Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Apple is doubling down on its quest to turn its stores into more than just a stop on a shopping trip. 

The Cupertino giant unveiled a host of new programs on Tuesday meant to make its retail locations feel more like community gathering places of sorts.

One of these moves is a new “Today” section on Apple’s website that will serve as a central hub for daily happenings in the company’s nearly 500 stores worldwide.

The redesign is part of the “Today at Apple” program the company announced last month — a regular slate of workshops on photography, film, and other pursuits that can be supplemented with Apple products.

Apple will officially launch that effort this week. Each of its stores will offer their inaugural “Photo Walk,” an educational tour led by a well-known local photographer, and “Kids Hour” session this Saturday along with a host of other special events.

New York City elementary school students learn about coding on a class field trip to an Apple Store.

New York City elementary school students learn about coding on a class field trip to an Apple Store.

Image: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Some of Apple’s more heavily trafficked locations will also feature big-name guests for music performances, lectures, and hands-on instruction.

Soul singer Leon Bridges and free-form dancer Lil Buck (who recently appeared in an Apple commercial) will perform at Apple’s new flagship store in downtown San Francisco late on Saturday. Meanwhile, singer Estelle will give an evening show at the store in New York’s SoHo district, while reggae act Christopher Martin plays Apple’s new Williamsburg store.

Demi Lovato performs at Apple's SoHo store in an appearance last October.

Demi Lovato performs at Apple’s SoHo store in an appearance last October.

Image: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The whole extravaganza is part of a larger vision for Apple’s iconic stores that its retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, laid out last Spring at the grand opening of its flagship store.

The idea is to turn the stores into a sort of public square, where people would come for workshops, performances, or, maybe, just to hang out.

To that end, the chaotic Genius Bars at Apple’s stores will eventually be replaced with the tree-lined Genius Grove, and more creativity-focused counterparts will be introduced alongside it.

"Genius Groves," like this one in a London Apple store, are supposed to be more peaceful than desk-based support.

“Genius Groves,” like this one in a London Apple store, are supposed to be more peaceful than desk-based support.

Image: Leon Neal/Getty Image

Ahrendts said then that she wants to eventually get to the point where people might casually ask one another to hang out at an Apple Store the same way they would, say, a movie theater or a shopping mall. 

“This is the overarching vision for the future of Apple retail,” Ahrendts said at the time. “We will know we’ve done really great when it feels like a town square.”

The more time people linger in the store, of course, the more likely they are to buy something. But that’s not the only reason Apple is trying to be more recreational.

The company has increasingly stressed the hobbyist aspects of iPhone functionality in its ad campaigns and marketing material. The thinking seems to be that as people grow more consumed with the photography and art made possible with the iPhone, they’ll care more about incremental features like improvements to the camera resolution or better touch sensitivity. 

That makes it easier for Apple to sell people on the need to upgrade their phones every time it rolls out a new version, even if the company might be facing diminishing returns in the innovation still possible with each new iteration.

If nothing else, the program is an affirmation that Apple has no problem with people who loiter in its stores just to mess around with the display gadgets. 

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