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Exclusive look at Apple's new iPod touch-based EasyPay checkout

post #1 of 153
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(ifoAppleStore) Within two weeks, Apple stores will begin retiring their current Windows CE-based portable computers and start using a custom-designed and crafted iPod touch to check out customers. AppleInsider has a first look at the new system.

Those who have seen the system for processing credit card, debit card and cash purchases, dubbed "EasyPay touch," said it combines iPod touch features with a magnetic stripe reader, advanced barcode scanner and Apple-written software to speed plastic and cash transactions.

Perhaps more significantly, the change to an iPod touch and Apple software will bring the entire point-of-sale (POS) system under Apple's control. In addition, the system will have the added benefit of advertising the usefulness of the iPod touch to customers who see it being used right in front of them.

It is unknown which manufacturer partnered with Apple to create the new device. The outside shell resembles many of the protective cases sold at the Apple stores, while the back of the shell resembles several of the auxiliary battery packs sold for the iPhone.

In April, AppleInsider first reported that Apple would replace its Pocket PC-based EasyPay devices with the iPod touch, thanks to new accessory support in the iPhone 3.0 software.

New system aims to improve

The current portable computers are made by Symbol Technologies Inc. and run Windows CE, linked to Apple's servers via Wi-Fi. They were introduced just before the holiday buying season in 2005, and allow any employee to act as a cashier, eliminating the traditional cash register positions that are common at other retailers. But the system has drawn complaints from employees about software crashes, sluggish operation and the need to frequently reboot.

Customers have also complained about Apple's check-out method, saying that it's confusing to make a purchase without a conspicuous, well-identified POS counter or waiting line.

Employees at the two just-opened Microsoft retail stores also use a portable POS computer made by Samsung, with an attached card reader and a separate barcode scanner. The Microsoft solution is about four times larger than an iPod touch and weighs five times as much.

Apple's new EasyPay touch system uses the touchscreen interface to access nearly every feature a salesperson would need to help a customer, including purchases with credit and debit cards, cash and making returns. There are numerous shortcuts available within the software, including pull-down menus and "flickable" lists.

Apple's solution consists of a hard plastic, two-piece slip-on shell with a grip texture. The magstripe reader is tucked onto the back of the shell, and the barcode scanner is installed within the top of the device. Hidden inside the shell is a rechargeable battery to power the card reader and scanner. A set of four tiny lights on the back indicate the unit's state of battery charge.



Buttons on the side of the device connect through to the iPod touch, including the sleep and volume controls. A mini-USB connector connects to an AC battery charger. A large squeeze-button on the right side momentarily activates the barcode scanner.



Checking out

The EasyPay touch will handle credit, debit and cash transactions, as well as certain product returns. But some other transactions will continue to be processed through the existing POS system, including using two or more credit/debit cards to pay for a single transaction, accepting bank or traveler's checks, and processing returns for cash.



Credit card transactions will be handled very similar to the current method. Customers will write their signature on the iPod touch using a Pogo Sketch stylus, which simulates the action of a finger, but allows finer entry and control.



Debit card transactions will be a hybrid of the EasyPay touch and the existing Hypercom desktop terminal. A customer's order will be entered and logged on the iPod touch. The customer will be directed to one of the store's existing Hypercom-brand credit card terminals, where they will swipe their card and enter their PIN. When the card is approved, a code is returned to the iPod touch for matching with the order.



For the first time, cash transactions can be accepted by any Apple store employee who has an iPod touch. After entering all the products and totaling the cost, the employee presses an on-screen "Cash" button to electronically open one of several cash drawers installed around the store. According to tipsters, this feature will be rolled out only at selected stores over the next six months.



Customers will continue to have the option to receive a printed or e-mailed receipt, or both.

