A Guided Tour Of The Apple Watch Retail Experience

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A Guided Tour Of The Apple Watch Retail Experience

I went to the Apple Store in downtown Toronto’s Eaton Centre today to try on the Apple Watch with a retail specialist. It’s a new way of shopping for Apple, and one that will clearly take some getting used to both for retail staff and for customers.

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The Apple Watch Display Case

Apple Stores now feature this long display case as a central feature. The 42mm Apple Watch, Watch Sport and Edition collections are featured on the side closest to the camera, while the opposite side holds the 38mm versions of each.

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The Apple Watch Display Case

This is the same case that Apple used to show off the Apple Watch at both of its press events around the device. Here I’m checking it out with a group of local journalists ahead of the general opening of the store to the public this morning.

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The Apple Watch Display Case

The display case serves a few purposes, separate from demo stations with Watches not under glass on the wings – the main one is showing off the various band styles and Watch combinations available for order.

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Apple Watch Display Case

This is the Watch display section. You can see the various band combinations available for the stainless steel edition here.

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Apple Watch Edition Display Case

The Edition models are on display right alongside the less expensive versions in that long display case. A software demo is running in a loop on all the watches held within, timed so that the animations on-screen cascade down the line from right to left.

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Apple Watch Testing Station

These consoles feature an active, fully operational Apple Watch fixed to a plastic display case on the right, and a screen explaining what’s happening on the left. Playing with the watch provides more context for your actions on the big screen.

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Apple Watch Try-On Station

This is where you get your individual guided appointment. That interactive console is at each station, and there’s also a navy blue leather placemat of sorts that the Apple rep (Kevin, in my case. Hi Kevin!) uses to lay out the various models you’re interested in. In noticed customers kept approaching these tables, and a dedicated staff person had to continually direct them to the non-staffed demo stations in the wings.

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Apple Watch Try-On Drawer

To retrieve the actual Apple Watch models, the Apple rep uses their mobile terminal device on the right to talk to a receiver via RFID in the drawer, which unlocks it and allows it to open in response to triggering mechanisms hidden away underneath.

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Apple Watch Try-On Drawer Open

Here’s that drawer again, now open. You can tell Apple probably spent a lot of time on making sure even this seemingly small part of the experience was up to their standards.

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Apple Watch Try-On Drawer Open

Here’s a zoomed out look at the whole personal try-on appointment station, complete with those live demo displays, the leather mats, and the band/watch combinations.

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Apple Watch Drawer

Here’s a close-up of that drawer. The watches are housed in little scooped out grooves, lined with a soft finish fabric probably to help ensure their cases definitely don’t suffer any dings.

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Try-On Console

During my appointment, the various Watches Kevin had me use on my wrist didn’t have active software – they were running demo loops that do things like show the taptic engine. If you want to test a specific feature, like swapping watch faces, these physically embedded units are what you used.

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Try-On Console

These active unit displays also let you find out more about each collection if you’re not actively running any software or providing any input to the Apple Watch paired with the screen.

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Try-On Console

Here you can see how the Apple Watch used for the active interaction displays are half-encased in the console – this might help prevent the risk of theft, with the units not anchored that store personnel handle locked in demo loops, they might not be able to be activated once you leave the store.

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Try-On Drawer

Kevin opened the drawer at the beginning of the appointment and asked me which bands I thought I wanted to try. The bands appear to be organized, with steel link at the top left, leather in the middle and milanese loop at the bottom right.

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Stainless Steel Apple Watch With Leather Loop Bracelet

The Leather Loop bracelet was actually my favorite based on the try-on appointment. Here it is on a stainless steel Apple Watch. You can also see the sensor array located under glass on the back of the watch.

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Stainless Steel Apple Watch

Here’s the front of a 42mm stainless steel Apple Watch. These are turned off by default, and a double tap of the side button activates the demo loop, as Kevin showed me.

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Apple Watch Leather Loop

Here’s a close-up of the Leather Loop band. You can see that it has a quite pronounced textured grain pattern, which contrasts with the fine texture on the leather of the Modern Buckle band.

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Black Aluminum Apple Watch

This is the black anodized aluminum finish. Here you can see the digital crown and side button. It’s darker than the space gray finish of the iPhone.

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Apple Watch Steel Link Bracelet

This is the Steel Link bracelet, which is very, very nice, but which is also quite pricey. It’s heavy, too which is why I’m personally leaning towards the Leather Loop.

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Steel Link Bracelet Release Buttons

These are the release mechanisms for individual links in the steel link bracelet. They are far, far easier to use than traditional link bracelets for watches, letting you adjust sizing without any special tools or a trip to the department store.

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Apple Watch Modern Buckle

Themodern buckle is very cool, with that button releasing it. It’s kind of like a deployment clasp, for those who know watches, but the band itself is quite small.

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Milanese Loop Band

Here’s the Milanese Loop band. It’s not my style, but it’s surprisingly comfortable when worn.

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Apple Watch Digital Crown

Here’s the digital crown. This controls zooming and scrolling in many of the software’s interactions, and it’s amazing how good it feels to use. The movement truly feels hardwired to what’s happening on screen.

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Apple Watch Aluminum Digital Crown

This is the aluminum black digital crown. There’s no coloured top piece on this one, but it still feels just as nice to use.

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Apple Watch Side Button And Crown

Here’s the side of the Apple Watch, with button and crown. Kevin explained how you can use the companion app on your iPhone to adjust whether the button faces away from or towards your body.

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Try-On Complete!

The try-on was over surprisingly quickly, leaving me wanting more hands-on time with the watch itself, but perfectly confident in my strap choice. The most interesting part of the experience might be how Kevin noticed I was wearing a Withings Activité and used that to launch a discussion about the Apple Watch’s fitness powers to start us off. Clearly, they’re taking a very personal approach.

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