With rumors of something new being cooked up at U.S. Apple Stores later this week, widespread speculation swept the Web suggesting Apple would finally take the wraps off its updated Sandy Bridge-powered MacBook Air notebooks. According to well-known and well-sourced iOS developer Chronic, that won’t be the case. Instead, for the first time, Apple plans to offer unlocked iPhone 4 models directly to consumers beginning Wednesday. Part numbers break down as follows: MC603 (16GB, Black) MC604 (16GB, White) MC605 (32GB, Black) MC606 (32GB, White). While pricing has not yet been confirmed, expect to pay a pretty penny for the new contract-free iPhones. More →
For those wondering just how loosely Apple uses the term “Genius,” it looks like we now have our answer. A new Tumblr blog titled simply Apple Store Planking showcases photos of Apple Store employees planking on the job. Planking, for those who were lucky enough to be unaware of the phenomenon until now, is a meme that involves people posting photographs of themselves lying face down with their arms at their sides. The practice has become increasingly popular among Darwin Award hopefuls, and now Apple Store employee planking is a meme of its own. Hit the break for a few more photos of Apple Store Planking. More →
We all knew something was up, and over the weekend Apple took the wraps off what is being called “Apple Store 2.0,” a revamp that includes various new niceties. The changes, which coincided with Apple’s 10th retail anniversary, involve both consumer facing changes and behind-the-scenes tweaks that will combine to improve an already unique retail experience. Most notably, perhaps, are the thousands of iPad 2 units that have replaced paper signs and info cards next to Apple’s demo devices spread throughout the stores. Each iPad is interactive and features info about the product it accompanies, and there is also a “Specialist” button that will allow perusers to call a sales rep over for help or to make a purchase. These new iPad 2 displays won’t perform any other function — at least, not that the typical shopper can access — and they’re encased in acrylic enclosures to prevent people from walking off with them. Hit the break for a video of the new setup in action. More →
According to a purported screenshot of an internal Walmart inventory system, the retail giant will soon offer HP’s first webOS-powered tablet at its stores across the country. The screenshot, which was obtained by enthusiast blog PreCentral.net, shows a 32GB Wi-Fi model priced exactly in line with Apple’s iPad 2 at $599. The price point might make it a tough sell over Apple’s popular offering, but webOS fans eager to get their hands on the HP slate at least know what they’ll likely have to spend when the tablet finally does launch. Walmart will also supposedly carry the TouchPad’s Touchstone charging dock for $79.88, a Bluetooth keyboard for $69.88 and an AC charger for $29.88. We took a hands-on look at the TouchPad when HP unveiled the tablet at its Think Beyond event this past February, and we were very excited to see webOS shine on a large-form device. The integration with webOS smartphones was impressive and we can’t wait to get our hands on a review unit. Until then, we’ll all just have to sit tight and wait for HP to make launch details official. More →
Apple’s first foray into retail was a giant question mark on May 19th, 2001, when Apple opened the doors to its first two retail locations in Glendale, CA and McLean, VA. Ten years later, Apple’s retail stores are a crucial piece of the puzzle that has been assembled to create a customer experience unlike any other. “Apple today announced that its first two retail locations welcomed over 7700 people and sold a combined total of $599,000 of merchandise during their first two day weekend,” an Apple press release boasted on May 21st, 2001. Despite the solid weekend, several media outlets lambasted Apple for its decision to target high-rent areas with its first flock of retail shops while Gateway had just closed the doors on its retail endeavor. “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake,” one analyst was quoted as saying following Apple’s retail debut.
But the company was still optimistic. “We are blown away with the numbers,” CEO Steve Jobs said following the stores’ opening weekend. “More importantly, customers have told us they love everything about the store—from the knowledgeable sales staff to the Genius Bar to the store’s design and unique approach to presenting digital lifestyle solutions.” In fiscal 2009, Apple Stores grossed $6.65 billion globally for $1.66 billion in profit. In fiscal 2010, Apple’s retail stores pulled in $2.36 billion in profit on $9.8 billion in revenue. So far over the first six months of fiscal 2011, Apple has made $1.84 billion in profit on revenues of $7.04 billion. Apple’s gravity defying retail performance can’t keep climbing forever, but from where we’re sitting, opening those first few Apple Stores 10 years ago seems like it worked out pretty well. And we’re fairly confident Apple still has a few tricks up its sleeve to ensure that the crowds keep coming. Hit the break for a video of Steve Jobs introducing the world to Apple’s first Apple Store. More →
Moments ago Amazon announced that its Trade-In program will now accept consumer electronics. That means anyone who wants to trade-in consumer electronics, along with other goods, can send a box to Amazon and receive an Amazon gift card in exchange. Amazon originally launched its trade-in program in 2009, and until now it only accepted games, text books, and movies. “We want to give customers the opportunity to get great value from their used electronics,” said Paul Ryder, vice president of electronics at Amazon. “Hundreds of thousands of customers have already received millions of dollars in gift cards from the other products in our program. The Electronics category is a natural extension and we are delighted to offer our customers more trade-in options.” We gave the service a quick test and noticed that a 16GB black iPhone 4 on AT&T could bring in as much as $314.50. An original 30GB Microsoft Zune? Just $25. Hit the jump for the full release. More →
While it seems that most are flipping a coin as to whether or not the upcoming iPhone will have NFC capabilities, BGR has just been given some information from multiple Apple sources that could possibly sway the argument in favor of an imminent NFC-capable iPhone… contrary to recent reports. First off, Apple’s POS devices — its iPod touch-based wireless payment terminals — recently all went offline for “maintenance” for an entire day, leaving customers unable to purchase some items or return merchandise. Additionally, we have been told that there were recently multiple “overnights” in Apple retail locations, which required store employees to “assist in installing TBD devices” throughout the stores “as the retail segment of Apple grows.” Lastly, sources tell us that there have been new tables installed in stores that have different wiring compared to Apple’s standard tables. They also have cash wraps built in, but they aren’t being used yet and employees have been instructed to wait for further information. What does all this mean? We have a feeling Apple’s 10th anniversary plans might put a few pieces of the puzzle in place, but one of our sources also believes that NFC payment processing capabilities are among the enhancements that will be brought about by the new gear.