For product returns, the original purchase can be located by scanning the barcode of the purchase receipt. Without a receipt, EasyPay can search for the purchase by the customer's e-mail address, product serial number, or the credit/debit card number. The device captures why the return is being made, and will then generate a credit to the customer's account, along with a printed or e-mailed receipt.



iPhone purchasing streamlined

Purchasing an iPhone is said to be greatly simplified with the new EasyPay system. The iPod touch scanner can detect and capture all four barcodes that are printed on the iPhone box, and will automatically fill in the appropriate data fields on the order screen.

iPhone-specific screens will collect the customer's identification, and if they are a new or existing AT&T customer. The Apple store employee can enter the customer's choice of phone plan, indicate if they qualify for a reduced price on the iPhone and if the customer is porting their current telephone number to the iPhone. Various other plan options can also be selected, including the text message add-ons. The software even displays the iPhone "Terms and Conditions" for the customer to read, and then accepts the customer's signature to verify their acceptance.







Gary Allen is the creator and author of ifo Apple Store, which provides close watch of Apple's retail locations. When Gary isn't busy publishing news and information on Apple's latest retail stores, he finds himself hanging out at one.
post #2 of 153
Great overview and an interesting device.

I have to say that I've *never* heard this before though:
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

... Customers have also complained about Apple's check-out method, saying that it's confusing to make a purchase without a conspicuous, well-identified POS counter or waiting line. ...

Typically, customers in an Apple store only use the easy pay by means of an employee of the store approaching them and saying "I can do that for you right here if you like." I've never heard of anyone being confused about it.
post #3 of 153
Premium class payment terminal. Whuup???

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We mean Apple no harm.

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post #4 of 153
I'm spotting one major flaw if Apple plans this for international use, like their new store in Paris.

I see no chip reader. The magnetic stripe reader and a signature is all well and good, but many people are now used to chip and pin.
post #5 of 153
A portable device that reads credit cards and stores that information, including your signature! In other words, a portable device for stealing someone's identity! No thanks.
post #6 of 153
People complain about having an employee offer to check them out on the spot so they don't have to wait in line? WTF?
post #7 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by columbus View Post

I'm spotting one major flaw if Apple plans this for international use, like their new store in Paris.

I see no chip reader. The magnetic stripe reader and a signature is all well and good, but many people are now used to chip and pin.

Not to mention the UK. Signatures aren't even allowed here anymore (I suppose the exception would be international cards with no chip or whatever) but certainly all the UK cards has only chip and pin now.
post #8 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by B747 View Post

Not to mention the UK. Signatures aren't even allowed here anymore (I suppose the exception would be international cards with no chip or whatever) but certainly all the UK cards has only chip and pin now.

Correct, I'm from the UK. If you try and swipe a card (which has a chip) banks will in many cases will reject it. They want to read the chip, they want to read the pin.

I'm surprised at Apple, who had the forethought to make the Mac multi-lingual right from the start and lead the way with a multi-lingual software keyboard on the iPhone has overlooked this.

Next year over half the stores they open are outside the US and they have made a significant investment in a POS device without a chip reader!!!
post #9 of 153
Good to be finally able to dump the monster CE unit for something "a little more respectable"

Damn Hillstones, been out much? Portable has nothing to do with that signature reader you sign at grocery stores, Wally World, Costco, Lowes, Home Depot, and a thousand other places - for the last 10 years. Same device, only fixed.
OMG here we go again...
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OMG here we go again...
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post #10 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by hillstones View Post

A portable device that reads credit cards and stores that information, including your signature! In other words, a portable device for stealing someone's identity! No thanks.

How is this any different than using any other credit card terminal or even the internet? I doubt CC info is stored on the device locally. It's on a server and transmitted with encryption. That doesn't make it any more or less "safe" than any other transaction processing method.
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." -- Albert Einstein
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"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." -- Albert Einstein
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post #11 of 153
this...http://www.amazon.com/Incase-Slider-.../dp/B001NK1TYC

Is it a coincidence or not that Incase no longer sells the Power Slider?
post #12 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

Great overview and an interesting device.

I have to say that I've *never* heard this before though:
Typically, customers in an Apple store only use the easy pay by means of an employee of the store approaching them and saying "I can do that for you right here if you like." I've never heard of anyone being confused about it.

