The things that remain
A New Year audit of what is old.
In June 1979, Apple introduced the Apple II Plus, a computer with 48KB of RAM. Twenty-two years later, the first Apple Retail Stores opened. 2023 will mark twenty-two years of Apple Retail Stores.
Imagining Apple Stores as Apple’s largest products will change the way you think about their design and contents. The first iPhone still looks familiar placed next to an iPhone 14 Pro, but the two share virtually nothing in common as physical objects. The same should be true of innovative stores. Retail architecture is essentially ephemeral.
There are a number of outdated things in Apple Stores today that slipped through the cracks into 2023. I have a deep appreciation for history and pinstripe glass, so it is somewhat painful for me to suggest that Apple ought to wipe the slate clean. But I care an awful lot, and to stand still is to move backward, so here we go:
The last headphone heads
The Music bay, complete with its rows of spherical wooden heads, was part of the original set of Avenues introduced in 2015. It was perfectly suited for the on-ear Beats era and predated AirPods entirely. Apple began phasing out the display in June 2021, but at least two stores are still holding on: Apple Park Visitor Center, with its custom Apple Music display, and Apple Upper East Side, the first store in the world to pilot Avenues.
They’re getting harder to find, but a number of Classic stores still have old tables predating the plug and channel designs detailed exhaustively in Tabletops #8. Wood is expensive and replacing functional tables is wasteful, so it’s not surprising this transition is now entering its ninth year.
The last Apple Watch display tables
Most stores have swapped their glass-topped Apple Watch display tables for the new watch risers at this point, but some, including Apple Fifth Avenue and The Grove, have not.
Old hero images
A welcome effort to update the oldest retail hero photography on Apple.com began early in 2022 and seemed to stop in October after more than 80 store images were updated. There is still more work to do. A greeting from the original MacBook Air is a bit jarring.
Apple Park Visitor Center’s AR experience is still a highlight for customers visiting Cupertino. The aluminum campus model is a beautiful, timeless sculpture, but the software on the demo iPads hasn’t fundamentally changed since 2017. Exhibition is such an important part of the visitor experience that I hope Apple is investing significant time and energy into building an incredible update for 2023.
The old cases bay
Only seven of the 196 stores with Avenues have the latest version of the iPhone cases bay with flat drawer pulls, iPhone model labels, and a header row featuring MagSafe accessories. This design is clearly more customer-friendly, and it’s strange to me that existing stores haven’t been updated.
Apple Pickup easels
Wayfinding signage is objectively helpful, but the Apple Pickup situation at stores without a dedicated pickup counter is in dire need of help. The tall easel and repurposed product table guiding customers to their orders is the only part of any any Apple Store that feels perpetually improvised and misplaced. The only acceptable solution is obvious but incredibly time consuming, expensive, and logistically complex: design and install a dedicated Apple Pickup counter at each of the 509 stores without one.
New Year treats
In celebration of the Chinese New Year, Apple is offering special red packets to customers who purchase Year of the Rabbit AirPods Pro in person at Apple Stores. In Japan, window graphics at Apple Omotesando follow the Year of the Rabbit AirTag. I’ve added the Japan New Year Apple Gift Card to my catalog page.
Apple 信義 A13
Photo via @lunbin0427.