Apple is introducing a free Apple Store app that lets customers purchase Apple products via their iPhone or iPod Touch, adding yet another sales channel for the company's heightened push into the mobile space.
The Apple Store app allows iPhone or iPod users to find the nearest Apple retail store, make reservations for appointments or workshops, and shop for products and accessories.
A few years ago, Apple sold its products through a more limited set of channels, notably its ultra-chic retail stores. The company's rising fortunes, however, have been mirrored by an expansion in the number of outside retailers carrying its products; today, Best Buy, RadioShack and Wal-Mart all plan on offering the iPhone 4 when the smartphone debuts on June 24.
Apple's online store began accepting order reservations for the iPhone 4 in the United States, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom on June 15. The device is available in either black or white, at a retail cost of $199 for the 16GB version, and $299 for the 32GB version, with a two-year contract through AT&T.
AT&T's pre-ordering system for the iPhone 4 experienced technical difficulties on June 15, including an outage. A note on Apple's Website indicates that an iPhone 4 pre-ordered now will ship by July 2, suggesting a particularly large volume of customers. The new smartphone's features include a larger battery, slimmer body, a proprietary A4 processor under the hood, and a front-facing camera for video conferencing.
Wider retail availability with the iPhone could allow Apple to better face a mounting challenge from the growing number of Google Android devices. Meanwhile, Apple's other rival in the consumer-tech space, Microsoft, has been testing branded retail stores of its own, even going so far as to hire George Blankenship, a former Gap executive who helped launch Apple's retail arm back in 2001. However, Microsoft has opened only a small handful of stores, seeming to trust more in the large number of online and bricks-and-mortar retailers that carry its products.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs termed the iPhone 4 "the biggest leap since the original iPhone" during a June 7 keynote address at the company's 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. "This is beyond doubt one of the most precise, beautiful things we've ever done," he told the audience of media and developers, according to a live transcript of the event. Jobs also noted that the iPad had sold some 2 million units since its early April release.