Am I actually agreeing with you? I've never nor have any of my colleagues ever had a problem with express check out. In fact we've always been appraoched by the employee or requested it. In and out - 1,2,3.
never heard anyone say "Do you mind getting in line." They were always eager to use the contraption.
post #13 of 153
Apple finally got fed up with those bricks their employees carry around in their back pocket. I know what its like using the Windows CE version of EasyPay through a friend of mine. Those things are so damn bulky and they crash 2 to 3 out of the day. Sometimes the even freeze when you're ringing up a customer. Such a damn hassle that his company replaced them with something else. Really unstable those things. I bet Sony's stores would love to have these techs...
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post #14 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by columbus

I'm spotting one major flaw if Apple plans this for international use, like their new store in Paris.

I see no chip reader. The magnetic stripe reader and a signature is all well and good, but many people are now used to chip and pin.

I think that would be covered with the hybrid system - they take the order on the ipod and then you use the desk terminal for the chip/pin processing. I agree it would be faster on the device though.

What would be quick is if they hooked up itunes/Apple accounts to them as the credit card information is stored already. They could even have a setup where itunes vouchers store up credit and then you can buy something in store with your account details like an actual ipod or accessories instead of just media.

So someone gets a couple of gift card at Christmas, say £25, they log that in their account online. They go into the store, make an order for a £55 Magic Mouse, the sales person asks the customer to enter username and password, verify the order and that's it - the credit comes off the itunes account and any remaining charge is taken from the card linked to the account.

I think people see itunes gift cards as being quite valueless when they can only be used for buying media. If you knew you could save them up and get that money off the cost of a laptop, they'd be more popular.

It's great to see the new setup, they just look way more stylish than the old Windows devices and Apple could make a lot of money if it catches on in other stores. I don't think any store would want to be seen with old, unreliable sales equipment.
post #15 of 153
I wonder how the cash at the work station drawers is working out.
post #16 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

Great overview and an interesting device.

I have to say that I've *never* heard this before though:
Typically, customers in an Apple store only use the easy pay by means of an employee of the store approaching them and saying "I can do that for you right here if you like." I've never heard of anyone being confused about it.

I haven't heard of it, but I can understand it. When you have customers that are accustomed to a different "retail language" (my words, sorry if it already means something different) than what Apple uses, things can be confusing. Unless told otherwise, people expect to take their purchase to an clearly visible fixed horizontal surface beside a large machine that handles the transaction.
post #17 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by iGod 2.0 View Post

Apple finally got fed up with those bricks their employees carry around in their back pocket. I know what its like using the Windows CE version of EasyPay through a friend of mine. Those things are so damn bulky and they crash 2 to 3 out of the day. Sometimes the even freeze when you're ringing up a customer. Such a damn hassle that his company replaced them with something else. Really unstable those things. I bet Sony's stores would love to have these techs...

If they were as bad as you state Apple would surely not have utilized them for 4 years. Good grief!
post #18 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Am I actually agreeing with you? I've never nor have any of my colleagues ever had a problem with express check out. In fact we've always been appraoched by the employee or requested it. In and out - 1,2,3.
never heard anyone say "Do you mind getting in line." They were always eager to use the contraption.


nice signature...
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post #19 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

If they were as bad as you state Apple would surely not have utilized them for 4 years. Good grief!

Well they are certainly not good if they are using their own tech to replace it.
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post #20 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by iGod 2.0 View Post

Well they are certainly not good if they are using their own tech to replace it.

Good or bad- they absolutely HAD to- they were utilizing PC software! What would Justin Long say?
post #21 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

I've never nor have any of my colleagues ever had a problem with express check out. In fact we've always been appraoched by the employee or requested it. In and out - 1,2,3.
never heard anyone say "Do you mind getting in line." They were always eager to use the contraption.

Careful, Teckstud. Non-complaining about the previous WinCE-powered system will get you BANNED again. lol

Hate MS or GTFO!
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post #22 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by BuzDots View Post

Good to be finally able to dump the monster CE unit for something "a little more respectable"

Damn Hillstones, been out much? Portable has nothing to do with that signature reader you sign at grocery stores, Wally World, Costco, Lowes, Home Depot, and a thousand other places - for the last 10 years. Same device, only fixed.

I can understand the concern though, with the fixed device, you pretty much know with reasonable confidence that it's an authorized terminal. With a handheld device, you don't know who controls the device. While it's unlikely, it might not take that much of a con to make something work similarly enough, you don't need a real swipe reader, the con man can just say "oh, the stripe doesn't read, let me enter it", "sign here" and they'll have enough information to make fake transactions.
post #23 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

If they were as bad as you state Apple would surely not have utilized them for 4 years. Good grief!

