Apple is finally preparing to start selling the Apple Watch in its retail stores after solely offering the Watch via its online store due to constrained supplies. In a private video message to retail employees today, Apple Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts and Vice President of Retail Operations Jim Bean informed retail staff that training materials for the retail launch are once again being distributed to employees…
Apple and longtime partner Disney this week are bolstering their stores with upgraded versions of iBeacon sensors and NFC readers, according to sources. Apple Stores have had iBeacons stationed throughout showroom floors for several months as a way to pinpoint exactly where a customer is within the store. This allows Apple to better serve customers by providing relevant sales information to their iPhones and iPads while in the store. The upgrades happening this week within Apple Stores place several new Gimbal Series 20 Proximity Beacons across stores to make location tracking within the store even more accurate.
In addition to providing relevant information for the Apple Store app, iBeacons can be useful for NFC mobile payment technologies as a form of authentication. If Apple knows where a customer is in the store to a precise degree, it can ensure that is it wirelessly connecting to the correct iPhone for mobile payments. As has been widely reported, the new iPhone 6 and upcoming Apple wearable device will include new wireless sensors (including a near field communication chipset) to conduct mobile payments with credit cards stored in an upgraded Passbook application.
Apple is reportedly in talks with department store Nordstrom to join as a partner for the company’s mobile payment system, as noted by Bank Innovation. As has been previously reportedly, Apple is also in talks with several other retailers about the possibility of accepting iPhone-based payments, and has deals in place with MasterCard and American Express as well as Chinese payment processor UnionPay to support the feature.
According to the Bank Innovations report, people familiar with Nordstrom’s systems have confirmed that the company’s current point-of-sale hardware is purchased from Apple and recently received a software update to work “with the latest iPhones.” These devices are said to be the same updated EasyPay systems implemented recently in Apple Stores across the country.
Apple is in the process of updating the iPod touch units used by Apple Store employees as a mobile point-of-sale system to the iPhone 5s, according to sources familiar with the roll out.
Apple first started using its iPod touch as an “EasyPay” system for employees in its retail stores back in 2009 and currently uses 4th gen iPod touch or previous models for staff. It uses a point-of-sale attachment for the iPod touch that adds a magnetic stripe reader, barcode scanning functionality, and more. It’s not clear the exact motivation behind Apple’s move to the iPhone after long using the iPod touch, but the device does provide a few advantages. Read more
Apple today posted a job listing on its website looking for a Payments Software Engineer that will “help build a next generation payment platform.” Apple says the payment system will consist of integration of payment devices, middleware and acquirers that will “push the boundaries in new markets for Apple Retail.” Read more
Later this month, Apple will be seeding an updated version of its mobile point-of-sale (EasyPay) system software to Apple Store employees. This update, numbered version 12.3, will allow retail employees with EasyPays to capture Apple Store payment card codes from customer iPhones and iPod touches running Passbook.
While Apple’s EasyPay software should be ready for Passbook this month, some sources noted that the current EasyPay hardware, at least at some retail stores, may not be capable of scanning iOS device displays. Presumably, Apple has a solution for this in the works.
Also, Apple’s plans for rolling out the consumer-facing Apple Store app update to support Passbook-based Apple Store cards is currently unclear. But with Apple preparing to seed software to its stores that interacts with Passbook on customer iPhones and iPod touches, we believe that the feature is close to being a rolled out.