Apple has launched some handy new retail features including an Apple Store app for the UK and iPads at every product point in its Apple Stores.
Remember those mysterious parcels that showed up at Apple stores across the globe last week? Remember how exciting it was not knowing what they were and speculating that they could, in fact, be a whole new exciting Apple product to lust after?
Well, it turns out that they were just iPads which have been installed at every Apple Retail store next to every Apple product to replace the printed signs. This, my friends, is progress.
We took a trip down to the Apple Store at Covent Garden to check out the new arrivals, and it looks a little as though the iPads have taken on a life of their own and started breeding; they are everywhere.
Housed in little Perspex boxes, the iPads run special software called Smart Sign and won't do anything but communicate information about the product they're next to; if you hit the home button, nothing happens.
So, there's not much point in bringing a chisel along to try and un-house it, slip it under your jumper and walk out nonchalantly, whistling all the while.
It's easy to be flippant about boring old in-store signage, but the iPads offer customers all the info about a product at the swipe of a finger; the iPhone iPad, for example, has a tab about networks and their tariffs, which is pretty useful when you're in the market for an iPhone.
By far the best feature of the new iPad signs is the Specialist tab; this allows you to call for a member of Apple Store staff to come over and help you in person should the all-knowing iPad be unable to answer your questions. It's certainly preferable to clicking your fingers and calling "Garcon!", anyway.
Of course, the proliferation of iPads strewn around the store also helps to make customers want one all the more; flicking your way through the bright screen and seeing just how easy it is to read text on it. It's certainly a clever marketing ploy as much as anything else.
As well as the iPad invasion, Apple has launched its Apple Store App for iPhone and iPod touch in the UK. It's a fairly standard app that allows users to buy something and pick it up instore, or schedule an appointment at the Genius bar.
Finally, Apple have made its instore Personal Setup service standard on all iPad, iPhone, iPod and Mac products, so each customer gets a half-hour one-to-one session of guidance, set-up and advice when they buy a new Apple toy.
Business as usual
Apple was keen to point out that this isn't a gimmick, or a 'service' as such – "It's just something we do," a spokesperson told us.
And it's not an opportunity to encourage further sales. He added, "We never up-sell, we just want to provide the best possible experience for our customers."
While it's not quite as exciting as a new secret product to celebrate the stores' tenth anniversary, the new additions to the stores are going to make life easier for anyone who hangs out in Apple Stores or plans to buy an Apple product.
For everyone else? Well, we're surprised that you're still reading, to be honest.
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