Rumor: Apple to update iOS retail store app, allow for self-checkout feature

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Date: Monday, October 31st, 2011, 08:19
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail, Software

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As nice as the Apple retail store employees can be, sometimes you just want to grab your merchandise and go.

Per MacRumors, Apple is working on plans to give retail customers the ability to finalize their own in-store purchases via its iOS application for the iPhone, according to a new report.

Perhaps arriving even sooner than expected, the new functionality is expected to arrive as soon as this week.

An update to the official “Apple Store” application for iOS is said to allow users to charge purchases to their iTunes Store account, linked to an Apple ID and credit card just as App Store purchases are authorized. The anticipated option will only apply to accessories and items found on the shelf.

The new ability will not apply to more expensive items like the iPhone, iPad, iPods or Macs. Those devices will remain kept in the stockroom at Apple’s retail stores, and will require assistance from a salesperson in order to purchase.

But for accessories sold in stores, including cases for products like the iPhone and iPad, users will be able to complete the transaction on their own with an iOS device. An automated e-mailed receipt will serve as confirmation of the transaction, allowing customers to show employees that an item has been paid for.

The new self-checkout option is rumored to arrive soon after Apple launched an in-store pickup program via its online store. Customers in San Francisco can now order a product online and pick it up at a local Apple retail store, and that ability is expected to expand to other U.S. stores in the near future.

Another change is also said to be coming to Apple’s online store, allowing customers to place a single order with multiple items, and have those items shipped to different addresses. The enhanced functionality is expected to debut in time for the holiday shopping season.

Stay tune for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 4S reservation/pickup program launches in San Francisco

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 10:06
Category: iPhone, News, retail

Reservations are preferred.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Wednesday began offering customers in San Francisco the ability to order a product online and pick it up in a local retail store.

When checking out from Apple’s online store, a new “Pick up” option is available, from which users can select a store in San Francisco, Calif. It also states that the in-store pickup option is “coming soon to a U.S. Apple Store near you.”

The “Select an Apple Store” feature allows users to enter their zip code and find a local Apple Store, though for now the program is limited to San Francisco. Users who pick up their order at an Apple Retail Store get Personal Setup for any new Apple product.

Products listed as “Available now” at the store can be picked up within an hour. Customers can also designate someone other than themselves to pick up an order.

Word first surfaced on Monday that Apple was planning to launch its in-store pickup option in its online store. The pilot program was tested internally at the company under the codename “Sherwood.”

In addition to in-store pickup, Apple’s retail stores are also expected to begin accepting returns of online orders. By doing this, customers can avoid shipping an item back to Apple for the return process.

Apple began offering an in-store pickup option in a limited capacity in 2009, with a Christmastime “Reserve and Pick Up” program. That was restricted to specific products: the iPhone, iPod and MacBook lineups, Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro. It did not include accessories.

But Apple’s new in-store pickup option applies to any product available in Apple’s online store, including accessories such as iPhone and iPad cases.

Apple’s retail operations has become a very important part of the company’s business model. The company revealed in its last quarterly earnings report that it plans to expand many of its retail locations in the U.S., as officials believe the current stores are now “too constrained” to properly serve the high volume of customers they experience.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the iPhone 4S reservation system and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Apple now requiring customers to go through online reservation system before purchasing an iPhone 4S at an Apple Store retail location

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 04:59
Category: iPhone, News, retail

You’re going to need to call ahead.

Per AppleInsider, Apple said on Monday that customers looking to purchase a new iPhone 4S from its US or Canadian based retail outlets will first be asked to make a reservation online, suggesting that record-setting sales of the device coupled with an upcoming international expansion are straining availability.

Apple’s “how-to-buy” iPhone webpage now advises that customers can check back online after 9 p.m. where they can attempt to make a reservation for pick up the following day. Customers can check stock availability at each store before they make a reservation, and must select which carrier, color, and capacity they require.

“The iPhone 4S is available in store by reservation only. Reserve yours after 9:00 p.m. tonight for pickup tomorrow. When you come in, you’ll choose a carrier and plan, and we’ll get your iPhone up and running before you leave the store.”

Apple is instituting the restrictions in other countries as well, noting that only on-contract phones are available to walk-in customers, while both on-contract and SIM-free models can be purchased by reserving the night before.

Apple’s in-store reservation requirement is nothing new and underwent significant re-engineering alongside the release of the second-gen iPad.

