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Apple updates its iOS retail app with in-store tools

Tweaks to Apple's retail store application for iOS add new features for customers using it inside of Apple's retail stores.

Apple's iOS retail app now lets customers see store-specific information if they're using it in an Apple store.
Apple's iOS retail app now lets customers see store-specific information if they're using it in an Apple store.

Following the hardware updates to its retail stores over the weekend, Apple today rolled out an updated version of its retail application for iOS (iTunes) that adds interactive features for users who are actually inside of an Apple store.

Now, when walking around an Apple store, users can fire up the app to ask for help. This utilizes the same system the company installed over the weekend using its Smart Signs, which alerts retail store employees that a user needs assistance. However unlike those efforts, users have to do the legwork to go find an employee at a designated location.

Along with assistance about products, the app also lists availability for the Genius Bar, including when the next opening is. There's also a schedule of any workshops or events that are going on at that particular store.

Making use of location within apps to provide unique information at retail stores is not a new venture for Apple. The company rolled out something similar with Starbucks as part of its iTunes app early on in the iPhone's life cycle. With that collaboration, iPhone and iPod Touch users at certain Starbucks locations could get information about what songs were playing, as well as options to buy them from iTunes.

Apple overhauled its retail stores over the weekend with Smart Signs--iPad 2s that are encased and locked down next to the company's products (including the iPad 2) to act as interactive signage. Along with containing pricing information, the displays also offer product-specific tools, such as a wireless plan estimator for products like the iPhone. They're also configured to let customers page an employee for help.

Besides the retail store tweaks, Apple added a feature to the app that lets users completely customize a Mac they want to buy. This is something you've long been able to do through Apple's Web site, though retail app users were out of luck if they wanted to upgrade one or more of the hardware components.