It’s hard to book an appointment online as all the slots are booked a week in advance, so I made one on the spot 10 days ago. The store opening hours are reduced to 11:00 to 18:00.
First off, you can’t just walk into the store, you must queue outside, respecting social distancing. There were around 30 people waiting when I arrived. The queue extended to the end of the block. By the looks of it, the queue was managed by the same agency that manages iPhone launch days. Men in black suits, wearing masks, screening the queue.
They take your temperature, ask you a few questions regarding your state of health and if you have been in contact with COVID-19 and send you forward. Apple Store employees march up and down triaging customers based on their purpose of visit in two different queues.
The same men in black keep an accounting of the number of customers entering and exiting the store. I was called in 15 minutes after my appointment time, and invited to disinfect my hands and to wear a mask.
The Apple employee then lead me to a square table in the Genius area around which 8 to 10 people use to gather in preCOVID-19 times. We were just the two of us, one at each end of the table.
Wipes and disinfection material are laid out on every table of the store. The density of devices displayed seems to have dropped by a factor of 4 or more. Not only the place felt empty of customers and employees, it felt devoid of Macintosh computers, while the number of iOS devices felt more or less the same.
Through my mask, I explained as best I could why I was there, and what I had attempted to do to fix my problem, including calling Apple Support. The employee proceeded to run a few hardware tests on the AirPods by connecting the case to a Mac after cleaning the case and AirPod. Basically, the diagnostics tested the firmware version (2D15 at the time) and state of the battery.
As the AirPods were still covered by the warranty, I was offered a new left AirPod Pro with a set of tips solely on good faith. According to the Apple employee, this wasn’t the first time she saw this issue.
They aren’t allowed to test them in any way. My failing AirPod emits a clicking sound when I cover the two external sensors and press gently on the tip, but even that I was not allowed to do. No contact is permitted.
The whole operation took around 15 to 20 minutes, after which I was escorted out of the store.
No roaming around accessories. In and out. Apple has set up a strict protection protocol, and they stick to it for the benefit of all. They must be the only ones in town going to such lengths. It’s telling of their level of commitment.