Apple Stops Accepting Returns and Exchanges in Hong Kong Ahead of New iPhones

Apple today updated its sales policy in Hong Kong to indicate all products purchased at Apple's online and retail stores in the country on and after August 15, 2017 cannot be returned or exchanged indefinitely.


As an exception to the rule, Apple will still honor exchanges for defective products in Hong Kong at its sole discretion.

Apple didn't provide a reason for the policy change, but it's likely a precautionary move ahead of new iPhone models expected in September. The same policy went into effect in Hong Kong on iPhone 7 launch day last year.

Hong Kong is a hotbed for black market electronics due to the lack of import taxes and duties added to foreign goods purchased, as is the case in neighboring mainland China. Scalpers often attempt to illegally smuggle new iPhones across the border to mainland China to make significant profits.

Hong Kong scalper spotted "walking strangely" across the border into mainland China in 2015 via South China Morning Post

When the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus launched in Hong Kong last year, for example, the smartphones hit the black market for as much as $15,000 in Hong Kong dollars, which was slightly over $1,900 in U.S. dollars.

Apple's standard return policy in Hong Kong is already stricter than in some other countries. For volume purchases of four products or more, the return window is seven days, and there is a 25 percent restocking fee per unit.

Apple will likely revert back to its standard return policy in Hong Kong at some point, but it didn't specify when.


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AirPods Now Ship in 4 Weeks, Finally Down From 6 Weeks Estimate Since December

Apple has updated its online store today to indicate that AirPods are now estimated to ship in four weeks in the United States, Europe, and many other regions, down from a six-week estimate listed since launching in December.


Apple hasn't disclosed AirPods sales numbers, but CEO Tim Cook has routinely said supply continues to significantly outpace demand. Earlier this week, he revealed that Apple has increased production capacity for AirPods, which has perhaps led to the quicker turnaround time now quoted.
We're also seeing incredible enthusiasm for AirPods, with 98 percent customer satisfaction based on a Creative Strategies survey. We have increased production capacity for AirPods, and are working very hard to get them to customers as quickly as we can, but we are still not able to meet the strong level of demand.
In late December, a few weeks after AirPods launched, Cook said the wireless earphones had been "a runaway success," contributing to a "great holiday" season. Cook cheerfully noted that Apple is making them as fast as it can.

AirPods are Apple's first pair of truly wireless earphones. They instantly turn on and connect to your iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, or Mac when taken out of their charging case, thanks to Apple's custom W1 chip. Likewise, audio automatically plays as soon as you put them in your ears and pauses when you take them out.

AirPods are controlled mainly by Siri. Doubling tapping an earpiece invokes Siri, and voice commands can be used to adjust the volume, change the song, make a call, and so forth. AirPods deliver up to five hours of listening time on one charge, and a 15-minute fast charge provides up to three hours of listening time.

AirPods have received largely positive reviews, and they earned a 98 percent customer satisfaction rate in a recent Creative Strategies survey. AirPods can be ordered on Apple's website for $159 in the United States.


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Apple Adjusts iPod Touch Prices and Storage: 32GB For $199, 128GB For $299

Apple today tweaked its iPod touch storage and pricing configurations after discontinuing the iPod nano and iPod shuffle.


Apple now offers a 32GB model for $199, and a 128GB model for $299, in the United States. 16GB and 64GB models have been discontinued.

Apple's previous iPod touch lineup was priced as following in the United States:

• 16GB: $199
• 32GB: $249
• 64GB: $299
• 128GB: $399

The new configurations are currently in stock on Apple's online store in the same colors as previously: Silver, Gold, Space Gray, Pink, Blue, and Red.

Apple last updated the iPod touch in July 2015 with an Apple A8 chip and 8-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera.

Related Roundup: iPod touch
Tag: Apple retail
Buyer's Guide: iPod Touch (Caution)

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Apple Stores Getting All-New ‘Lead’ and ‘Schedule Planner’ Positions

Apple today internally announced it is introducing two all-new Apple Store positions named Lead and Schedule Planner. Applications open Monday, July 24 for existing Apple retail employees, although it appears that select stores started interviewing candidates as early as a few weeks ago.


Apple says the Lead position will give team members the chance to learn the ins and outs of running an Apple Store firsthand. The majority of a Lead's time will be spent as the Support Leader on the Floor, responsible for managing employee breaks and zoning in the store, and addressing customer concerns.

Support Leader on the Floor also entails communicating daily objectives, reinforcing store policies, and motivating team members by delivering feedback for career development, according to one employee's LinkedIn profile.

Apple says Leads will also support opening and closing, and perform a number of other administrative responsibilities, suggesting these employees could be key holders, count and balance cash, and be able to perform overrides when necessary. These have typically been duties carried out by the Store Manager.

