Apple shuts stores worldwide, Samsung offers a solution

 

DO NOT drop your iPhone or wash one of your AirPods for the next two weeks.

Tech giant Apple closed all of its 22 Australian stores today (Sunday) in an unprecedented worldwide shutdown of outlets outside Greater China in a bid to stem the spread of novel coronavirus.

The two-week closure, announced by chief executive Tim Cook on Twitter, even surprised local Apple employees who reportedly learned about the scheme on social media and initially questioned whether it applied to them.

But, in a surprise countermove, rival Samsung took a different tact, revealing plans to clean germs from all brands of smartphones in its stores, starting in 19 countries and later expanding to Australia.

Apple's surprise announcement came after it closed all 42 Apple Stores in China on February 1 after the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

Mr Cook said those stores had reopened by Saturday after a downturn in infections, and the company was now seeking to "reduce density and increase social distance" in more stores to cut the spread of the disease in other countries.

"In our workplaces and communities, we must do all we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Mr Cook said in a tweet.

"Apple will be temporarily closing all stores outside of Greater China until March 27 and committing $15 million to help with worldwide recovery."

Apple's online store would remain open for business, he said, but the closures will mean no customers can have products repaired or assessed until they reopen.

Mr Cook stressed the company's casual workforce would "continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations," leave policies would be extended, and office workers would be encouraged to work from home if possible.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook, pictured on a visit to Beijing, said the company’s Chinese stores reopened after coronavirus infections fell. Picture: CAI YANG/XINHUA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Apple chief executive Tim Cook, pictured on a visit to Beijing, said the company’s Chinese stores reopened after coronavirus infections fell. Picture: CAI YANG/XINHUA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The move was well received within the industry, with Creative Strategies principal analyst Carolina Milanesi calling it a move to put "people first" and "the right thing to do," and came just a day after Apple revealed its annual Worldwide Developers Conference would be held as an online event in June this year.

Apple's biggest rival Samsung is taking a totally different approach to fighting the virus, however, revealing plans to disinfect smartphones of all brands, including iPhones, for free in its stores.

The 'Galaxy Sanitizing Service' cleans bacteria from smartphones using UV-C ultraviolet light that has been lauded as a "promising, safe and inexpensive tool to reduce the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases," according to a study published in Nature.

The service will initially be available in Samsung Experience Stores in 19 countries including the United States, New Zealand, Japan and Spain, though the company is said to be planning to expand the offer to countries including Australia, Canada, France, Italy and the UK "soon".

 



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