A source familiar with Apple’s retail operations stated this week that the new shipment of iPad 2 stock sold by some stores on Tuesday was actually delivered on Monday. Apple is said to have elected to hold the inventory for a next-day sale to grant its inventory control specialists the time to “calmly and accurately” process new shipments.

It was suggested that the change could be a “lesson learned” following the launch of major in-demand products in 2010: the iPhone 4 and first-generation iPad. For those launches, Apple’s reservation system was said to have been plagued by a myriad of problems, including technical glitches that caused reservations to disappear, and resellers attempting to “game” the system.

Apple’s previous strategy was to get products from the pallet to the shelf as fast as possible. But that approach was said to have caused “utter havoc” for Apple’s retail employees, and led to inventory inaccuracies.

Under the revised strategy, Apple retail stores know exactly how many units it has to offer up for reservations the following day, allowing it automatically accept a specific number of reservations that it can guarantee to customers.

In years past, any excess iPhones or iPhone reservations that go unclaimed by the end of the day are made available for sale to walk-in customers.

The iPhone 4S is currently available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K., with availability coming to 22 more countries by Oct. 28, and more than 70 countries by the end of the year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any feedback on your iPhone 4S purchase experience, please let us know in the comments.

Apple begins ordering NAND Flash memory from alternate vendors, works to curb reliance on Samsung

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Date: Thursday, September 22nd, 2011, 03:42
Category: Finance, News, retail

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When in doubt, find another supplier.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is increasing purchases of flash memory from Japanese suppliers in an effort to scale back its dependance on Samsung for components, as the two companies continue their legal dispute.

DigiTimes on Thursday cited industry sources as saying that Apple has tapped Toshiba and Elpida Memory for orders of DRAM and NAND flash.

“Apple has moved to reduce its reliance on memory supplies from Samsung Electronics, the sources claimed,” the report read. “The vendor has procured more NAND flash parts from Toshiba, and mobile RAM from Elpida, the sources indicated.”

The tipsters also suggested that the ongoing legal dispute between Apple and Samsung has been “key to encouraging” Apple to broaden its supplier base. According to the report, the Korean electronics giant has been the largest component supplier for Apple’s products in the past.

Last week, reports emerged that Apple had signed a foundry agreement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to manufacture the next two generations of Apple processors. The deal has been viewed as a significant blow to Samsung, which was contracted to produce the A4 and A5 chips used to power Apple’s iOS devices.

Apple is slated to be Samsung’s largest customer this year with a projected US$7.8 billion in parts, up from US$5.7 billion in 2010. The company has become the world’s largest consumer of memory chips in recent years as it incorporated flash storage into its products.

In 2005, Apple revealed that it had reached agreements with several flash suppliers, including Samsung, to pre-pay more than US$1 billion to guarantee flash shipments through 2010. Earlier this year, then COO Tim Cook called the deal a “fantastic use of Apple’s cash.”

For its part, Samsung currently boasts a more than 40 percent share of the worldwide DRAM market and a 30 percent share of NAND flash production.

The disagreement between the two companies has heightened in recent months. According to Samsung executives speaking on condition of anonymity, the company is already planning to target the as-yet-unannounced iPhone 5 with patent infringement suits when it arrives in Korea. Another recent report said Samsung will also pursue legal action against Apple’s next-generation handset in Europe.

Recent gains made by Apple in Australia have prompted Samsung to fight back with a countersuit against the iPhone and iPad. Apple also won a permanent ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany earlier this month after a court ruled that Samsung’s tablet looks too similar to the iPad 2.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple begins selling $69 Mac OS X 10.7 USB thumb drive

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 06:11
Category: News, retail, Software

If you don’t have a killer broadband connection, then this can’t hurt.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is now selling the US$69 Mac OS X 10.7 USB install drive in its online store.

Buying Lion on a physical medium from Apple’s online store carries a price more than twice that of the digital download. The drive ships for free in one to three business days.

“OS X Lion is available on a USB thumb drive for installation without the need for a broadband Internet connection,” Apple’s official product description reads. “Just plug the drive into your USB port and follow the instructions to install. OS X Lion is also available for a lower price as a digital download from the Mac App Store.”

In addition to the lower price, Apple also incentivized users to buy Lion from the Mac App Store buy giving it a month’s head start over the USB thumb drive. The 3.49GB operating system install became available for download on July 20.

