Apple Store's new self-checkout: Nice, but not flawless

Apple's self-checkout option works relatively smoothly, though there are some potential stumbling blocks along the way.

Apple's new EasyPay lets you check out your own items at the Apple Store.
Apple's new EasyPay lets you check out your own items at the Apple Store. Apple

Apple's new EasyPay self-checkout feature lets you pay for your own items at the Apple store, but it doesn't yet have all the kinks worked out--at least in my experience.

The EasyPay feature requires you to download the latest 2.0 version of the Apple Store app. To buy an item, you're supposed to scan its barcode with your iPhone's camera, at which point it's added to your shopping cart. You then pay for your goods using the credit card associated with your Apple ID and iTunes account.

Beyond letting you pay for your own items, the app allows you to order a product online and then pick it up at your nearby store . But it was EasyPay that I was especially keen to try out.

Over the weekend I headed off to an Apple store where I picked up two accessories for my iPhone--an AC adapter and a car charger. An Apple rep asked if I wanted her to ring up the items, but I told her I was interested in trying the self-checkout.

I fired up the Apple Store app, expecting to find an EasyPay button or option somewhere easily accesible. But no such option appeared.

I searched every screen and option of the app but could find no way to trigger EasyPay. At that point, the Apple rep came by to see if she could help. She also scoured the app for some trace of EasyPay but came up empty. Eventually another Apple rep joined us, and then another. So the four of us started working together to figure out how to launch this feature.

Finally, one rep found another iPhone 4S with the updated Apple Store app and was able to open the EasyPay screen on her device. Comparing her phone with mine, she realized the problem. My phone did not have the Notification Service turned on for the Apple Store app, which is necessary for EasyPay to detect your current store location. To conserve power in light of the battery drain issue , I had disabled most of my Location Services.

From there, the process proceeded relatively smoothly.

With the app's GPS feature enabled, it found the location of the Apple Store, allowing me to pull up the EasyPay screen. I positioned the camera in front of the barcode of the first item where the app scanned and registered it. The app then asked me for my Apple ID and for my credit card's three-digit security code. Once the payment went through, an electronic receipt appeared and was saved in the app's EasyPay Receipts folder. I then paid for the second item using the same process and was able to walk out the door with both items in tow.

One limitation is that you can check out only one item at a time. So you have to go through the same steps for each item. That's not a deal breaker if you're buying just one or two items. But if you plan on Christmas shopping at your local Apple store for all your family and friends, then EasyPay may not be the quickest option.

Also note that you'll need to bring your credit card with you or at least know your security code to make the purchase.

Another limitation is that EasyPay works only with the iPhone 4 and 4S. Those of you with older iPhones or the iPad or iPod Touch are out of luck. I contacted Apple last week to find out why the option is only supported on the iPhone 4/4S, but the company never responded.

I do have to tip my hat to the Apple reps who helped me. None of them immediately knew why EasyPay was not working on my phone. But they spent considerable time and research trying to track down the issue until the one person came upon the solution. Fortunately, the store wasn't too busy, so they didn't have a cadre of customers waiting for them. But still, their efforts were laudable.

I think the experience is also a good reminder to those of us busy turning off notifications and other services on the iPhone in hopes of preserving battery power. You may just turn off a certain service not even realizing that you'll need it at some crucial point.

Overall, EasyPay is a useful option. But whether it saves you time depends on the store itself. In a store with light customer traffic and several free reps, you'll find it quicker paying the traditional way. But in a packed store where all the reps are busy, you'll likely get out of the store faster going the self-checkout route.

 

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