The ‘EasyTheft’ do-it-yourself Apple Store goes live Thursday

November 2, 2011, 2:44 PM UTC

Who needs a staffer when you can scan, pay and walk out of the store unattended?

A typical afternoon crowd at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. Photo: PED

[UPDATE: The new version of the Apple Store app finally arrived Tuesday, Nov. 8, a few days later than expected. You can get it here.]

Apple (AAPL) has two problems its competitors would kill for: 1) It can’t build new product fast enough to meet demand and 2) its stores are over-crowded with customers clamoring for attention.

On Thursday, according to several reports, it aims to address the second problem with a new version of its Apple Store app.

This free app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch has been around for some time but in its current incarnation it doesn’t bring much to the party. You can search for products, read reviews and order an item for shipment or pick-up at an Apple Store. But when you get to the store you’re thrown into the maelstrom with everybody else.

The new version, according to the Boy Genius Report, does a whole lot more:

  • If you order an in-stock product, pick up will be available in approximately 12 minutes
  • If the product is out of stock or requires engraving or gift-wrapping, you’ll be sent a push notification 12 minutes before it’s ready
  • Customers who order through the app will be given priority treatment when they arrive at the store
  • Most surprising of all, if BGR’s account is to be believed, Apple will supposedly allow customers to scan items on display, pay for them through the app, and walk out of the store without their bags being checked. According to 9to5Mac, concerned staffers have dubbed this feature EasyTheft, a play on the company’s EasyPay service. We’ll see if it happens.

Why is Apple doing any of this? Because building new stores is expensive. In the 10-K form it filed last week, the company has set aside $900 million for new retail outlets in fiscal 2012, nearly 9% of its $8 billion budget for capital expenditures.