Apple has updated the iOS Apple Store app to version 5.0 with a new Sessions tab and improved personalization.
In the center of the tab bar, the new Sessions tab highlights upcoming Today at Apple programs. The tab is broken into Spotlight, Upcoming, Recommended Sessions, and Signature Programs sections. At the very bottom of the page, you can also browse sessions by category.
Recommended sessions are based on the Apple products you owned and perhaps also previous sessions you’ve attended. For example, in my case, the app recommended a Swift Playgrounds session either because my son attended a similar class in December or because I own an iPad Pro and ‘How To: Run a Connected Business’ because I have a Mac mini. The sessions listed were located all over the Chicago area, which I like, except that it made it harder to find sessions at the Apple Store closest to my home.
The app also uses its history of your Apple devices to let you know if accessories you purchase are compatible with the hardware you already own. I like this feature a lot because it spares me the trouble of investigating compatibility myself, and presumably will spare Apple from some returns by customers.
In the Discover tab of the app, your product history is used to provide personalized product recommendations. The tab also includes reminders of items you’ve marked as favorites, suggesting you take another look at them, and adds new ways to manage your orders.
In my limited time with the update, I’ve been impressed with the recommendations and greater personalization. Apple Stores are almost always packed with people near my home, so an improved Apple Store app experience is always welcome.
The Apple Store app is available as a free download on the App Store.
Apple has participated in Code.org’s Hour of Code challenge for the past several years. This year, the company is back again with a series of workshops for kids that run from December 4 - 10, 2017, which coincides with Computer Science Education Week. During free sessions:
Young aspiring coders can learn coding basics during a Kids Hour session, while those age twelve and above can use Swift Playgrounds on iPad to learn coding concepts and even program robots.
In addition to the in-store lessons, Apple has added a new coding challenge to its Swift Playgrounds iPad app with which students build and customize a digital robot and new teacher resources as part of its Everyone Can Code curriculum.
You can sign up for the Hour of Code sessions here, but act quickly because in years past, these sessions have filled up fast.
BuzzFeed News profiles Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Angela Ahrendts in an in-depth feature today. Ahrendts, who took over Apple’s online and physical retail operations in 2014 and manages over half of Apple’s workforce, is portrayed in each of her roles within the company starting with the launch of iPhone 8 pre-orders online:
At midnight, the war room's server activity chart ticks abruptly from green to red under a flood of incoming iPhone orders. On the wall, blinking red lights begin flashing across a digital world map with a concentrated flurry of activity in China and South Asia.
As author Nicole Nguyen explains, Ahrendts' first order of business when she took over retail operations was to update Apple’s online experience. Those efforts included better integration between Apple’s online and physical stores, which reports say are now second only to Amazon in sales revenue.
However, the majority of Nguyen’s story is focused on Apple’s physical stores, which have been the focus of Ahrendts’ attention most recently. BuzzFeed News was on hand for the opening of Apple’s new Michigan Avenue store in Chicago last week. That store, like ones coming to Paris and Milan, represents Apple’s strategy to target cities worldwide:
…the core of the strategy is doubling down on metropolitan areas. Ahrendts’s team conducted an extensive study of cities, looking at factors such as tourism, technology usage, and demographics, an approach taken from her roots in high-end fashion. “One of the things I took from luxury is you look at the top cities in the world; you don't just look at the countries. We did a lot of analysis, really studying the top 100 cities in the world, and not just now, but by 2020 and by 2025. Because you really need to target your investment,” she said.
In addition, Ahrendts is overseeing the renovation of 400 existing stores and expanding the benefits of employees who work at them.
The feature ends with Ahrendts overseeing the distribution of iPhone 8s and other pre-ordered items from a UPS facility in Kentucky. Like many things with Apple, the scale of the operations that Ahrendts manages is almost too vast to comprehend, but Nguyen does an excellent job of capturing both the scope of those operations and the personality that Ahrendts brings to her role.
For 14 years, Apple’s flagship retail store was a fixture at the north end of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, the shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile. Built in 2003, Apple’s Michigan Avenue location was the company’s first flagship store, featuring a glass staircase that seemed to float to the second floor just beyond the store’s entrance. Yesterday though, after many months of construction, Apple opened a new flagship store to the public along the Chicago River that reflects the new direction in which Apple began taking its retail locations last year.