Even if you do hundreds of transactions a day, I understand how frustrating it can be when three of them don't work right.
post #24 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by iGod 2.0 View Post

nice signature...

Thank you. And it's my firm belief- I'v been married to Macs for over 10 years (use PCs at work) and would never switch.
post #25 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Even if you do hundreds of transactions a day, I understand how frustrating it can be when three of them don't work right.

Same with the beach ball when I surf the web but I would never switch my OS or browser, I just deal with it. Nothing in life is perfect 100% of the time- not even an Apple product.
post #26 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

Great overview and an interesting device.

I have to say that I've *never* heard this before though:
Typically, customers in an Apple store only use the easy pay by means of an employee of the store approaching them and saying "I can do that for you right here if you like." I've never heard of anyone being confused about it.

My first several experiences at an Apple store were very frustration for reasons such as this. I don't know if they did not yet have the Concierges who now accost you as soon as you walk into the store, but I remember walking in to find something simple like a cable or adapter. I found it without the help of an employee and was ready to buy it and leave but could not figure out where to go to pay for my item. It was quite some time ago so I can't remember for sure, but I may have left without making the purchase out of frustration.
post #27 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by hillstones View Post

In other words, a portable device for stealing someone's identity! No thanks.

And I won't get an Apple TV without Blu Ray.
And I won't get a iMac with a glossy screen.
And I won't get an iPhone with AT&T.

You guys are a really tough crowd!
post #28 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

If they were as bad as you state Apple would surely not have utilized them for 4 years. Good grief!

And they could have replaced them sooner... how?
This was made possible by the dock APIs which were only released to the public in June. This device started dev in April from reports I've seen.
I'm sure Apple has wanted to get any Windows pollution out of their stores from day one.
post #29 of 153
just another chapter in the slow but very real decline of WinMo and its variants.
post #30 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

And they could have replaced them sooner... how?
This was made possible by the dock APIs which were only released to the public in June. This device started dev in April from reports I've seen.
I'm sure Apple has wanted to get any Windows pollution out of their stores from day one.

Well then why did Apple let the Windows "pollution" into their store in the first place, set themself up for such ridicule, and try to maintain such a shameful secret?
Apple stores operated long before they had these handhelds. Surely you aren't suggesting that these Windows devices assisted them in achieving their record retail glory?
post #31 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by columbus View Post

Correct, I'm from the UK. If you try and swipe a card (which has a chip) banks will in many cases will reject it. They want to read the chip, they want to read the pin...

For the record, this is the same in Canada. Well, they won't refuse it because there's laws against that, but almost all cards now have chips and the chip readers are much preferred.

I think people are making too much of this though. The US is often behind on technical stuff like this because they don't spend money on their infrastructure being the arch Capitalists they are.

I'm sure there is a slightly different model in the works with a chip reader slot on the bottom instead of a swipey thing on the side.
post #32 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

The US is often behind on technical stuff like this because they don't spend money on their infrastructure being the arch Capitalists they are.
.

Here we go with yet another attempt from you at a political derailment although this time I'm not biting.
post #33 of 153
It probably wouldn't be possible to have the chip reader onboard. A separate purpose specific terminal has to be used for that. They can have handheld versions of those too.

With magnetic stripe/ signature payment there is no real security because all thats really needed to make the transaction is the card number. There is no problem with the iPhone doing this because this information would be openly available to the seller anyways.

With a chip system, the terminal relays information from the smart card to the credit card company directly. The purchaser has the card number, but they don't have access to the pin and the chip. The communication between the smart card and the credit card company would have to be secured so a purpose specific device would have to be used with its own secure OS, separate from the POS system. These credit card/debit terminals usually have an encryption key that is stored in volatile memory so that if the device is tampered with the keys are lost and the terminal becomes useless.
post #34 of 153
These are the first units rolled out, not far from prototypes. There is no reason that a version 2.0 could be rolled out that is able to read the Euro style "chip" credit card. If you notice that the rollout and testing was being done in the usa does it not make sense that they are focusing on their current real world use.
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post #35 of 153
This looks very nice and completely blows away the old Symbol-EasyPay system. I can imagine quite a lot of demand for the case if it is made available outside Apple, especially if it were made to fit an iPhone. Obviously, you'd need to write your own software to use it (although a general POS app would work for many), but it would be a very elegant solution combined with a BT printer for those situations where you need to print a physical receipt on the spot.
post #36 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

This looks very nice and completely blows away the old Symbol-EasyPay system.

