Apple to simplify retail stores by demoting iPods to shelves, dropping iPad Smart Signs


Apple is preparing to make significant changes to its stores to simplify the experience by relocating iPod stock to accessory shelves and removing iPad-based Smart Signs, according to several Apple Retail managers briefed today on the plans. Apple will begin rolling out these notable changes overnight on Tuesday of next week to stores in the United States so that customers who begin coming in on Wednesday see the refreshed look.

Typically reserved for accessories like Apple Watch bands, headphones, and iPhone cases, Apple Store accessory walls will now be home to the recently-updated iPod line. Apple products, ranging from iPods to iPads to Macs, have typically been stored in the back of Apple Stores and brought to a customer upon the point of sale. Now, when a customer wants to buy an iPod, she or he can simply pull it off a shelf without needing to wait for the product to be brought from the back room.

Once a major product category for Apple, and one of the key reasons behind the company’s reemergence throughout the 2000s, the iPod now no longer gets the same annual update treatment as the Mac, iPad, and iPhone and is no longer given the same purchase experience as Apple’s main money-making hardware. Over the course of the past several months, Apple has also demoted the presence of the iPod on its online website and store.

In addition to the change to iPod sales, Apple is making a significant alteration in how customers can research product details and prices. In mid-2011 as part of an “Apple Store 2.0″ initiative, Apple replaced thick paper signs and poster boards with pricing information with iPad 2 displays loaded with details of products in the Apple Store. In most stores, an iPad 2 has sat next to each Mac, iPad, and iPhone in the store with the relevant information.

With this Apple Store refresh next week, Apple will be pulling these aging iPad 2s from most of its stores. Instead of Smart Signs, Apple will begin pre-loading price information and product details onto display iPhones, iPads, and Macs themselves. Apple will use the new space to install more devices that potential customers can test on the show floor. The recently launched iPad mini displays for the Apple Watch will not be going away. Apple will also showcase iPhones with redesigned white display docks.

Some larger Apple Stores will retain a few Smart Signs as Apple conducts this transition. Sources say that, beyond the desire to feature more products on store tables and to replace the aging iPad 2s, Apple is removing Smart Signs because it found that the setup is confusing for some customers. Retail employees note that some customers were unaware that the Smart Signs were simply informational items and became confused when they could not fully use the device as a demo iPad.

These changes are just a few of many that have reached the Apple Store over the last few months. In July, Apple began displaying accessories from key partners in new Apple-designed packaging, while the company also recently re-organized its stores with a focus on displaying the Apple Watch. Since launching the new Apple Watch tables in April, Apple has improved the process by dropping the in-store appointment requirement. Retail chief Angela Ahrendts and Jony Ive have also been working on a larger Apple Store revamp, which can already be seen at the New York Upper East Side store.

Top Image credit: pio3 /


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  1. Ted Wood (@coolfactor) - 7 years ago

    Does this also include the iPod touch?

  2. Ilko Sarafski - 7 years ago

    I guess they are freeing some space for the iPad Pro? But I like the idea, it will make things “cleaner” and more neat.

  3. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    While they’re at it they should also remove that iPhone4s and that old MacPro¡

  4. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    Seriously though, while it may confuse some to see this iPad next to a product, how is removing it going to help if the product can’t be used by a potential customer since now the product itself will be the Smart Sign?

    • atokosch - 7 years ago

      It will display it’s specs and what not as an app within the demo. Then once the customer picks it up and scrolls through it will stay open. If they press the home button then it will bring them to the home screen. I’m sure the featured spec app will be right there on the home screen so the customer can access it again if they wish to do so.

    • twelve01 - 7 years ago

      They seem to already run a version of this software. I was at a store earlier today, and notifications with pricing and product info would show in the upper part of the screen. There is also an app you can open up. I get the feeling the smart signs didn’t get a ton of use. Most people are pretty engaged with the products. Also no one is checking out a device and using the smart sign simultaneously. It makes sense to combine them.

  5. pelon1071 - 7 years ago

    Yea, I always thought it was funny to see an iPad advertise an iPad.

  6. AeronPeryton - 7 years ago

    I was always impressed by the signage iPads because to do that three to six times at every table at over 200 stores worldwide seemed unsustainable even at Apple’s level. I wonder how many had to be replaced due to wear and tear?

    The truth is, Apple could easily install a Mac/iOS/hell, even watchOS app on all their devices that does the same job. And feature an exaggerated kill button that lets users leave the retail screen and use the native device. Then when the computer/device locks itself, the retail screen resumes. This would essentially replace the screensaver that has to be custom made for everything.

    I also assume that the iPod touch will not be left on the shelf. Basically everything running that Pico OS is now an accessory.

  7. rwanderman - 7 years ago

    The elimination of the info iPads is a great idea and long overdue.

    My question is, and this is something that must have been happening for a while now, how does Apple bring every demo machine in a store back to its default state after a busy day? I can tell by the junk in various contacts lists and emails unsent and odd stickies, etc. that they don’t always do this, but it would seem to me that they have some kind of network admin software that will clean up the demo machines overnight. It seems like they only run this when things break, but I think they ought to scrub things down daily.

    • popltree2 - 7 years ago

      The machines are supposed to get a wipe down every evening after store close. They are also supposed to be on a restart schedule for shortly before the store opens. They run an application called DeepFreeze that will restore a machin backed to a pre-configured state at reboot.

      • rwanderman - 7 years ago

        Is that a physical wipe down or a software wipe down or both?

        I’ve seen machines that haven’t had a software wipe down in a while as they’re full of user notes and cruft.

  8. galley99 - 7 years ago

    I recently helped a friend pick out a 27″ iMac (his first). The iPad smart signs were very helpful for comparing specs.

  9. charilaosmulder - 7 years ago

    I’ve always found the iPads clutter up the space, especially since they need to be connected for power. In addition the iPad 2 really looks old these days. But cramming the products closer together with some persistent on-screen info seems like an even worse idea. I like how there’s room to breathe while testing the products.

    Why not re-introduce the paper info? If the wooden tables had slightly recessed areas next to the products with paper info in them, covered by glass to make the area flush with the top of the table, that’d be uncluttered and unobtrusive, yet fully functional.

  10. Peter Hillman - 7 years ago

    They did not demote the presence of the iPod on the Apple website. They combined iTunes and iPod into a new music category. Once you scroll past the Apple Music crap, iTunes and the iPod are prominently displayed. The Apple Watch tables are a waste of space. No one is buying them. They have been out since April and I have yet to see anyone wearing one in Los Angeles…and no one is wearing any brand of smart watch or even a fitbit. The iPad kiosk ‘smart signs’ were useful for product information. So now when you start test driving a product, you won’t see any product information displayed. How does that help a shopper? I love my new iPod Touch 128GB. It is more compatible with my vehicle’s USB-integration than the old iPod Classic, which hadn’t had a software update since 2009, and will never see a software update. I use the iPod touch strictly for music, and it is much faster than the iPod classic.

  11. RentiPad (@rentipadau) - 7 years ago

    Apple is making space for brochures that will have information regarding new products while the ageing iPads will make way for the latest versions. It seems to be a regular news but, considering the buzz about the company, those reviewers and buyers will get a hint of in which direction the company is looking at.