By Graham K. Rogers
Buying Apple devices is considerably easier than it used to be. Years ago, Macs (there were no iPads or iPhones of course) were only used by a small number of people in Thailand, but in recent years prices have gone down, there are more devices and the number of potential customers here has risen considerably.
I taught a class of computer engineering students recently and saw that over 80% of the computers were Macs, with a couple of iPads as well. Some of those Macs were running Windows as well as OS X: a while back, Walt Mossberg called the iMac the best PC ever reviewed.
A change in retail availability came to Bangkok at about the time Copperwired opened their first store in Siam Discovery Center. Previously, buying a Mac had meant a trip to Phantip Plaza for most people. Round the same time, Apple expanded its office here. It exercises control over the stores (design, pricing) which now go under the iStudio name.
Most stores opened in the central areas of Siam and the major malls. Around the time that the iPhone arrived, I suggested that west of the river was fertile ground too, but this was dismissed back then. Eventually, Thonburi saw its first store in Pinklao, upgraded from an iBeat: a small outlet that (then) dealt mainly with the iPod and the MacBook.
Now the Pinklao outlet has moved to a larger store. There is also an iBeat in the Power Buy downstairs. Several other iStudio outlets are located at malls in the Thonburi area. The iBeat idea has been expanded too in certain stores (like Power Buy) where potential customers are less overhwelmed by having to walk through the doors of a shop. An example is the setup at BigC in Nakhon Pathom.
The iStudio site has a list of some 54 stores and their locations. Unfortunately the site has almost no English. The stores are shown in the second link, with iBeat (49) and U.Store outlets (20), along with phone numbers. There used to be an iStudio app, but that has now vanished.
For some of the photographs here, I went to a branch of iStudio near my home, run by Com7, who also run the Pinklao iStudio and several more besides. This iStudio is in the recently-opened Seacon Square, Bang Kae (formerly Future Park). Like other stores in this mall, iStudio is quiet during the day but (significantly) livens up when the schools turn out and at weekends. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons at some branches, there is hardly room to move, especially when there are tutorial sessions for new users. I am grateful to the management of Com7 for access to the store.
As well as the iStudio and iBeat outlets, there are now branches of U.Store at some university campuses, such as Mahidol, Salaya, where I am based. For those who work or study at the campus, some devices are available with a discount. This varies with the device.
Although there are now more places to view, try and buy Apple products here, some prefer the online store for Thailand. I have used this several times. I bought my last two Macs this way. While the iStudio has a good selection of third-party accessories, there are few in the online store for Thailand. However, this does carry some Apple products that the iStudio stores may not have. Purchases over 2,000 baht are delivered free. This used to be using DHL, but I have also seen UPS vans recently.
A particular advantage with the online store is the ability to configure a Mac. In this way, trying out the options available, a user can price a Mac without the need for lots of questions at a store. I was able to compare the prices of the latest 13" and 15" MacBook Pro with Retina display, before finally deciding on the 13" and adding 8 GB RAM on top of the standard 8 GB. With the SSD (solid state drive) this flies.
To order anything via the online store, a user needs a credit (or debit) card and an Apple ID. If you already use the iTunes Store or the Mac App Store, you may have one. If not, this can be done on the Apple Store pages, or when starting the purchase process with, "Add to Cart".
Apple offers special pricing to students, teachers, administrators, and staff members, so those in education can also buy at a discount online. The link is at the bottom of the Online Store pages, although it is a bit small. Details of the program are available via the Education link.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.