It appears that Store Managers will continue to perform some of those responsibilities, in addition to HR and store development.

Meanwhile, working closely with Store Leaders, Apple says the majority of a Schedule Planner's time will be spent planning and creating the weekly schedule for the entire store. Schedule Planners will also identify trends and make resourcing recommendations to improve team and customer experiences.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores
Tag: Apple retail

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Apple Resumes Selling Nokia’s Digital Health Products Following Settled Legal Dispute

Apple today resumed carrying Nokia's digital health products on its online store in the United States and Canada, nearly two months after reaching a business cooperation agreement with the Finnish company.


The products available to purchase again include Nokia's Body Cardio Scale, Body+ Scale, BPM+ Blood Pressure Monitor, and Thermo Thermometer. Each of the accessories were previously sold under Withings, but Nokia retired the Withings brand last month, roughly one year after acquiring the French company.

Apple's website indicates the products are also available for pickup at Apple's retail stores between Friday, July 21 and Monday, July 24.

Apple had removed all Withings accessories from its online and retail stores around the world in December due to a legal dispute. On May 23, however, Apple and Nokia announced they settled all litigation related to their intellectual property dispute and agreed to a multi-year patent license.

The legal dispute began last December, when Nokia filed dozens of patent infringement lawsuits against Apple in the United States and other countries. Apple countersued Nokia, accusing the former phone giant of transferring patents to patent holding entities to squeeze additional royalties from the iPhone maker.

As part of the settlement, Nokia will receive an up-front cash payment from Apple, with additional revenues during the term of the agreement. Nokia will also be providing "certain network infrastructure product and services" to Apple.


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Apple Launches 2017 Back to School Promotion: Free Beats With Select Mac or iPad Pro Models

Apple today launched its annual Back to School promotion in the United States and Canada, offering a free pair of Beats Solo3 wireless headphones to qualifying students, parents of students, and educators that purchase an eligible Mac with education pricing, including the MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, and Mac Pro.


The promotion also offers Apple's newer BeatsX wireless headphones, or students can pay the difference to upgrade to Beats Solo3 wireless headphones or Powerbeats3 wireless earphones, with the purchase of an iPad Pro.

Apple's website outlines the complete eligibility requirements for the promotion in the United States and Canada.


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You Can Now Try HomeKit at Dozens of Apple Stores Around the World

Apple has recently unveiled interactive HomeKit experiences in 46 of its retail stores worldwide, allowing customers to test out its smart home platform free of charge, according to TechCrunch.

Interactive HomeKit demo area at an Apple Store via TechCrunch

Each interactive setup consists of two vertical displays positioned behind an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch with the Home app, which customers can use to control accessories in the virtual room, such as lights and ceiling fans.
Now, when you go into Apple’s new retail stores, you’ll be able to use the Home app from either an Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad to control devices like the Phillips Hue light bulb, the Hunter ceiling fan and many others. If you tap to the lower the shades in the living room, for example, you’ll see the shades lower in the house shown on the screen.
In the United States, customers can try HomeKit at Apple's flagship Union Square store in San Francisco, its World Trade Center and Williamsburg stores in New York City, and 28 other stores not named throughout the country.

The experience is also available until at least December in 15 stores outside of the United States, including select locations in the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.

At every other Apple retail store, the company will be offering non-interactive HomeKit experiences, according to the report.

HomeKit enables Apple users to control lights, switches, thermostats, fans, and other products with its Home app and Siri voice commands. HomeKit-enabled accessories can be controlled singularly, or in scenes, which enable multiple accessories to work in combination, all with a single command.


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Apple’s Education Store is Down, Back to School Promotion Incoming?

An eagle-eyed Reddit user has noticed that Apple's higher education store is currently unaccessible in countries including the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Singapore, fueling speculation that Apple could be preparing to launch its annual Back to School promotion for students and educators.


"We'll be back," the page reads, which is Apple's standard message when its website is being updated with new products and information. However, the downtime could also be nothing more than routine maintenance.

For over a decade, Apple has offered an annual Back to School promotion, offering K-12 and college or university students, parents of students, and educators incentives, such as a free pair of Beats headphones or an Apple Store gift card valued up to $100, with the purchase of a qualifying Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

Since 2006, Apple has launched its Back to School promotion in the United States and Canada as early as May 25, and as late as July 23. The promotion is usually extended to several European countries such as France, Germany, and Italy on either the same day, or no more than a few weeks later.

