Apple has made it extraordinarily easy to walk into one of its stores, pick out the item you want, buy it, and go on your merry way—without having to wait in any line or interact with any store representative.
It’s surprising more brick-and-mortar retailers don’t make buying so easy, though I suspect they will in the not-too-distant future.
Here’s how Apple’s system works. First, you download and install the free Apple Store application from iTunes (current version: 2.1.1). When you launch it, the app asks for permission to use your current location. (I said yes.) Next, you proceed to your local Apple store and pick out something cool to buy. Because I’m just not nerdy enough already, I picked up a $25 wristband to turn my iPod nano into a watch.
With the product box in one hand and your iPhone 4 or 4S in the other, you can open the Apple Store app, tap the EasyPay option and scan the box’s barcode. (The app’s in-store purchasing feature is only supported on those two devices, and only in the United States and the Netherlands.) Boom, the product is charged to your Apple Store account, which is the same account you use to purchase stuff from iTunes. And a receipt is automatically generated, which is emailed to you. You also click a link within the app to access the receipt, should an employee ask to see one.
In my case, I slipped the product into my backpack after paying for it with the app. As I headed toward the door, my pulse raced a bit. It almost felt as if I were shoplifting. I wondered if a net would drop down upon me, accompanied by shrieking sirens and a swat team of stun-gun-wielding Apple employees yelling “Freeze, sucka!” Unfortunately, nothing quite so dramatic occurred. I simply sauntered out the door and proceeded casually to my next destination: The Container Store, a retailer with which I’m curiously obsessed).
The Apple Store app makes it easy to purchase products online, set up a Genius Bar appointment, get details about the nearest Apple store and look up your local store’s workshops and events. You can also summon an Apple store employee, though there was one standing practically next to me so I didn’t test that feature.
I did, however, ask the rep if you can purchase big-ticket items, such as iPads and MacBooks, using the app while in an Apple store. He said no, because those items are kept under lock and key, as opposed to being stocked on shelves like iPhone cases (and iPod nano wristbands). As a result, you need to interact with a sales representative for the expensive hardware purchases. But in my experience, they’re always so helpful and pleasant it’s a shame not to chat with them—even if Apple’s app makes it unnecessary.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.