The product also comes with an “Important Note” from Apple: “When you install OS X Lion using the USB thumb drive, you will not be able to reinstall OS X Lion from Lion Recovery. You will need to use the USB thumb drive to reinstall OS X Lion.”

Lion marks the first operating system release from Apple where a download is the preferred install method. AppleInsider was first to report in May that Apple planned to push users toward buying through the Mac App Store.

The last version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, also carried at US$29.99 price tag, but its default distribution method was on a physical DVD. When Apple redesigned its thin-and-light MacBook Air in 2010, it came with a USB thumb drive to reinstall Snow Leopard, as Apple began to move away from disc drives in its Mac lineup.

Apple did not reveal until Lion became available on the Mac App Store in July that a USB thumb drive would be sold in August. But the company also noted that users who do not have broadband access at home, work or school can download the multi-gigabyte install file from the Mac App Store at its retail stores at no extra cost.

If you’ve snagged the thumb drive and have any feedback to offer about the install, let us know what you think in the comments.

Walmart to close online MP3 store later this month

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Date: Wednesday, August 10th, 2011, 04:11
Category: News, retail, Software

Retail giant Walmart revealed on Tuesday that it will close its MP3 store later this month, even as Apple’s iTunes continues to dominate the digital music industry.

The company declined to provide further details regarding the move, saying only that it was a “business decision,” as noted by the Associated Press. Walmart will close the store on August 29, though customers who have already purchased music through the site will still be able to access their music there.

Walmart opened its MP3 store in 2003 in direct competition with Apple’s iTunes. The digital storefront failed to gain much traction, however, with music sales on iTunes eventually passing Walmart’s combined physical and digital sales in 2008. Apple held 26.7% of all music sales by 2009, more than double Walmart’s 12.54% share.

As of late last year, Apple continued to dominate the digital music market with a 66% share, while second-place Amazon had climbed to 13.3%. Walmart’s share stood at less than 1% at the time.

NPD analyst Marshall Cohen characterized the retail industry as being in flux, noting that Walmart may be better off focusing on what it does best, rather than continuing to deliver a sub-par experience to consumers.

“It is very easy to become antiquated very quickly in the entertainment industry,” he said. “If you are losing ground, and they probably were losing ground more rapidly year after year, it’s probably better to regroup and retool.”

Walmart’s failure with its digital music store has been partially attributed to its choice of format. The company bet on Windows Media Audio, but eventually found itself competing with Microsoft’s own Zune Marketplace while being blocked from Apple’s iPod.

RadioShack offering discounted iPhone 3GS, 4 handsets until August 20th

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 03:25
Category: iPhone, News, retail

This may not be the fire sale you’re hoping for, but it’s something.

Per CNET, from now through August 20, RadioShack is cutting US$30 off the price of Apple’s iPhone 4, as well as the iPhone 3GS. Deeper discounts can be had if buyers bring in their iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS and use the company’s Trade and Save program, which it’s had going since before the iPhone 4 went on sale.

RadioShack and Target unofficially lowered pricing on phones at the end of last month, with those prices going into effect on July 31. Today’s news puts an endmark on the deal, as well as adding the capability to stack those savings with the company’s trade-in service.

Apple is expected to bring out a next-generation iPhone between now and October, with recent rumors citing the company’s launch window for October, though a slew of reports from earlier this year said it would be sometime next month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and, hey, savings are never a bad thing.

Apple launches App Store Volume Purchase Program for businesses

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Date: Thursday, July 14th, 2011, 14:43
Category: iOS, News, retail

While iOS from the App Store have proven to be supremely useful, they can prove to be an expensive habit when purchased en masse.

Per Macworld, Apple has announced the App Store Volume Purchase for Business Program, which offers to businesses the same capabilities that the company made available to educational institutions last year.

With the Volume Purchase Program you create a single Apple ID that is specifically used to manage purchases for your organization. Using that account—which needs to be linked to a corporate credit card or purchasing card—organizations can search for apps and then purchase them in bulk. (There’s no discount for purchasing in bulk, however; the prices remain the same as they are in the App Store.)

Once the purchases have been made, Apple issues the company a list of redemption codes for the app. Whoever is managing app distribution for the company can email those codes to employees, allowing them to download the app just by following a link on their Mac, PC, or iOS device. The management interface is updated as users redeem the apps, keeping track of which codes are still available, as well as retaining a full purchase history.

