In the melee of WWDC 2012, Apple needed so much time to shout about all the new bits of kit it has available to buy that it didn't have a moment to mention intriguing advancements in how you can actually go about buying them.
Fresh to the UK and Japanese scene is the EasyPay update to the Apple Store app, and there's no prizes for guessing that it's an iPhone-only affair. It's designed to add a great deal of ease and a healthy dose of customer autonomy to what is already one of the most evolved retail experiences on the high street – just ask one of the shop staff to give you a guided tour if you don't believe us. Pocket-lint headed down to the Covent Garden branch to take the latest experience for a spin.
The minute you walk into an Apple Store, the Apple Store app downloaded on to your handset detects its home and asks if you don't mind if it boots itself up. If you're already familiar with the interface, the part that you'll find is new is the EasyPay tile at the top, which allows you to scan the barcode of, and pay for, the majority of items you'll find boxed and ready to go on the shop floor - and all without having to speak to anyone or wait in any queues. Highly appealing for surly city types, the reclusive and the tech savvy.
Click through to EasyPay and there's a familiar-feeling barcode scanner screen with instructions to line your phone camera to the code on the ticket of the item you'd like to purchase. Hey presto, within a couple of seconds – and we saw this a few times to make sure – the item is recognised and up pops the relevant Apple Store page on your mobile with handy links to more information on the product in question, including photo galleries, tech specs, features, a Q&A section and even product reviews from other users where available. Most importantly, of course, there's the click-to-buy button which you can hit once you've decided that this is indeed how you wish to spend your hard-earned.
Naturally, the app will ask you for your Apple ID log in details to go any further but a short amount of thinking and processing later and you get the "thank you for purchase" message and a receipt with the card details associated with your Apple account debited in the background. Then tuck your product under your arm and stroll out of the shop without the fear of alarm bells or being accosted by a burly security officer.
Now, before you go flying out of the door to try EasyPay, there are a couple of limitations. The first is that it will only work on iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Next is that it's really only aimed at accessory items – cables, audio products, peripherals, software and the like. As it goes, that's most of the boxes that you can get your hands on anyway, given that the Macs and phones and pads are largely kept on shelves behind the scenes and not on the shop floor. The only exceptions to this are the Apple TV and Time Capsule products. Easy Pay can scan their barcodes but will lead you to call for help through the app, at which point an Apple Store staffer can come over to you and take your payment in person.
We went through the process quite a few times and it's as smooth as you could imagine. It might not single-handedly change your entire existence but as far as nipping in to pick up that cable you need and nipping out again, it's as good as it gets short of Minorty Report-style retina scanning.
The rest of the Apple Store app still works as was with the ability to book Genius appointments and ask for help on the spot all correct and present. But EasyPay certainly makes an interesting addition especially given the recent Apple iOS announcements with regard to Passbook for iOS 6 and the push toward a walletless future.
EasyPay is already available in the US and the Netherlands and you can try it out in any of the stores there, and now in Japan and the UK too. Give it a whirl.