Visiting an Apple Store: The Value of In-Person Impressions

Originally published at: Visiting an Apple Store: The Value of In-Person Impressions - TidBITS

Adam Engst made his first visit to an Apple Store since before the start of the pandemic and came away with some changed opinions after getting a chance to lay his hands on some recent (and not-so-recent) products. Online ordering is great, but can’t provide the full picture.


The last time I visited an Apple Store, just before the pandemic, I did not find it particularly welcoming. It was more like a ‘customer factory - get their order done and politely get them out the door.’ In particular, actual browsing seemed to be discouraged and no one seemed to be interested in answering browser questions.

We have no Apple Stores in Ireland, one supplier iSelect, is about the best place to do what you suggest, something needed when a major purchase is planned. But their supplies are unpredictable, only effective if you prebook. Which kinda defeats the joy of shopping on a store.

I bought an Ultra with the Alpine loop from the Apple Store online when it came out. (The nearest Apple Store to us is almost 2 hours away in Lancaster.). I really like the way the watch looks compared to the series 7 I traded in for the Ultra. I’m not that fond of the Alpine loop, but it came in blaze orange so I got that one. The band is not that hard to get used to, but I’m sure I’ll eventually replace it with the infinitely adjustable sports band that my series 7 came with. As usual I have no interest in using it for activities; I have Garmin devices for that. The action button for now turns on flashlight mode until Overcast allows me to use it to bring Overcast forward. No watch is good for cycling, for which I use an Edge 830. The cross country skiing profile in Workout is pathetic, the one in the 3rd party Workoutdoors app looks pretty good, but I’m going to use my Fenix 5+ as usual for skiing. (For one thing, I know the Fenix will work properly worn outside my outer layer.)

Here in the UK, I’ve had a number of positive experiences in Apple stores in London - I’ve used two. Impossibly young (it seems to me) men and women take one’s needs and concerns seriously, and quite often suggested a cheaper solution than the online browsing experience had led me to. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’ve been helping a friend replace his old iMac, and I had no hesitation in suggesting he go to his local store (Bath). I look forward to hearing how it goes - if there’s anything surprising, positive or negative, I’ll report back.


I have a white one and like it, but…

It more than doubles the weight of the iPad Air 4th generation (459 to 1,073 grams on my postage scale). It also more than doubles the thickness.

When it was a year old, the “skin” started cracking at the flex joint behind the iPad. Sure, that’s a repetitive stress region, but it’s a $300 accessory and it should last longer.

The keyboard illuminates (if the ambient light is low enough), but it doesn’t illuminate enough if the ambient light is just dark enough to make the keyboard backlight come on. For example, if I’m using the iPad in the car while in the garage, it can be dark enough that the keyboard illuminates but it isn’t bright enough to be useful.

I am curious why you bought the Ultra if not for the activities. Isn’t that the whole point of it? Everything else it does can be done with a regular, much cheaper watch, right?

I have black Magic Keyboard for use with my 11" Pro and I love it. It’s a great case when I want to take it somewhere; I can easily remove it from keyboard via the magnets and doesn’t require a plastic frame (like my logitech keyboard I had for my old 12.9" iPad); the trackpad is surprisingly useful for text editing (a game-changer for me). Best of all, the keyboard frees up space on the tiny 11" screen as I don’t need the on-screen keyboard (which uses up half the display and makes writing/editing a pain).

I basically use it as a stand and leave the iPad connected to it all the time. That is a little heavier, but for my use that doesn’t matter – 90% of the time I’m using it as a laptop in my lap or as a consumption device where the “floating” stand is great. If I need to use the iPad by itself that’s trivial to do with the magnetic connection. I haven’t had any hinge fraying, but since I rarely fold it up (only when I travel with it), it shouldn’t be too big of an issue.

I had a similar experience with the M1 iMacs. I saw them on the website and thought they looked nice enough, but it wasn’t until I saw them in person that I thought, “I want one of these.”

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Looks like there is one up in Belfast, if you don’t want to go across the Irish Sea. Maybe make a day trip to it, fondle the hardware, then go home to place an order.

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I love going to the store. Nothing like hands on.

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Haha. You should visit my store. I’m 72 and I have a coworker who is 73. I love working in my store. The impossibly young folks treat me with great respect and we get along famously. I love my part time retirement job.


Just two comments:

  1. The Apple Watch Ultra indeed comes with three band options but it can take any 44/45mm Apple Watch band. I’ve fitted mine with the metal band I got with my series 6 stainless steel watch and it both looks great and feels great.

  2. The M1 MBP can drive not only two but three 6K external displays. I have successfully installed a 6K XDR and two 5K (LG) displays and it works like a charm. Only drawback is placement of all that screen real-estate on the desk and creating a smooth mouse transition from one display to another.

