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High-End Retail Shops Around the World Preparing to Showcase Apple Watch

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During yesterday's Apple Watch event, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested the high-end Apple Watch Edition will be available in limited quantities at a select number of stores. He was likely referring to some of the pop up shops we've seen under construction, in upscale department stores Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Selfridges in London

Women's Wear Daily has shared some more information on the locations where we will see the $10,000+ Apple Watch Edition and other versions of the Apple Watch shown off around the world. Described as "shop-in-shops" in high-visibility locations, each of Apple's pop up stores will ensure customers looking to make major purchases will get the best service possible. 

At Selfridges, the Apple Watch will be displayed in the aptly named Wonder Room, which houses high-end jewelry and watches in a brightly lit room decked out with treasure-filled glass cases. At Galeries Lafayette, the Apple Watch will be displayed among European brands on the first floor of the facility, and at the Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, the Apple Watch will be displayed on the ground floor. 

Other speciality fashion stores will also sell select Apple Watch models, including Colette in Paris, where the Apple Watch had its fashion world debut, Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, Maxfield in Los Angeles, The Corner in Berlin, and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Chengdu. All of these are fashion-oriented upscale stores. 

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Unlike with the iPhone and the iPad, Apple will likely be keeping a tight rein over which of its resellers are able to offer the Apple Watch. As it is positioned as a fashion accessory, it makes more sense for customers to be able to walk into a high-end store to make an Apple Watch purchase rather than a Best Buy or an AT&T store. 

For the Apple Watch Edition especially, Apple wants to create a special, one-on-one buying experience that's not exactly possible with today's crowded retail Apple Stores. There have been hints that Apple is planning to redesign many of its retail locations to facilitate Apple Watch sales, and some of those changes may be implemented ahead of the Apple Watch's April 10 debut date. 

Apple vice president of special projects Paul Deneve commented on Apple's plan to sell the Apple Watch in speciality stores, saying that shopping for a watch is a "deeply personal" experience.

"The experience of shopping for an Apple Watch is a deeply personal one. The department stores and specialty stores that we're working with are some of the best in the world at offering such experiences, so it was natural for us to see our product there," said Paul Deneve, Apple's vice president of special projects who joined the tech company after years helming fashion houses including Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin and Nina Ricci. "Given the very focused distribution that we've pursued for this launch, every door that sells Apple Watch will provide a unique experience for every customer that walks in."

Apple will begin accepting pre-orders for the Apple Watch on Friday, April 10. At that time, the company will also be displaying the Apple Watch in its retail stores for customers to try on, and it's likely many of the pop up shops may open their doors at that time. The Apple Watch's official launch date is April 24.

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New MacBook Pro and Air Benchmarks Comparable to Mid-2014 Models

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The newly refreshed 13" Retina MacBook Pro announced on Monday is seeing comparable performance to the mid-2014 model, according to the latest Geekbench benchmark. The early 2015 model with an Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 2.7GHz achieved a single-core score of 3043 and a multi-core score of 6448, a minor variance from last year's low-end 13" Retina MacBook Pro single-core score of 3056 and multi-core score of 6554. 

MacBook Pro Benchmark 2015
The latest 11" MacBook Air, with an Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, also performed comparably to its predecessor in Geekbench benchmarks, with its single-core score of 2753 and multi-core score of 5486 marginally higher than the mid-2014 model's scores of 2430 and 5291 respectively. Meanwhile, the new 13" MacBook Air had modestly lower scores, although more benchmarks will need to be averaged before results are conclusive. 

MacBook Air Benchmark 2015
John Poole of Primate Labs, the makers of Geekbench, claims that the latest MacBook Pro and Air may see slight performance improvements after OS X Yosemite gets through first-boot housekeeping, so further benchmarks results will be needed for those models as well to determine accurate performance. Nevertheless, it is clear that this year's refreshed MacBooks deliver only negligible improvements over the year-ago models. 

The results are largely unsurprising given Intel's focus on improving battery life versus performance with its latest Broadwell processors. The new MacBook Air and Pro lineups also have faster graphics and flash storage, two areas where improvements should be more noticeable over last year's models. The refreshed 13" Retina MacBook Pro in particular is up to 40% faster than the previous model with Intel Iris graphics. 

Apple refreshed the MacBook Air lineup yesterday with Intel Broadwell processors, Thunderbolt 2 and Intel HD Graphics 6000. It also refreshed the 13" MacBook Pro with similar improvements, including Intel Broadwell processors, Intel HD Graphics 6100 and all-day battery life. The latest MacBook Pros also gained a trackpad with built-in Force Touch technology that detects a small tap versus a deep press and performs a different action accordingly.