We have just received some information from a solid Apple source, and if they’re right, Apple may be planning something big for its 10th retail anniversary this Thursday the 19th. Here’s what we’ve been told:
- There’s an overnight shift planned for around 10-15 individuals at each Apple Store to work from late Saturday all the way through mid-Sunday.
- During the overnight shift, it’s going to be required that employees lock cell phones in the main office. They will also have to sign an NDA with Apple.
- There are a wide variety of roles, we’re told, for the overnight shift. This includes all visuals staff, a manager, a business team member, a few Genius team members, one back-of-house employee, and a few generic Apple specialists.
- Apple stores have apparently already received hardware to install, and are expecting more hardware to come on Friday or Saturday. All materials that Apple stores have received have been instructed to be under lock and key until after close on Saturday night.
- Apple employees will be putting up black curtains at all stores so that people walking outside cannot see inside.
- Employees have had to download gigabytes of data from Apple corporate labeled, “training” in a password-protected zipped folder that won’t accessible to managers or anyone else until Saturday afternoon.
- Lastly, all Apple retail stores have mandatory meetings on Sunday, May 22nd. Most meeting are scheduled for the morning, but there are evening meetings as well.
The question is, what is Apple planning? More →
On Tuesday evening, Amazon will take the wraps off of MyHabit.com — a new site that will compete directly with Gilt and other membership-only sites that offer discounts on high-end brands. MyHabit will have stiff competition, however, as Vente Privee has largely dominated the international private sales industry and will soon spread into the United States, according to Business Insider. The website will offer up to 60% off of select brands and sales will begin at noon EDT daily. Amazon says that it will offer free shipping as well as 360-degree views of products that are available. It’s unclear what brands are on board so far, but if you’re looking for a new pair of Louis Vuitton sneakers at a discount price, MyHabit.com could be a good place to start looking. More →
On April 20th, a Verizon Wireless spokesperson was quoted as saying the company was “still evaluating” whether it would carry Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet in its retail stores. Eleven days later, it looks like that evaluation is over. The company has the PlayBook listed in its 2011 winter consumer guide with a “coming soon” tag. RIM had initially indicated that Verizon would be carrying its QNX-based tablet, making the evaluation comment worrisome to some pundits and industry insiders. The above image all but confirms that the tablet will be showing up fashionably late in Verizon retail outlets. More →
Not a bad start for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet according to Jeffries & Co. analyst Peter Misek. According to a recent research note, Misek estimates that the Canadian mobile giant sold 25,000 PlayBook tablets during the online pre-order period and another 20,000 on opening day. “If correct, 45K+ sell through on the first day would be a success,” wrote Misek. Although the figure doesn’t quite match the 300,000 original iPads moved by Apple on its opening day last year, the Economic Times notes that “the PlayBook’s first-day sales are much better than those of other tablets such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Motorola’s Xoom.” RIM has yet to publicly comment on exact device sales figures. More →
The first-quarter financial figures for Verizon Wireless were not all that surprising. The nation’s largest wireless carrier was widely expected to post strong quarterly results, and it did. Verizon Wireless saw its churn rate fall year-over-year to 1.01 for postpaid customers and 1.33 overall. The company’s data revenues were up 22.3% from the same period last year, fueled by 1.8 million net additions, 2.2 million new iPhone activations, 260,000 HTC ThunderBolt activations, and 32% of retail postpaid customers using smartphones. Verizon Wireless now has 104 million total connections on its network, which represents a 6.1% increase year-over-year. If you are interested in reading the entire Verizon Communications release, it is waiting for you after the break.
Update: Although not included in the Q1 press release, the company’s conference call presentation indicates that 2.2 million iPhone 4s were activated during the three month period. Title updated to reflect this new information. More →
Research In Motion’s first QNX-powered device — the BlackBerry PlayBook — will be hitting a plethora of retailers beginning next month, and Office Depot has officially thrown its proverbial hat into the ring. Via a press release, the retailer has announced that beginning April 19th customers can purchase the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB PlayBooks for $499, $599, and $699 respectively. “Office Depot provides customers with the most innovative lineup of products that will help them take care of business, and the BlackBerry PlayBook is certainly one of those game-changing products,” said Randy Wick, the company’s Vice President of Merchandising. “There has been a lot of buzz and excitement for the BlackBerry PlayBook to hit the market, and we are thrilled to be one of the first retailers to offer this professional-grade tablet.” RIM’s first tablet venture will be available at Office Depot’s retail stores and online at officedepot.com. The full press release is after the break. More →