Apple Rolls Out iBeacon
December 7, 2013

iBeacon Rolled Out At Apple Stores, With Mixed Results

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Apple has launched an indoor location software service designed to help customers at their 254 American brick-and-mortar stores, Apple Insider and other media outlets reported on Friday.

The service is known as “iBeacon,” and according to Salvador Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Times, it will utilize a Bluetooth connection that will transmit a signal capable of detecting nearby iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch units.

“Depending on where customers are in the store, different iBeacon devices will send targeted messages to the customer. For example, [it] will be able to notify customers when their product order is ready,” Rodriguez said. “iBeacon will also be able to ask users if they want to check if they are eligible for a phone upgrade when they walk past iPhone displays,” and will reportedly also send product and event-related messages.

According to Zach Miners of IDG News Service, iBeacon includes such features as sending pop-up notifications to customers standing near the latest iOS devices letting them know that they are eligible for an upgrade. In addition, it allows online customers shopping from home to choose in-store pick-up for their items, and even alert them whether or not their order is complete once they enter the facility.

It sounds promising in theory, but Apple Insider said that the features are “limited” at this time. They found that only one push notification was available at launch, and that instead of product details, it led to information about EasyPay, an Apple Store app feature that “lets users scan and pay for an item on their phone without talking to a store employee… From our test at a smaller Apple Store, it would appear that the initial implementation of iBeacons is simply designed to allow holiday shoppers the ability to more easily purchase and check out from the store.”

While they write that the feature could prove helpful in crowded stores during the holiday season, Apple has bigger plans for iBeacon. “The company's own application states that users will be able to pick up orders quickly, see what's happening in the store that day, read product reviews and buy accessories, and view upgrade eligibility all with in-store notifications.”

Similarly, PCMag’s Stephanie Mlot said that while the service “sounds like a great way to stay informed and make easy purchases from inside a congested store,” that is was less impressive in practice because she could not actually get the service to work during visits to two different New York City Apple Store locations. She was unable to activate notifications at the Grand Central Station location, and that even two Apple employees tried and failed to use the service at the Fifth Avenue store. “All I got… was a vacant screen and a headache,” Mlot added.