Apple Store 2.0 hands-on

The Apple Store's gone 2.0 taking the humble shopping experience all "gadgety", but does it work will it make a difference when it comes to buying the latest Apple product? We took a trip to London's most expensive high street, Regent Street, to see the Apple Store 2.0 in action.

It's lunchtime and the store is busy. In fact, it's teeming. Hip, brightly-dressed, youngsters outnumber the blue shirted Apple assistants 5 to 1. It's an impressive mass of bodies either way. All the same, there's plenty of products to try out, each complete with a glued down, semi-operable iPad 2 next to it to take you through all the features.

The first thing to say is that it's nice not to have to deal with the staff. I'm sure they're perfectly pleasant but we'd wager most geeks would prefer to be left alone as they explore the tech-bits in front of them, and, as it goes, there's actually quite a fair amount of detail on each Pad.

What you get is pretty much what's on the website but minus a few details here and there. The experience is a tabbed interface with Features, Compare, New to Mac?, Support and Specialist but there's actually quite a lot that you can drill down into beyond just a page for each including explanations of the highlighted features and even legal disclaimers to ground a few superlatives which pop up at the touch of an asterisk.

Head over to the Compare section and it's, again, pretty much what you see on the Apple website with tables of specs with which to measure up each of the models within a range as well as the prices. While it's useful info, you can't help feeling that it would be nice to be able to tailor your purchase then and there with peripherals and the like in a similar way to which you can on the Dell online store.

New to Mac is all about some of the reasons to switch and features to enjoy when you do so - good software, great design and assorted carefully worded truths. Support presents two friendly, typical and, presumably, randomly chosen members of staff from some Apple Store around the world and all the ways that you can get them and their colleagues to get you from purchase through set up and to after sales service as well. All very clear.

Finally, comes the moment of excitement. While this has, so far, been about keeping actual people as far away from your shopping experience as possible, the Specialist section allows to you call a member of staff over to explain a few things and then ease that credit card from your fingers. Under the pretense of wanting to have a few lessons on the Magic Trackpad, we press the button, start our stopwatch and await assistance. We're apparently first in the queue. This shouldn't take long.

One minute gone and we presume it must be a few teething issues in the system. Maybe it's hard to locate the right iPad or work out whose job it is to come and find us. Minute three and it's starting to feel like a blind date. Apple assistants walk in our direction, we raise our eyes to meet them, they step closer, and then pass us buy to the customer they had been looking at over our shoulder all along. We blush and turn back to the screen of the Mac at which we stand.

Minute six and this really is starting to feel like a blind date - a bad one. We've been stood up. Perhaps, it's all a big joke at our expense? Worse still, they might have already checked out us and decided that we weren't their type. How humiliating.

Ten minutes go by and we decide it's time to cut our losses. It's a no show. We don't know why but the system has broken down somewhere and with so many sales staff walking round the floor anyway, you'd do best to stick to the traditional method of grabbing someone by the arm instead.

All the same, the iPad assisted experience in the Apple Store 2.0 is a good one. It's not ground breaking but it's certainly good. Granted, the pads are glued down, as well they should be, the home key doesn't work and there is the slightly odd sight of iPads used to tell you about iPads but it's definitely a pleasant enough shop. No need to go and try it out unless you're passing but certainly an improvement.