More than four years after filling the Apple Store with iPads acting as interactive, dynamic pricing signs, Apple has gotten rid of them.
Named Smart Signs, the iPads allowed customers to swipe through pages of information like a virtual brochure, including pricing, features, and warranty information on every major product in the store, from Macs to iPhones. Even iPads themselves. It was iPads selling iPads.
They were a bit of a novelty when they came out. I was working at an Apple Store at the time and saw customer after customer try to lift the Smart Signs out of their plastic cradles or get confused about what they were for.
The signs have been replaced by special "pricing" apps installed on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Lock screens on the iOS devices prompt users to "open this app toe see pricing and compare models." Other sections within the apps allow users to compare different models and see accessories. Shoppers are encouraged to see a product specialist for more information.
Apple's retail stores have seen a number of changes in recent months, as new retail chief Angela Ahrendts puts her mark on the stores. Accessories sections are being revamped, replaced with a smaller selection of higher quality items encased in Apple-designed product packaging, even for third-party products.
Apple Store employees have also been given new, more professional looking uniforms with t-shirts that won't change as often. And it's rumored that Apple's One-to-One training program, which includes unlimited training sessions for $99/year, could be on the way out. Instead, stores will host more free workshops and group training sessions.
The overall goal, it seems, is to make it easier and more streamlined for customers to come in, purchase products, and get support. But just as the Theater was removed from many early stores in remodels, the loss of the One-to-One program will be disappointing for the loyal customers who used it.
When I worked at the Apple Store, we had customers who would come in once a week for their learning sessions. It took a huge amount of employee time and floor space to accommodate all the training, so it's easy to see why it might be on the chopping block.
Still, in total, the changes should help streamline the shopping process, especially for buyers less familiar with how the Apple Store works. Removing the iPad Smart Signs will also encourage shoppers to actually use the products to get more information on them.
Millions of shoppers head to Apple's retail stores each week, and they're a huge part of the company's success over the past decade. Any change could have a big impact on the company and on the rest of the retail industry as they look to emulate Apple's actions and hope to replicate its success.
Have you shopped in an Apple Store recently? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
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Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.