Yes- that is what usually occurs when technology advances 5 years later.
post #37 of 153

We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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post #38 of 153
Was the software developed in-house? It doesn't have that "Apple" look to it.

What is up with the "iForgot" button? This thing was written by clowns. The kind of people who don't pay attention to details, which is needed for reliable software. On the basis of that one button, I predict a buggy failure, with queues of frustrated customers over the holiday season.
post #39 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

For the record, this is the same in Canada. Well, they won't refuse it because there's laws against that, but almost all cards now have chips and the chip readers are much preferred.

I think people are making too much of this though. The US is often behind on technical stuff like this because they don't spend money on their infrastructure being the arch Capitalists they are.

I'm sure there is a slightly different model in the works with a chip reader slot on the bottom instead of a swipey thing on the side.

i don't know about Canada or Europe, but in the US the rules are that the merchant pays for unauthorized credit card use most of the time because they are supposed to check for ID and/or signatures. and they run fraud software in the background to protect against theft. i've seen people with stolen cards get all the charges taken off because once they call the bank, the merchant is asked to provide receipts with the signature to match up to the card holder's signature.

any security scheme where most of the work is done on the client is doomed to failure
post #40 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

Great overview and an interesting device.

I have to say that I've *never* heard this before though:
Typically, customers in an Apple store only use the easy pay by means of an employee of the store approaching them and saying "I can do that for you right here if you like." I've never heard of anyone being confused about it.

yes and no.

If the customer is buying a computer, ipod etc there's little confusion cause the employee whips out the pay thing and starts scanning things.

but for folks that aren't used to an apple store that walk in and get a laptop bag, phone case, piece of software etc they can be confused cause they don't know where to go. which is not really going to be helped by this new system. apparently they are getting rid of the whole this shirt/that shirt that they started a couple of years ago and now if the floor staff (what they were calling Specialists and Concierges) are just staff. they all do everything. All the check in and such is on those touches as well (and has been for a while at my local stores)

I heard a rumor that there's going to be a app soon that we can put on our phones so if you have an appointment at the Genius Bar you can 'check in' by yourself and when it is your turn it signals your phone so you don't have to stand around close enough to hear them shout. Plus side for Apple is when they tell you that your computer is hosed, you'd already been playing around with the new ones and hopefully are jonesing to get one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by columbus View Post

I'm spotting one major flaw if Apple plans this for international use, like their new store in Paris.

I see no chip reader. The magnetic stripe reader and a signature is all well and good, but many people are now used to chip and pin.

Has it not occurred to you that this IS BRAND NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR APPLE so yeah like perhaps they are totally planning to do that, once they get a few of the kinks out of the system. and maybe you should be happy they didn't decide to use the international market as the guinea pigs.

lets congratulate them for dumping the very nasty, very not well working Windows CE system instead of complaining about what a phase one technology can't do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

the con man can just say "oh, the stripe doesn't read, let me enter it", "sign here" and they'll have enough information to make fake transactions.


that goes on the flip as well. I can fake up a card with the number I stole from you and a worn out stripe and in the old days they would just punch it in.

but I had 2 incidents not to long ago with a card that was worn out where both places (Apple and Gap) would NOT take my card. they said that for customer protection they can no longer just punch in a card number. Don't know if these were company rules or local ones due to major fraud issues. Since it was my debit card and there's an ATM for my bank in the mall it wasn't a huge deal for me to go get the cash for both transactions.

Also to answer the question of why for 4 years, they had nothing to replace it with unless they wanted to go back to a couple of machines in the back. which would not work in my local store and likely not most others. they have probably been working on this since the ipod touch came out. and I won't be shocked if in another year or so they are licensing those cradles to other companies.

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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