This week at the first virtual WWDC, Apple revealed new software features that will come this fall with the potential to transform the Apple Retail Store experience. This year’s updates for iOS and iPadOS add capabilities that extend not only how you interact with your devices, but also how you interact with the world around you.
Brick and mortar Apple stores and the Apple Store online shopping experience have been tightly integrated since the introduction of the Apple Store app over a decade ago. As iPhones get more powerful, Apple continually uses new software features to make visiting a physical Apple Store unique and relevant at a time when shopping online is more popular than ever.
While Apple didn’t specifically mention its own retail stores during the WWDC keynote, many of the planned changes resolve common friction points or amplify ideas that are part of the Apple Store experience today.
Think of app clips in iOS 14 as small apps. They’re small, brief previews of full apps from the App Store that don’t put your life on hold to find, install, and run. Application clips can be activated directly from the lock screen with NFC-enabled application clip codes.
App clips in the Apple Store could make shopping for products, picking up orders, and discovering new accessories faster and more seamless. The Apple Store app is already pre-installed on every new iPhone, but users can remove it if they want. An app clip for the Apple Store app could trigger scanning and buy self-pay Or allow any visitor to quickly register an appointment without having to install the complete application.
Apple Stores display a curated selection of third-party smart accessories that often integrate with your iPhone. Many of these accessories are paired with display iPhones running demo versions of their corresponding App Store app. Application clip codes alongside accessories on display could launch similar demos on your personal iPhone and help you learn more about products. Apple’s human interface guidelines suggest:
Consider creating an app clip if your app provides an on-the-fly experience that helps people complete a task for a limited period of time.
Recently added app clips appear in the new iOS 14 App Library. If you purchased the accessory after learning more, the installation of the accompanying app would be just a tap away.
Apple didn’t speak about it during the presentation, but close interaction is a powerful new framework that developers can use to detect the exact distance and direction of devices equipped with the Apple U1 chip. You may be familiar with basic spatial awareness of devices like iBeacons Bluetooth at Apple Stores, but close interaction allows for new experiences due to their precision.
Close interaction applied to Apple Store could become a personal guide for your local store. Theoretically, your iPhone could sense the position of individual demo iPhones and provide you with relevant information about each device as it gets closer. The U1 chip offers enough precision to differentiate between an iPhone 11 and an iPhone 11 Pro sitting next to each other.
As more devices equipped with a U1 chip ship, Nearby Interaction could help you find which table has the products you’re looking for in a busy store, even when merchandise is rearranged.
iOS 14 brings customizable widgets to your home screen. A widget for the Apple Store app would make discovering your closest store, viewing the calendar of upcoming Today at Apple creative sessions, or tracking your orders even easier. These ideas have already been explored with the Apple Store app on Apple Watch and an in-app order progress card on iPhone and iPad.
ARKit 4 is an updated set of tools for developers looking to create immersive augmented reality experiences. One of the most exciting changes in ARKit 4 is location anchors. With Location Anchors, you can launch AR experiences at specific geographic coordinates.
Last year, Apple developed a series of interactive games. [AR]T Walks at major Apple stores in major cities around the world. The immersive sessions used special iPhones and a custom AR app to guide viewers through virtual installations at specific points in each city. With Location Anchors, similar experiences could be developed without custom hardware and software initiated by the Apple team.
ARKit 4 opens the door to augmented reality more accessible today at Apple Sessions and the ability to display art in and around Apple Stores like never before. Nick Cave’s “Amass” sculpture AR gave a glimpse of the possibilities last year. It’s easy to imagine facilities taking over the plaza outside of your local store. Location Anchors use Look Around data from Apple Maps for positioning and will initially be available only in select cities, but coverage should expand over time.
Next Generation Video Walls
Nearly half of all Apple stores worldwide have been updated to add a forum and high-resolution video wall to host Today at Apple sessions. The WWDC keynote offered a look at what might be in store for the future.
A recent independent video wall.
Today’s freestanding video walls are relatively thick, highly permanent fixtures, with complex cooling for the LED modules and a significant internal structure to hold all the components. The WWDC video walls at the Steve Jobs Theater are remarkably thin, essentially without bezels and nearly invisible LED modules. The displays do not appear to be green screens and are not normally present in the theater, suggesting that they are much more modular than today’s retail accessories. The technology would be perfect for Apple stores when future locations are built.
iOS 14 will launch this fall, and we hope to learn more about these features and other new possibilities later this year.
Follow our retail guide for detailed coverage of the latest Apple Store news.
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