How the new Google Store compares to Apple’s
Daniel Howley·Technology EditorFri, June 25, 2021, 12:37 PM
Google (GOOG, GOOGL) has opened its first ever physical store to show off its hardware offerings, and it’s located on the first floor of its New York City headquarters. The store, in the city’s popular meatpacking district, also happens to be about a block away from one of Apple’s (AAPL) own stores.
Naturally, the two being so close invites some comparisons, and there’s no getting around it: Google — like Microsoft (MSFT), which opened its own retail stores in 2009 — took more than a bit of inspiration from Apple’s retail aesthetic. But it’s not an exact copy of the Apple Store.
Here’s what it’s like inside Google’s first retail store.
It’s like Apple, but more playful
Compared to the three-story Apple Store down the block, the Google Store is modest. It’s a single floor with a straightforward layout. The store has wooden display tables that show off the company’s Pixel phones, Pixel Buds, and Fitbits.
A wall in the back of the store carries various pieces of Google hardware ranging from Nest speakers to Chromecasts, while a faux kitchen serves as a play area for kids whose parents want to check out Google’s latest and greatest. The store has clearly gone out of its way to add some of the color and playfulness associated with the Google brand.
There are rooms for you to try out products like the Chromecast and Google’s Stadia cloud gaming platform, the Nest Audio speaker, or the Pixel’s low-light capabilities.
Naturally, there’s a help desk where you can bring in your Chromebook or Pixel for repairs, and a waiting area for you to relax while everything gets put back together. Then there’s the learning area where Google will host how-to sessions for users getting the hang of their new gadgets.
If that all sounds familiar it’s because Apple also has special rooms in its own stores to let people try out products like the HomePod speaker. Naturally, Apple also has its own how-to areas for group classes, as well as its help desk area for fixing up your cracked iPhone screen.
The Google Store’s future
This is Google’s first stab at a long-term retail presence, so it’s hard to understand how well it will work out. It’s not as though the storefront will put Google in the poorhouse if it doesn’t pull in enough customers — after all, it’s on the first floor of the company’s headquarters.
On the other hand, Apple’s retail stores are an integral part of its business — letting customers check out and buy products without having to wait days for delivery orders. It doesn’t hurt that Apple’s hardware, the iPhone in particular, is some of the most coveted in the world. And as an aspirational brand, its stores are an extension of the kind of luxurious image Apple cultivates.
Google is known more for its software than its hardware. What’s more, it’s not an aspirational brand, but more of a utilitarian offering. Its products also don’t carry the same kind of panache as Apple’s. While Chromebooks may be flying off of store shelves due to the pandemic, it’s less because they’re incredibly attractive products and more because they’re relatively inexpensive.
Microsoft, like Google, tried its hand at its own retail experiment, opening stores in shopping malls and standalone locations. But despite having demo areas for everything from virtual reality headsets and Xbox games to laptops and desktops, the stores simply couldn’t match what Apple managed to pull off, and Microsoft closed all of its locations in 2020.
Google would be smart to learn from Microsoft’s experience, before attempting to launch a national chain. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see how this first location pans out.