If you go into an Apple store and want to try out a new iPhone or in fact any other product they have on display, it is a simple matter of picking the device up and playing with it. There will be a security device attached, but they are discrete and the cables have plenty of length so you have a really good play. This is especially apparent with the iPhone which just sits there ready for you to remove from the charger and try out all the features. It is a lovely way to give people a chance to try everything out before committing a lot of money to buying a new phone.
So you would assume that stores like Carphone Warehouse, Phones4U and the operators would want to replicate this nice experience and give their customers and potential customers a chance to try out the latest and greatest. And yet, despite Apple having had superbly successful stores for some time, the experience in other phone shops is appalling.
I went into a total of ten shops including two Carphone Warehouse stores, two Phones 4U, two EE shops, two O2 shops, a 3 shop and a Vodafone store. Not a single one of those retail outlets had a phone on display that I could lift up from a table. In fact, between those stores, there were a grand total of twenty real working phones I could try out of which ten were in the 3 store. That means between the nine other stores, there were only ten working models. In the one Apple store I went into, there were eighteen working iPhone 5s's and ten 5c's. In one store.
Outside of the Apple store, each display phone was clasped in a large mount which generally obscured all four sides of the device and part of the front as well as making it impossible to see and feel the back of the phone. I wanted to play with an LG G2 which was on display in the 3 store and as you may know, all the buttons are on the back of the phone. Due to the large clamp it was secured in, I could only reach the back of the phone by contorting my fingers and reaching around the back. I could hardly switch the device on to have a look! The staff were fairly sympathetic and offered to show me a dummy model but not a working model.
I spoke to staff in four of the stores I visited and all told me that the reason I couldn't properly try out the devices on sale was for security. Is it really the case that people can rip off smaller security devices and run away with the phones? Apple don't seem to have a problem here. I am not an Apple apologist, but they certainly get retail spot on. Perhaps the reason why many manufacturers suffer in satisfaction surveys is that people buy their phones blind, without really trying them out.
Those of us who write for MoDaCo are in the fortunate position of being able to try out many different devices over the course of a year and we get a good view of the market as a whole. Being in this position, it is rare that I feel the need to go and look at retail stores to try out a product but I was shocked at how poor the experience was. As an amusing aside, in one store, a salesman was talking to a customer who came in not knowing what smartphone they wanted and he was holding a dummy Huawei Ascend P2 trying to say that it performed better than an iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy S4 and has a better camera and better battery life. It may or may not, but the customer had to trust what the salesman said as there was no opportunity to try out the device before buying.
Why not share your experience of retail stores in the comments below.