Star Wars merchandise is a big deal in the retail world, especially when it coincides with a new film in the main saga. Two years ago, Disney held the first ‘Force Friday’ to kickoff the launch of Star Wars toys and other products tied to The Force Awakens. Now the Mouse House has set September 1 as ‘Force Friday II.’ And this time around, there’s an AR experience tied to the launch called Find the Force, which Apple will be involved in hosting.
Beginning on Force Friday II, Apple Stores, along with other popular retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, will begin selling Star Wars: The Last Jedi merchandise and play host to Find the Force, which lasts through September 3. During that time, shoppers can use the Star Wars iOS app to scan in-store displays as part of an AR treasure hunt. When the display is scanned, it will reveal a Star Wars character who appears through AR in the store. In total there are 15 characters to find over the three-day window. If you plan to participate in Find the Force, it’s best to download the Star Wars app now and launch the feature ahead of time, as it requires a substantial in-app download before you’re up and running.
With the launch of iOS 11 and ARKit-powered apps later in the month, September is shaping up to be a big month for augmented reality.
Apple has opened registration for its Today at Apple classes that were announced last month as part of the redesign of its retail stores. The presentations and hands-on sessions, which feature topics like photography, programming, design, art, and music, are available in hundreds Apple retail stores.
Apple has created a new website called ‘Today at Apple’ to spotlight special sessions and let users search for topics that interest them. If you have locations services turned on, Today at Apple uses your location to find nearby events. Users can also filter sessions by topic and date.
Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, was interviewed by Daniel Roth of LinkedIn about the future of retail and the new Today at Apple concept. Retailers have been failing at an increasing rate in the US, in part due to competition from online stores. According to Ahrendts, retailers need to adapt by focusing more on shoppers’ experiences. Ahrendts also detailed some of the store changes being rolled out to support Today at Apple, including additional seating, audio equipment modifications, and the installation of 50,000 beacons in 30 countries.
You can watch LinkedIn’s interview with Angela Ahrendts after the break.
Apple announced a major redesign of its retail stores today. The changes combine alterations to the physical space of some stores as well as a new series of events called ‘Today at Apple.’
The 100 largest Apple Stores will be redesigned to include live trees, meeting spaces, and screens similar to the upgrades that Apple’s Union Square store in San Francisco received last year. The Genius Bar will be renamed the Genius Grove in a nod to the addition of trees.
Apple Stores will also add a series of educational sessions in 495 locations that will launch at the end of May. The program is called ‘Today at Apple’ and will feature a wide range of presentations and hands-on sessions covering topics like photography, programming, design, art, and music. Sessions will be led by Creative Pros, a new retail store position filled by people with deep domain knowledge in the subjects they teach. In some cities, sessions will also be taught by world-class artists, musicians, and the like.
First rumored by Bloomberg last week, Apple has updated its Apple Store app to include personalized product recommendations that use customers’ buying history to make suggestions. Contrary to rumors, the recommendations are not part of a separate ‘For You’ tab in the Apple Store app. Instead, product recommendations and local Apple Store events are included under the app’s ‘Discover’ tab. In addition, Apple has unified the Apple Store iPhone and iPad apps into a single Universal app that is available to download free from the App Store.
Bloomberg reports that Apple has been denied a key exemption that will likely scuttle Apple's plans in the short term to open official Apple Retail Stores in India:
India’s finance minister has ratified a decision that Apple Inc. must meet local sourcing rules to open its own stores, according to people familiar with the matter, dealing what may be a fatal blow to the iPhone maker’s effort to open retail outlets in the country.
Minister Arun Jaitley decided to support the decision by India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board that Apple will have to procure 30 percent of components locally if it wants to sell through its own retail stores, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. The company makes most of its products in China and doesn’t currently meet that criteria.
It comes after another government panel had recommended, in late April, that Apple be granted the exemption. But more significantly, today's move comes after Tim Cook visited India in his first official trip to the country as CEO of Apple.
The decision by India's finance minister may not be the last word, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could theoretically intervene. During Cook's trip to India he met with Prime Minister Modi and Apple's retail plans were reportedly discussed, as was Modi's "Made in India" program which encourages foreign companies to manufacture in India. In public comments during the week Cook suggested that Apple was looking to establish a facility in India that would refurbish old iPhones for resale in India, but had no plans for other manufacturing at this stage.
If you're interested in reading more about Cook's week-long tour of India and China (which occurred last week), I wrote about the context of the trip as well as providing a timeline of what actually happened.