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Apple's Genius Bar to get smarter with 'Concierge' -- report

People will soon be able to walk into the Apple Store, explain their issue and receive an estimated wait time based on the severity of the problem, according to a new report.

Apple's senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts is making sweeping changes in stores. Apple

Apple's Genius Bar is about to get a whole lot smarter -- and maybe even faster for some.

Starting the week of March 9, Apple will begin to roll out "Concierge," a new way for customers who walk into its stores with product issues to sign up with the in-store service area Genius Bar, 9to5Mac is reporting, citing people who claim to have knowledge of Apple's plans.

At the heart of the modification is an end to the first-come, first-served basis for Genius Bar appointments. In its place, Apple employees will field issues from customers and input them into an updated iPad application. That app will then log the information into an algorithm and spit out an estimated wait time based on the other problems that are already at the Genius Bar. The bigger the issue, the higher it will be placed in the Genius Bar's prioritized list.

Concierge, according to 9to5Mac, is the brainchild of Apple's senior vice president of retail, Angela Ahrendts, who took over the post last year after serving as CEO at fashion designer Burberry. In the 10 months that Ahrendts has been with Apple, she has made several important changes to the company's retail business, including streamlining management to allow for more input from in-store employees and making a strong push in the Chinese market.

In a profile published earlier this month by the New Yorker, Apple's senior vice president of design, Jony Ive, said that he's working with Ahrendts to redesign the Apple Store to make the company's upcoming smartwatch Apple Watch a showpiece in-store.

As the head of retail, Anhrendts is in charge of nearly 450 stores and has plans to open dozens more in China and elsewhere. Apple no longer breaks out retail store revenue in its financial reporting, but the company has said that the stores play a major role in helping generate its billions of dollars in profit each quarter.

An overhaul of the handling of drop-ins at the Genius Bar could be crucial to Apple maximizing floor space for products and consumers, rather than for those waiting for their iPhone to be fixed.

Under the current system, customers who walk in with an issue describe the problem and are given a specific time to return with their hobbled device. In some cases, when the times are close enough, folks will simply wait inside the store.

According to 9to5Mac's sources, the new system will act more like restaurant reservations. After the iPad application spits out where the issue will fall in the queue, customers are asked to provide a phone number. They are then sent an initial text message saying that their request has been received, coupled with an approximate wait time. A second text message requests that users return to the Apple Store, and a third will tell them where to find their technician.

While some people may choose to stay in the Apple Store to wait, the company envisions customers in its mall locations walking to other stores while they wait for their next text message, 9to5Mac's sources say.

With Concierge, Apple is addressing just a portion of the Genius Bar appointments. According to 9to5Mac's sources, those who log their issues online to set up an appointment at the Genius Bar will not see that system changed for now.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.