On February 3rd, when the coronavirus death toll in China was 300 and moving higher, Apple closed all 42 of its brick and mortar retail locations in the country
. New cases in the country peaked at nearly 4,000 a day during that first week of February and started declining. By March 13th, the number of new coronavirus cases had dropped off to the point that Apple felt that it could reopen all of its stores in China.
Apple hopes to start reopening its U.S. Apple Stores on a staggered basis starting early next month
The just announced second-generation iPhone SE
While Apple promised to pay Apple Store employees to stay home and do nothing, they are still reportedly being asked to set up a home office
and take phone calls for technical support from customers. Those agreeing to take calls from home have been shipped a 27-inch Mac and have been asked to set up a makeshift home office where it is quiet and a strong internet connection is present.
Bloomberg reports today
that Apple has announced that its lone brick and mortar location in Seoul, South Korea will reopen on April 18th. This will be the first time that any of the firm's stores outside China will be open since March 14th. In a statement, Apple said, "South Korea has shown great progress during the spread of COVID-19" and the Seoul location will run on an adjusted schedule at first "to ensure customers and employees continue to stay healthy." In addition to being open for a shorter period of time each day, the store will also focus on technical and product support rather than sales, at least at first. "A focus for the store will be service and support at the Genius Bar," Apple said today. "For customers who want to make a purchase, we have several options including ordering online for delivery or pick up in store." Even though the store won't focus on sales, customers of the Seoul location will still be able to make purchases at the location.
Earlier this month, Deirdre O'Brien said in a memo that U.S. Apple Stores will start reopening on a rolling basis early in May. Those looking to purchase an Apple product can use Apple's web-based store at www.apple.com or make the purchase via the Apple Store app available in the App Store
. For example, just yesterday, Apple introduced the second-generation iPhone SE
that looks like an iPhone 8
but is powered by the same A13 Bionic chipset that drives the iPhone 11
The device starts at $399 for the 64GB model (24 monthly payments of $16.62) and there also will be 128GB ($449 or 24 monthly payments of $18.70) and 256GB ($549 or 24 monthly payments of $22.87) variants. The phone, available in White, Black and (PRODUCT)RED, can be pre-ordered from Apple starting tomorrow
, April 17th. It will ship the following Friday, April 24th. In the U.S., the new iPhone SE
will also be available from U.S. carriers including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Metro, and Sprint.
Apple is hoping that despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, it still will be able to start take orders and start shipping its new 2020 5G iPhone 12 models during the upcoming holiday shopping season. Having all 500 Apple Stores open at that time would be a big step in the right direction for Apple.