Apple offers Apple TV price break through retailers in advance of Black Friday sales

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Date: Wednesday, November 16th, 2011, 04:04
Category: Apple TV, News, retail

It’s not a huge price drop, but it’s worth paying attention to.

Per AppleInsider, both Amazon and Best Buy are advertising a US$10 drop in price for the Apple TV. The latest version of Apple’s “hobby” originally came with a US$99.99 price tag when it was released last year.

The new pricing isn’t the lowest price ever for the set-top box. Last November, MacConnection ran an early Black Friday sale offering the device for just US$79.99.

The price drop does not, however, suggest an imminent release of an updated Apple TV, as it is likely too late in the holiday season for Apple to launch a new product. The last time the company released new hardware in November was the Core 2 Duo MacBook in 2006.

Though Apple declined to release a hardware update to its Apple TV this year, it did release a software update around the one-year mark. Version 4.4 of the set-top box’s software added compatibility with new iOS 5 features such as AirPlay Mirroring and Photo Stream. The update also added a Trailers app, as well as access to Wall Street Journal Live and National Hockey League content.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Store app hits 2.0, adds in-store pickup, Easy Pay features

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Date: Tuesday, November 8th, 2011, 07:37
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, retail, Software

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Apple may not make all aspects of your life easier at all times, but they do try to streamline buying more of their products…

Per AppleInsider, Apple has updated its official Apple Store application for iOS, adding the new “Personal Pickup” option, as well as an “Easy Pay” feature, which allows customers to pay for an item on their own, direct from an iPhone, while in a retail store.

The Apple Store application was updated on Tuesday to version 2.0. The free application is a 4.0MB download that requires iOS 4.2 or later to install and run and is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

The most significant new features in the update are EasyPay and Personal Pickup. With EasyPay, an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S the user can scan the barcode of an accessory while in a store, and complete the transaction using the same credit card information tied to their Apple ID.

Word of the self-checkout option first surfaced last week, and accurately revealed that the option would only apply to accessories and items found on the shelf. Users cannot complete a self-checkout with more expensive items that are kept in Apple’s retail stockrooms, including the iPhone, iPad, iPods or Macs.

The updated Apple Store application also features a built-in Personal Pickup feature. With the software, users can buy an item on their iOS device, and then pick it up in a store in less than an hour if it is in stock.

Apple began offering an in-store pickup option on its website last month with a trial that began in San Francisco, Calif., and quickly spread to New York City stores. The in-store pickup option is currently available in the U.S. only.

The full list of new features included in version 2.0 of the Apple Store iOS application are included below:

Personal Pickup: Buy in the app and choose to pick up your order at any Apple Retail Store. Most in-stock orders are available for pickup within an hour. (U.S. only)

EasyPay: Purchase select accessories in store quickly by scanning the barcode and completing your transaction right in the app. (U.S. only, requires iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S)

Track your stuff: View the status of current and previous orders from the order status section in the More tab.

If you’ve tried the new app and its features and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

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.