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Apple launches a new way to shop online for iPhones with help from a live specialist

Apple today is announcing a new way to shop for iPhones. The company is introducing a new service, "Shop with a Specialist," that will offer customers in the U.S. a live video shopping experience directly on the apple.com website. With the free service, customers will be able to browse the latest iPhone models, compare features and have an Apple Specialist answer their questions and help them find the best deal through the Apple Trade In program or their carrier.

Customers can also learn more about the iPhone's specific features, switching to iOS in general, and can get help comparing the different phones, colors, sizes and more, Apple says. The service is going live starting today just as the new yellow iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus go on sale.

Though live video shopping has struggled to take off in the U.S., with even Facebook and Instagram recently exiting the market, the move to put Apple retail specialists online is part of a larger shift at the company to direct more consumers to its e-commerce website to complete their sales. These days, it's no longer the norm for customers to line up at Apple stores on the iPhone launch day, as many consumers now shop and place preorders online. But without going into the store, Apple is losing out on one of its key specialties -- the high-touch customer service its retail specialists provide.

Image Credits: Apple

Apple says its new live shopping experience will be available on its Apple.com store website at apple.com/shop/buy-iphone and will be open every day between the hours of 7 AM to 7 PM PT in the U.S. During the live video session, the Apple specialist will be on camera and sharing their screen, but they won't be able to see the customer. They're able to help with a range of questions, from tech specs to deals to the various financing options Apple offers, and more. At launch, U.S. customers will be able to get an up to $600 credit toward the new iPhone 14 if they trade in an iPhone 11 or later through the new service, or from the Apple Store app or an Apple Store location.

The new service expands on other existing Apple customer support technologies, which include the ability to talk to a real person to get help with troubleshooting tech problems through the Apple Support app, as sort of an online extension of the Apple Genius Bar.

Image Credits: Apple

The launch arrives at a critical time for smartphone makers as new reports indicated that last year's sales were the lowest in nearly a decade, or 11% below 2021. Though Apple held the top spot in the fourth quarter in terms of shipments, Samsung beat it for the year with 257.9 million shipments and a 22% market share, versus Apple's 232.2 million and 19% share.

In addition, Apple ended the fourth quarter with its first-ever double-digit decline in sales caused by COVID restrictions on its Chinese manufacturing facilities and weaker demand, the same report by Canalys said. It's no surprise then that Apple is now not only juicing sales with the introduction of a new color iPhone in the middle of the iPhone 14's selling cycle, but also with a new way to shop for iPhone.

Further down the road, we understand Apple will expand the Shop with a Specialist to its other flagship products beyond the iPhone.