walk-in Genius Bar appointment notifications to one using customers' mobile phones as de facto pagers, not only giving time estimates for a service window, but also informing customers that an availability is opening up allowing users to shop elsewhere in a mall, rather than waiting for sometimes hours in the store.
Google adds medical details to Knowledge Graph
Google has updated its Knowledge Graph, used to provide extra details in search results for common subjects, with health-related information. Vetted by a team of doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy, the new cards will bring up details for common health conditions, including symptoms, treatments, commonality, if it is contagious, and other relevant points, along with illustrations for some conditions.
Asian version of US ad plays to Chinese market, gift-giving season
Apple has created a new version of its holiday ad "The Song" for the Chinese market in time for the Lunar New Year celebrations, which commence later this month. The wholly-reimagined ad is prominently featured on the company's China website, and is the first such ad made directly for China. Senior VP of Retail Dame Angela Ahrendts has made China a priority over the next two years as it emerges as Apple's third-largest market.
Executive instrumental to expansion of Apple retail chain
Apple's VP of Retail Real Estate, Bob Bridger, will soon be retiring from the company, sources say. Bridger reportedly revealed the information at a meeting last Thursday, without mentioning any special reasons for leaving. The executive is noted to be the last major Retail division executive from the era when Ron Johnson led the group, and Steve Jobs was still company CEO.
Brooklyn and Manhattan locations running behind schedule
Apple is preparing to open two stores in previously-untapped urban markets. The first is in the Chinese city of Tianjin, and will be debuting this Saturday at 10AM local time. The other is in the New York City borough of Queens; sources say the shop will open later this year on the second floor of the Queens Center Mall. One of the sources claims that the outlet will be Apple's biggest inside a New York mall, and that the company expects revenues to top high-profile locations elsewhere in the state.
To be used for gold models only
Some Apple Stores are already being equipped with custom safes in order to store the gold Edition models of the forthcomng Apple Watch, sources say. It's thought that the safes will be used to protect both for-sale inventory and any demo units, the latter of which will have to be removed from the showfloor overnight. Because demo hardware will have to stay fully charged, the safes are said to have MagSafe chargers mounted inside.
Flagship product gets pushed beyond rumored window
The Apple Watch will ultimately ship in April, the company has confirmed through a quarterly results call hosted by CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri. The company didn't go into any other details, such as a specific release date. April, however, is even later than the March timeframe mentioned in recent rumors, which themselves suggested a delay from February. Until now Apple has only ever promised an "early 2015" date.