Apple has begun providing interactive demonstrations of its Home management app for its HomeKit smart home devices in 46 of its retail stores worldwide, TechCrunch reports.
The demonstrations allow store visitors to launch the Home app from an Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad and control a variety of smart home devices, such as the Philips Hue light bulb, the Hunter ceiling fan and many others, in an on-screen home.
In the U.S., people can check out the experience at Apple’s Union Square store in San Francisco, its World Trade Center and Williamsburg stores in New York and 28 other stores throughout the country. Outside of the U.S., Apple offers these experiences in 15 stores, including at locations in the U.K., UAE, Germany, Mexico, Singapore and Taiwan. A non-interactive HomeKit experience will be offered at all of Apple’s other stores — the ones without “The Avenue” window displays.
Interactive smart home demonstrations and experiences seem to be one of the primary tools retailers are using to sell smart home devices to customers. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but actually being able to use the thing in the picture to control thermostat zones and lights in every room in your house may be worth a sale — or at least that's what retailers hope. Other retailers have taken the same approach, most notably Best Buy, which recently began in-store smart home promotions of the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
However, these interactive in-store experiences aren't just about showcasing smart home devices built according to Apple's HomeKit platform, or giving customers tutorial's on the Apple Home smart home management app. Both are solutions that any customer learning about smart home options should be made aware of, especially the Home app, which allows a customer to control any device adhering to the HomeKit platform from the mobile app.
Beyond that, Apple is priming customers for the eventual arrival of the Apple HomePod, the company's answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The smart home hub is due to be available this December for around $349.
There is no disputing the Apple HomePod will be late to the party in the smart home market. The Echo is well ahead in the U.S. market for virtual assistant devices, and Google Home has most of what's left. The new in-store experiences will show off the features of Apple Home and the device other vendors have built on Apple HomeKit, but they also may have a broader, long-term purpose — to keep Apple's smart home narrative in the public eye as the company looks to begin the next chapter of that narrative.