The first Apple store in the region is a glimpse into the future of retail

The big day is upon us; Apple is finally opening the doors of its first official store in Southeast Asia. On May 27 at 10am, the anticipation and hype will reach a fever pitch, culminating in the grand opening of Apple Orchard Road. Ahead of the frenzied hordes and inevitable crowding for photo-ops, here’s a sneak preview of what the store has to offer, and how it’s going to revolutionize the way you shop.

Stepping through the clear 36.5m long glass facade into the store, the first thing you’ll notice is that the space looks, well, nothing like a store. Known as The Avenue, this is where you’ll find displays and demo sets of the core devices that Apple is currently retailing.

Adorning the walls are Windows, which house accessories that are grouped into categories like gaming, photography and music. The ground floor looks kind of like an Apple Museum, except here you get to try, caress and fondle all the iPhones, Macs and Apple Watches that you could possibly want.

Apple’s retail outlets have always been beautifully constructed, like a physical embodiment of the company’s dedication to forward-thinking design. The Orchard Road store is no different. Flanking the store on both ends are two gorgeous curved Castania stone staircases, complete with handrails that are carved into the walls.

As testament to Apple’s obsession with details, we were told that the curvature of the handrail mirrors the shape of an iPhone 7. We also found braille markings at the top and bottom of the staircases, which was a really nice touch.

Bound to be the the destination for many future #OOTDs, we jokingly told the staff that the staircase would be a great place for a wedding shoot—to which they replied they’d be more than happy to accommodate, without missing a beat.

Which brings us to our next point—Apple’s borderline absurd attention to detail. A running theme in most of their stores, from the tables, to the joints of the building, to the metal panels on the walls and in the ceiling, just about everything in here is perfectly aligned. Here’s an image of the glass front door lining up neatly with the stone benches outside the store. And yes, all of it is deliberate.

After floating dreamily up the stone staircase to the second floor, you’ll find yourself in The Forum. It’s a learning environment that’s home to "Today at Apple", where specialists from various fields like art and photography come to entertain, inspire and teach, through a series of rotating events that you can sign up for on Apple’s website. It occupies half the floor and includes a vast 6K video wall along with a scattering of seating cubes that are upholstered in Hermès leather.

At the rear of the Forum, you’ll see a bunch of live trees (imported from Guangdong because they acclimatize well to Singapore) that will make you feel like you’re in a literal Apple Orchard. This is the Genius Grove, which replaces the Genius Bars found in other Apple stores. It trades traditional over-the-counter customer service for a much more relaxed setting, where you can sit and rest in the grove while an Apple Genius helps you troubleshoot your MacBook.

Speaking of the Apple Geniuses, there are 237 employees opening Apple Orchard Road, a quarter of which are existing Apple employees who transitioned from other parts of the business. Seasoned experts in Apple products, they’re trained to answer everything from deep technical questions to opinions on which Apple Watch strap colour is hotter. Plus they’re all super friendly.

The long tables within the grove are communal spaces meant for anyone, and Apple is serious about this. They’ve created this space where people can come in and get some work done, or to just hang around and kill time while mooching off the free Wi-Fi.

This is the defining factor that makes Apple Orchard Road so special. They’re building a genuine community with their users, and creating a cool space in the heart of the city where the company can interact with them on so many levels. Sure, the place happens to sell stuff too, but you never actually feel you’re visiting just to buy something.

Taking this ethos a step further, if you’re running low on juice, feel free to pop into the store to charge your phone or your laptop. Apple says you can even just unplug any of the demo sets on the ground floor and use the wires to charge up. Oh and if you’re wondering where the power outlets are, they’re hidden in the tables and appear at the wave of a hand. The same goes for payment terminals, which appear only when you’re ready for a purchase. Magical—just like Apple’s vision for the store.

As we were leaving, we were accosted by an Apple Genius who excitedly asked if we’d like to see the Boardroom. Tucked away in a corner of the second floor, the room is used for meetings, conversations and partnerships with entrepreneurs and enterprises, which, who knows, might just spark the next big Apple product.

Even if you’re not a hardcore Apple user, we’d recommend a visit to Apple Orchard Road. So far, we hear the store is pet-friendly and food-friendly, which means you can totally come down and hang with your doggo and a latte (but maybe, avoid durians). It’s a whole experience that's perhaps best summed up by one of the Apple Geniuses: “This is more than just a store. We want people to say, 'Hey, meet me at Apple.'"


This story originally appeared on Stuff Singapore, bringing you what's next in the world of tech and gadgets, with a twist.