In addition to purchasing apps available on the App Store, the Volume Purchase Program also lets you buy custom business-to-business (B2B) apps that third parties develop for your company. These are distinct from apps that might be developed within a company and distributed to employees, in that they are required to be paid apps (costing at least US$10) and are developed out of house. The app developer, who needs to be a member of the iOS Developer program, also needs to authorize purchasers to allow them to buy the apps, at which point the process is virtually identical to buying apps in bulk from the store.

Both cases allow organizations to use third-party Mobile Device Management (MDM) programs to distribute and manage redemption codes for apps.

To be eligible for the Volume Purchase Program, your organization must have a Dun & Bradstreet (D-U-N-S) number, a valid business address, and business contact information. Though the program is not yet in operation, Apple says that it’s coming soon and that a full guide on volume purchasing is available at Apple’s website.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Store iPhone app updated to version 1.3, allows build-to-order Mac purchases

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:22
Category: iPhone, News, retail, Software

Apple on Monday updated its “Apple Store” application for the iPhone, offering the ability to order a custom Mac, and also more quickly receive help when at a retail store.

Per AppleInsider, the free application is currently available on the App Store. Version 1.3 is a 3.2MB download, and is available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The app requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run.

The release of the software coincides with the debut of Apple’s improved retail stores, which were upgraded on Sunday. The company now makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

According to Apple, new features of Apple Store 1.3 are:
– Enhanced in-store mode lets you get help and support quickly when you’re at an Apple Retail Store.

– The ability to custom-configure a new Mac with the options you want.

Using the new application, users can make modifications and upgrades to a Mac order placed from their iPhone. For example, users can add more RAM or upgrade the hard drive of a Mac before they finalize their order — features that were previously only available on Apple’s website.

The software is still only written for the iPhone and iPod touch, prompting some initial negative reviews from users in the App Store. Though the application can be run on an iPad, as all iOS software can, it is not optimized for the screen size and resolution of the touchscreen tablet.

Rumors of the updated iPhone application first surfaced on Saturday, revealing that the software was set to debut as part of Apple’s retail revamp. Apple’s online store went offline on Friday to also prepare for the changes.

The Apple Store application was first released in June of 2010. With it, users can view products, read customer reviews, locate a nearby Apple Retail Store, and buy or reserve devices like the iPhone.

If you tinkered with the new app and have any opinions on it, let us know in the comments.

Apple unveils updated retail experience, introduces interactive iPad displays

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, retail

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There were rumblings that Apple was doing something for its 10th retail anniversary.

And they apparently did.

Per Mac Prices Australia, Apple retail stores have taken the wraps off Apple’s new retail upgrade, which makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

Apple launched “Retail 2.0″ on Sunday morning in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Apple retail stores. The company opened its first retail stores on May 19, 2001, in McLean, Virginia and Glendale, Calif.

According to the report, the main change is the addition of stationary iPads placed next to other Apple products in order to display product prices, information and features. The touchscreen tablets can also be used to compare models and ask for help from a specialist. Photos of the new iPad display units reveal that the devices are placed in plexiglass.

The iPads appear to be running a custom software application, as customers report that pressing the home button on the tablets does nothing. Though the power cable for the device does not appear to connect to the dock, one person familiar with the matter said the cable is indeed connected to the dock connector, but is “very well hidden.” Also, detaching the cable will reportedly activate an alarm.

Some reports also suggested that Apple retail employees were wearing party hats to celebrate the occasion. Customers reported via Twitter that the Apple store updates created a “totally new experience.”

Apple had been reported as stockpiling iPads in preparation for a retail overhaul, the new in-house iPads having been slated for use with an updated version of RetailMe, Apple’s proprietary retail software.

Apple reportedly scheduled overnight shifts for retail employees in preparation for the updates to the Apple store. The company had blocked employees from taking vacation from May 20 to May 22. Mandatory meetings have been scheduled on Sunday morning and evening for Apple retail staff.

Apple has also taken offline the Order Status page from its website until Sunday, May 22 in order to perform a system update.

A recent report claimed Apple will update its “Apple Store” retail app for iOS this weekend, adding full build-to-order purchasing options to the application. Apple first released the retail app last year with support for stock configuration orders.

If you’ve wandered into an Apple Store location since the overhaul this weekend and have anything to report, let us know.