Past iPhone launches have meant long lines outside Apple stores, as people queue up to pick up their pre-orders or maybe snag one of the first new phones to go on sale. But Apple has different plans for the launch of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.
With the coronavirus pandemic making it ill-advised to gather in large crowds — especially indoors — Apple’s focusing on what it calls “new ways to shop” with “Express” physical store formats. As explained by Apple (opens in new tab), it could be what you see the next time you head down to your local retail outlet.
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Apple has been fashioning Express stores to make shopping safer amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks. According to Reuters (opens in new tab), there are more than 20 Express locations set up at existing stores in the U.S. and Europe where options like curbside pickup aren’t really feasible. (Think shopping malls and other locations where you can’t easily pull up to the store to pick your iPhone or any other Apple product you’ve ordered.)
Apple told Reuters the number of Express outlets will reach 50 by the end of the month. Apple has 271 stores in the U.S. alone, all of which were closed in March at the height of the COVID 19 outbreak.
Express locations feature a temporary wall out front, with plexiglass barriers between sales counters. There are also a variety of shelves with accessories adorning them, such as phone cases, AirPods, and other important additions to any iPhone 12 owner's arsenal. All of these precautions are meant to help protect customers from prolonged exposure to other buyers and to speed them through the checkout process.
Heading out to a local Apple Store isn't buyers' only options, however. Apple has made it clear that there are several ways to shop for a new iPhone. The company is offering scheduled chat sessions with specialists online, structured one-on-one appointments with retail workers for in-store shopping, and different delivery methods including curbside pickup and same-day delivery at some locations.
You can head to Apple’s retail website (opens in new tab) to look up the status of the Apple Store near you. Apple also includes store information in the Apple Store app that’s included on the iPhone.