It’s tiny, more akin to the small mall stores in the US. The reseller in Dublin is larger and we are there more often. Brexit takes it’s toll too, of course, complicating repair drop offs as well.

It occurred to me that you could simply buy (although it’s not the cheapest option) two 24 inch iMacs because under the latest software you can simply pass the cursor/keyboard between the two machines.

It also have the added advantage in that you don’t need a cable between them, and an extra processor (so zoom in one, drag and drop stuff between them, mail and word in another etc),

Adam. Very interesting discussion of the 27 inch iMac I agree. it has always been the sweet spot for me. I recently decided to replace my 2015 model and was able to purchase from Apple a late 2020 model. It is refurbished and comes with an Apple warranty. It can be, and has been, upgraded to Ventura, and I expect. It to last years into the future. Larry Martin.

Universal Control might make that more workable than all previous approaches have, although there are times you might want to move something to the other screen and have to launch another app over there. Another tricky part would be maintaining both Macs such that you had access to the data you needed on both.

The time it takes one to get to an Apple Retail Store by car where I now live (in the vast state of Montana) is measured in DAYS, not hours,

I’m 75 and will need cataract surgery some time in the next year. My 11 inch iPad Pro and its securely-attachable Magic Keyboard have become my choice for online communications. The default text sizes for mail and browsing are larger than on my 16 inch (Intel) MacBook Pro. The “feel” of the keyboard is good, and on those rare occasions when I still need to type on it on a commercial aircraft tray table, it just works better than that large laptop. If only iPadOS weren’t limited compared to macOS. I REALLY miss apps such as InfoClick when searching back through my (barely) organized mail library or attempting to incorporate rarely used glyphs or formatting in email messages, which typically sends me to one or another of my email Mac listservs for help, which in turn most often just generates ridicule from the “email is ASCII-only luddite…

As regards the Apple Watch Ultra, I could be considered a candidate, given that my road cycling activities take me out of cell coverage in Montana fairly often (and where I plan to summit “Going to the Sun Road” in Glacier National Park as soon as the snow is cleared but before cars are permitted to attack me next Spring). Descriptions of that ride fairly consistently mention sightings of brown bears along the way, and while I MIGHT still be able to call for help via a Satellite Connection after an encounter, my strategy is more likely to be just sharing the road with several other cyclists. But my decision regarding purchasing one will be made whenever I take my next plane trip back to urban America (and an Apple Retail Store pilgrimage), because for me, my watch is partly a fashion statement, and I imagine Jony Ive vomiting every time he looks at that huge device with too many colors and protrusions on and from its case.

One other “form vs. function” watch tale: early in my career, I accompanied groups of hemodialysis patients on vacation cruises several times. At the time, I typically wore one of the earlier Timex“calculator” watches (probably about 1984). One of those cruises docked at Grand Cayman Island just after my watch battery died. Even back then, the Caymans were a favored destination for those with money to hide, The first place I found that sold watches featured Rolexes and the like. I asked the haughty sales person if he could change my battery and was told “sir! We don’t deal with TOYS!”

I had responsibilities for those 30-some dialysis patients that included measuring pulse rates and knowing what time it was, so I looked for other solutions in his shop, eventually walking away with an impossibly thin Movado “museum” watch, whose flat-black face was adorned solely by 3 bits of gold (two hands and a noon/midnight divot). Of course, it was useless for my purposes, and as soon as we returned home it took up residence in my bedside table drawer, to be extracted only on those SO rare occasions that I also needed my tuxedo. Typically, each time I wanted to wear it, its battery was exhausted, and replacing that battery cost more than any other watch I’d ever owned—until Jony Ive had a hand (and wrist) in designing one. When finally it was consumed in the 2017 fire that decimated Sonoma County, CA, it was probably the single least-missed possession that I lost in that fire.


Excuse the snark, but those two statements are probably mutually exclusive.

I’ll admit: until I actually saw it when I ordered it, I worried about the look of the Ultra. But it does not look as hideous as a calculator watch, my old Garmin Forerunner, my old Pebble watch, or a few other cheap digital watches I’ve worn over the years. Honestly, I prefer it now to the standard Apple Watch.

While an Apple Store is the best place to see and play with Apple products, resellers also provide that opportunity. For example, Best Buy often has an Apple area for iPads and Macs (iPhones are usually in their phone area) and lets you play with large merchandise. It’s also a good place to see and purchase reasonably priced accessories. iI’s usually where I shop for computer briefcases and cables. I see that there’s a Best Buy in Ithaca.

Another place where you may be able to play (and, with the appropriate affiliation, buy) Apple products are college bookstores. Perhaps Cornell offers such an opportunity?

In the San Francisco Bay Area, of course, we are blessed with a multitude of such opportunities. Within 6 miles of my house, there is a Best Buy and 2 Apple Stores.