These have been the promotion's exact kickoff dates each year in North America:

2016: June 2
2015: July 23
2014: July 1
2013: July 2
2012: June 11
2011: June 16
2010: May 25
2009: May 27
2008: June 3
2007: June 5
2006: June 5

Apple's Back to School promotion is highly anticipated because it's one of the few times a year that Apple offers deals to customers, and many hold off on summer purchases until the event begins. Apple offered free Beats headphones in 2016 and 2015, free Apple Store gift cards in 2014, and free iTunes gift cards in 2013.

Apple launched a Back to Uni promotion in Australia and New Zealand in February, offering a free Apple Store gift card valued between $70 and $100 with the purchase of a qualifying new Mac or iPad Pro.


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Apple’s First Retail Location in Taiwan Officially Opens to the Public

Apple officially opened up its first retail store in Taiwan at 11:00 a.m. local time on July 1. Located in Taiwan's capital of Taipei, and called Apple Taipei 101, the store is situated on the ground floor and basement level of the Taipei 101 skyscraper. Apple Taipei 101 is another expansion of Apple's next-generation retail plans and features the company's latest store designs and principles, including various "Today at Apple" programs.

Similar to the opening of Apple Orchard Road in Singapore, Apple Taipei 101 is the first major Apple store in its country and has received much attention in the weeks leading up to its grand opening. Apple originally announced the store towards the beginning of June, and then confirmed its July 1 opening date last week.



As it does for most store openings, Apple put up a barrier in front of the location with a thematic piece of art to get passersby excited about the grand opening. The new Taiwan location's was a barricade of hand-cut fabric created by Taiwanese artist Yang Shih-Yi, depicting the Banyan tree, a traditional meeting place. Apple even made stickers of the design available on the App Store for iMessage.


Ahead of the opening, Apple noted that customers began lining up outside of the building Friday evening, and eventually "thousands" visited the store throughout its opening day on Saturday.
Crowds of customers started gathering overnight at Taipei 101 for the grand opening of Apple’s first store in Taiwan on Saturday. The curved, sliding glass doors opened at 11 a.m. as employees welcomed customers to come together, explore the store and get hands-on with Apple’s latest products.
Apple gave an update on the store earlier this week, showcasing a few images of The Forum at Apple Taipei 101 (where Today at Apple will be held), the rows of wooden tables to display products, drawers for iPhone and iPad accessories, and an outside shot of the Taipei 101 skyscraper, the fourth tallest skyscraper in the world. Described but not pictured, Apple Taipei 101 will also include The Boardroom, where the company will give hands-on training to entrepreneurs, developers and other business customers.


Apple began a world-wide expansion of Today at Apple in May, which launched alongside the company's intention to make Apple store locations more of a meeting and gathering place than somewhere that's singularly retail focused. At Apple Taipei 101, there will be 60 free Today at Apple sessions for visitors, where they can learn about photography, video, art, design, music, coding and more, all through different Apple devices.

When the company announced the new sessions would begin expanding worldwide, Apple senior vice president of retail, Angela Ahrendts, said that Today at Apple was catalyzed by Apple's "desire to educate and inspire the communities we serve."


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Apple’s 2017 Summer Camps to Help Kids Learn to Code, Draw, and Edit Video at Retail Stores

Following the worldwide debut of "Today at Apple," Apple in July will launch this year's summer camps for kids at its retail stores, aimed at those between ages 8 and 12. The free "Apple Camp" will educate kids on how to create characters, make movies, design storybooks, code robots, and more while using Apple products (via Macworld).


Apple Camp's workshops this year include Coding Games and Programming Robots, Creating Characters and Composing Music, and Stories in Motion with iMovie. Each workshop is designed as a series of three 90-minute classes that kids visit on three separate days.

For the first two days kids will work on projects specific to the session they choose, while the final day will be a show and tell where they present their final project to parents, friends, and fellow Apple Campers.
Creating Characters and Composing Music: Kids ages 8-12 will create their own stories through drawings and sounds. Campers will start their session by sketching characters and scenes with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, then they’ll explore the basics for composing a track using GarageBand. They’ll bring their story to life by adding vocals and finishing touches.

Stories in Motion with iMovie: Future filmmakers ages 8-12 will explore the creative process of turning their ideas into real movies. In this three-day session, Campers will learn how to brainstorm and storyboard. Then they’ll get hands-on with movie-making techniques like learning camera angles and editing with iMovie. On the final day, they’ll present their masterpieces.

Coding Games and Programming Robots In this three-day session for kids ages 8-12, we’ll introduce programming through interactive play. Kids will learn visual-based coding by solving puzzles with Tynker. Then they’ll learn how to program Sphero robots, and even create fun stories starring Sphero as the main character.
Apple Camp will begin July 10 and run through July 28, and registration is up now on Apple.com. Today at Apple also offers other kid-focused sessions called "Kids Hour," with more classes teaching coding as well as basic knowledge of GarageBand and iMovie.


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