We visited Google’s first-ever retail store
Apple’s stores are central to its success. Designed to exacting specifications and run by highly-trained staff, Apple Stores are intended to show Apple products at their very best. And it works: In Q4 of 2014, Apple had the most profitable quarter of any company ever, and is now in the middle of an aggressive retail expansion project in China.
Now, Google is taking a leaf out of the Cupertino company’s playbook, and has — for the first time ever — established its own bricks-and-mortar retail outlet. It’s situated on Tottenham Court Road, in London, England.
From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. It’s actually situated inside Currys PC World, an established British electronics retailer.
A little closer, and you can see a mechanical ‘Rube Goldberg’ machine built in the shape of the Google logo in the window.
Once inside, look left, and it’s just the ordinary Currys PC World shop floor…
…but look RIGHT and you’ll see Google’s first ever flagship retail offering.
The store is designed to show off the very best Android products out there.
Android Wear devices like the Moto 360, Google’s answer to the Apple Watch, are on show.
There’s also the Chromebook notebooks, and the flagship Nexus 6 smartphone.
Google spokesperson Stephen Rosenthall told us that they chose London because “the UK is one of our most dynamic and engaged markets in the world.”
“We want people to come and enjoy, play with, and experience and love our products and tools,” Rosenthal added. “We’re trying to sell devices of course, but also give people a uniquely-googley experience they’ll enjoy.”
The shop is intended to be permanent, and there are currently two more planned: In Fulham and Thurrock, in Essex.
The shop also has lots of quirks and experimental pieces of tech for curious customers to play with. This is the “doodle wall,” where people can use virtual spray paint to make murals.
Rather than making use of Currys PC World employees, the shop assistants all seemed to be trained Google employees. One I spoke to said he’d previously worked on Google Glass.
A booth is set up in the store with a demo of Chromecast — Google’s device-to-TV streaming app.
Here’s that mechanical window display from another angle. Customers can make it work by pressing levers and buttons.
There are also Google Play gift cards, Chromecast dongles and other accessories for sale.
But by far the coolest thing was a custom Google Maps installation that lets you “fly” across a 3D rendering of the world.
It’s controlled using a tablet. It can also play games like Pacman!
Overall, it’s a very different experience to the Apple Store.
It’s less polished — but the staff are just as friendly and knowledgeable.
And the eccentric experiments are a nice touch, meaning it doesn’t feel like a showroom.