Apple Stores to soon open up iPhone sales via AT&T Next, T-Mobile JUMP, & Verizon Edge

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Apple is preparing a significant expansion of its iPhone sales capabilities in its official retail stores, according to sources. Late in August, many Apple Stores in the United States will kick off a pilot program for customers to be able to purchase a new iPhone via the latest carrier upgrade programs: AT&T Next, T-Mobile JUMP, and Verizon Edge. Currently, iPhones bought at Apple Stores must either be purchased on a two-year deal, or at full-price (unlocked) with no contract…

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Apple Stores unify employee shirts as major customer service enhancements planned

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Apple is taking a small-step to unifying the attire of its U.S.-based Apple Store employees this upcoming week: the black shirts worn by Apple Store Business Team members for several years will be going into retirement, and all Apple Store employees will begin wearing the same, classic blue t-shirts as normally seen on the store sales floors. Is this a move from the handbook of Angela Ahrendts’ fashion background? Probably not. Sources say that the move happened in Europe a few months ago and the change-up is simply to unify the Apple Store teams as one. The business team will continue to exist in its current form (for now), so this is mostly just a visual change.

In other news, multiple sources also say that Apple is planning some significant operational changes within its stores to improve customer experience…

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New iTunes Pass credit refill service now available in United States and several other countries

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Yesterday Apple rolled out its new iTunes Pass service to Japan, allowing users to use a Passbook card to add credit to an iTunes account from an Apple Retail Store. Starting today, the offer is also available in the United States and Australia. Users in Canada, Germany, and the UK are also reporting seeing the feature, though it’s not officially listed on Apple’s website for those countries just yet.

To take advantage of this new program, you need to use the iTunes Store app on an iOS device to obtain an iTunes Pass. You can get one of these by tapping the “Redeem” button at the bottom of the home page within the app. To use the card, you can visit an Apple Retail Store and ask a specialist to help you add credit to your account. The specialist can then scan the barcode on the Passbook card to immediately add credit to your account.

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Apple debuts iTunes Pass in Japan, allows Passbook-based iTunes credit refills at Apple Stores

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Apple today has launched an interesting new service for iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore users in Japan with iPhones and iPod touches. The new service, called iTunes Pass (no, not that iTunes Pass), allows users to go to an Apple Store in Japan, purchase credit in-store for the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore, and have that money immediately applied to the Apple ID account instead of needing to receive a gift card and enter a redemption code…

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Basel Apple Store opens to crowds as Apple promotes upcoming Edinburgh location

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In line with last week’s announcement, Apple’s fourth store in Switzerland opened this weekend in Basel. The store, like most Apple Stores, opened to significant crowds and Apple handed out commemorative shirts to celebrate. The interior of the store appears like most Apple Stores, and the location already has been equipped with the new interior visual design:

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Court approves European trademark on Apple Store design as 38th UK store set to open

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You’d probably recognize that you’d walked into an Apple Store even if both logo and products were covered: the signature wooden tables, glass frontage and glass staircase would give it away. Apple successfully trademarked its store designs in the U.S. last year, and a European Union court has today approved a similar trademark application in Europe …  Read more

Apple hires Patrick Pruniaux, VP of Tag Heuer Sales and Retail, for iWatch marketing

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Earlier today, the CEO of Tag Heuer revealed to CNBC that Apple has hired one of the watch-makers sales directors. However, the company did not announce the name of this “director” or the person’s exact position. A source directly familiar with the Apple hire confirmed that the Cupertino-based company hired Patrick Pruniaux late last month. Pruniaux is not just any “Sales Director:” he was the Vice President of Sales and Retail, a major loss for Tag Heuer and a significant hire for Apple in the run up the launch of the Apple smart watch in October. Pruniaux is pictured in the photo above (second person from the right), and his LinkedIn profile reveals his impressive work in jewelry and watch marketing:

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iPhone & iPad AppleCare+ purchase window extended to 60 days as standard plan discontinued

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Apple today will be rolling out a couple of significant changes to its AppleCare support offerings. As we detailed in a report last month regarding Apple’s future plans for AppleCare, Apple will making a significant push for its premium AppleCare+ service. AppleCare+ is the iPhone and iPad protection plan offering that provides support for an additional two years (on top of the free 90 days of support) and support for up to two incidents of accidental damage.

Previously, customers were required to buy the plan within 30 days of purchase of an iPhone or iPad, but today’s change brings that purchase window to 60 days. This gives customers more time to decide if they will need enhanced support for their mobile Apple devices. The AppleCare+ plan costs $99 for both recent iPhone and iPad models. The plan can be purchased both via Apple’s Online Store or inside of official Apple retail stores. The AppleCare+ change is supported in all AppleCare+ regions except Japan, where the timeframe remains 30 days…

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Apple Store visuals revamped with inspiration from recent TV campaigns

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IFO Apple Store reports that Apple is revamping its back-lit in-store photo panels, replacing its signature white-background product shots with visuals inspired by its recent advertising. Out are clean, sterile close-ups of the products, and in are colorful visuals showing what people are doing with the products.

The new graphics were photographed like magazine ads, showing the iPad/iPhone being used in actual situations, complete with their surrounding people and places. Their colors, tone and brightness is much richer and darker than the previous graphics …

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Apple launches 2014 Back to School promotion: $100 Apple Store gift cards with Macs, $50 with iPad/iPhone

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As we reported two weeks ago and again yesterday, Apple has today launched its Back to School promotion for this school season. Like previous years, qualifying student customers will get a free gift card alongside any purchase of a Mac, iPad or iPhone. While last year Apple gave out Mac App Store/iTunes cards, this year’s cards are for Apple Retail Stores.

Buying any Mac makes the buyer eligible for a $100 Apple Store gift card and $50 cards will be distributed alongside iPads and iPhones.

Interested students can buy any Mac (except for the Mac Mini), or any iPad or iPhone currently on sale at the Apple Store, to be eligible for the promotion. Students can also receive education discount pricing where applicable, alongside the gift card giveaway.

Back to School runs from today until September 9th and available in many regions, including the United States, Canada, the UK and many other countries in Europe. Read more

Apple begins hiring for another 3 new retail stores in China

Photo: mshcdn.com

Photo: mshcdn.com

We previously reported that Apple had new retail stores planned for the Chongqing region as well as upcoming locations for Shenyang and Central Hangzhou coming later this year. Today three more stores in China get added to the mix with a job listing on the company’s website hiring for positions in Tianjin, Wuxi, and Zhengzhou in addition to the three stores mentioned above that we already knew about (via Bloomberg).  Read more