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GameStop and Marriott International Announce Apple Pay Partnerships

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More news continues to circulate following yesterday's Apple Watch-centered media event, with today bringing confirmation that two big new companies, GameStop and Marriott, are partnering with Apple to support Apple Pay. 

First announced yesterday, Marriott confirmed that it will be the first hospitality company to offer Apple Pay to its customers. The roll-out will begin sometime this summer and launch in eleven total Marriott-owned locations like The Ritz-Carlton, EDITION Miami, Renaissance Hotels, and Marriott Hotels. 

“Approximately 75 percent of our guests travel with one or more mobile devices, and it is even higher among 25-35 year olds – a group that will make up a much larger proportion of our guests over the next three years,” said George Corbin, senior vice president, Marriott Digital. “Millions of customers already use Marriott Mobile to quickly book a hotel, check-in, or check out. Now, Apple Pay can make it virtually effortless.”

Guests can expect the usual ease-of-use in placing their iPhone 6, 6 Plus, or following its April 24 launch, Apple Watch, near a contactless reader at the front desk to pay for their room. The company also announced an app for the Apple Watch that will allow Marriott Rewards members advanced check-in, notifications for when their room is ready, and an easier check out process upon leaving a hotel. 

Following in Marriott's footsteps, popular video game and technology retailer GameStopconfirmed that it will launch nationwide support for Apple Pay, meaning "more than 4,200 U.S. stores", beginning this month. The company hopes the Apple Pay support will grant customers a more secure and hassle-free purchasing experience in its shops. 

“We are excited to make it easier and more convenient for our customers to shop at GameStop,” said Jason Cochran, senior vice president of U.S. stores at GameStop. “Providing a positive, memorable customer experience is our top priority. Incorporating the latest in mobile technology, like Apple Pay, into our stores is another way we are offering customers options to help simplify their purchases.”

A few competitors have recently entered the contactless payments market, but Apple's still fairly new Apple Pay service has continued to grow since its initial launch last fall. At yesterday's media event, Tim Cook noted that since its October launch, the service has expanded to 2,500 banks with nearly 700,000 merchants supporting Apple Pay across the U.S.

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Apple Watch Has 8GB of Storage, Limited to 2GB for Music and 75MB for Photos

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Apple confirmed that all three editions of the Apple Watch will ship with 8GB of internal storage, according to 9to5Mac. Apple Watch users will be limited to up to 2GB of songs and up to 75MB of photos that are locally stored on the device and can be listened to or viewed without a paired iPhone. Songs can be synced using the Apple Watch companion app on compatible iPhones running iOS 8.2 or later. 

Watch White

2GB of music works out to anywhere from 200 to 500 songs depending on the audio quality, while the report claims that 75MB of photos will equal to over 100 photos that are automatically compressed for reduced file size on the Apple Watch. A portion of the remaining storage capacity is likely allocated to the Apple Watch's operating system, and will store application binaries and resources when a native SDK is released.

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Apple Raises Prices on Several Products in Many Countries Amid Strong U.S. Dollar

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While Apple discounted the Apple TV to $69 in the United States this afternoon, it also raised the prices on several products across many countries due to the strength of the U.S. dollar. A wide selection of Apple products, including the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Thunderbolt Display, are now more expensive in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Portugal and multiple other countries to reflect currency adjustments. 

rMBP Price Increase Canada

Apple now charges up to $3,049 for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro in Canada


A spot check of the Apple Online Store in Canada, for example, reveals that Apple has increased the price of the unlocked iPhone 6 from between $749-$969 to $839-$1,099, Thunderbolt Displays from $999 to $1,199, and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros from between $2,099-$2,699 to $2,449-$3,049. Apple also hiked the price on the 15-inch MacBook Pro in France, with the base model now starting at €2,249 up from €1,999, and the higher-spec model up to €2,799 from €2,499. 

Apple has made similar price adjustments in countries around the world today in order to ensure parity with United States pricing, following a period in which several Apple products were actually priced at a bargain compared to American prices. For instance, prior to the pricing adjustment, the Thunderbolt Display retailed for $999 in Canada, the same price as in the United States, which converts to around $799 in U.S. dollars based on the average conversion rate over the past month. 

The updated prices went into effect following the return of the Apple Online Store at the conclusion of Apple's "Spring Forward" media event in San Francisco this afternoon. Should the U.S. dollar weaken, as happened in July 2011, Apple will continue to make the necessary adjustments in order to ensure that its products and services are as consistently priced as possible throughout the world. In some cases, international prices will remain higher than U.S. prices due to taxes, import duties and to create a buffer against currency fluctuations.

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