App of the Week: No-Wait Checkouts with the Apple Store App

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App: Apple Store Platform: iPhone Website: Apple Store App Cost: Free

For years I've used the self-checkout lanes at grocery stores. Years ago I was a checker at a Kroger, and I find that I'm often as fast if not faster than the checkout person -- unless I have produce -- and the line certainly moves quicker -- unless there is an old person in front of me. Plus, being a nerd, I liked the idea of scanning products.

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I were in the new Apple Store in Highland Village to pick up something for her niece. After we found what we were looking for, a salesperson approached us and asked if we had the Apple Store app, saying we could purchase the item without having to even approach a salesperson. What the WHAT?

It's true. The 2.0 version of the Apple Store app for the iPhone is like having a self-checkout counter in your damn pocket!

Originally, the Apple Store app helped make reservations for repair appointments at the "Genius Bar" and it allowed users to purchase items from the online store, but that was basically it. With the new version, customers have a whole new way to buy Apple products and it's remarkably easy.

Before getting into the self-checkout, Apple has expanded the online store ordering to include in-store pickup, something Apple fan boys have been wanting for quite some time. Order a product from the online store and you can pick it up at a retail store -- assuming they have it in stock -- within 12 minutes, a number that apparently has to do with the speed of the system and the amount of time retail salespeople need to gather your gear.

All sales for online store purchases are awarded to the store where you pick the item up, which is not only good for stores, but for the people who work there. More sales means more jobs.

If the store doesn't have the product or if it is some sort of custom order, Apple will give an estimated delivery date and send you a push notification when it arrives.

Now, back to the self-checkout, which works like a hand-held scanner. Just locate the item you want, open the app, scan the barcode by pointing your camera at the box and the credit card you have set up for iTunes purchases is charged while a receipt is sent to your e-mail address. Then, you just walk out. Swear...to...God!

I wondered if our zealous questioning of the salesperson about how they avoided theft with something like this made him suspicious. I think he was probably just amused, saying they have plenty of measures in place to ensure nothing gets stolen. Whatever the case, just walking out with a hard drive or keyboard under your arm feels really weird. Maybe I'll ask for a bag next time.

The only items that are not available for purchase through the app are those that need registration -- phones, computers, Apple TV, etc. But, for those, customers likely need help from a sales rep anyway. With accessories, the only thing most of us want to do is avoid the crush of humanity that always seems to inhabit every Apple store I visit.

The Verdict

If you have an iPhone and you buy Apple stuff, get it. It will save time, hassle and make buying gear easier. Anything is better than the line o' geeks at Micro Center.

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