Google Shop – London

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Can you make out what the sign says?

If you ask Londoners what the biggest news in tech last week was, chances are, most people would probably tell you in a heartbeat — “Apple Watch!”

Not many know, however, that Apple’s fellow Silicon Valley buddy — Google — also had a small-scale launch party of their own.

So what exactly did they launch? It’s not just a single product. Instead, it’s a plethora of tangible products. Or rather, it’s a hardware retail space that houses those products. Google’s first ever physical retail store: the Google Shop.

Being the tech-savvy(ish) geeks at heart that we are, of course we had to check out the store right away.

Without further ado…

Teleporting activated. Destination:

145-149 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 7NE

Once you get close, do not — I repeat — do not look for a “Google” sign within sight. You most likely won’t find it at this point. Look for “Currys” instead. That’s right, that’s where Google’s retail space is currently popping up in. A little shop share project that is sure to benefit the “sub-landlord” in more ways than one.

Yay, there it is! (Don't mistake this for the actual Warren Street tube station, which is only half a block away.)
Yay, there it is! (Don’t mistake this for the actual Warren Street tube station, which is only half a block away.)

Now, let’s take a tour around, shall we?

As soon as you step into the Currys, you’ll almost immediately notice Google’s human-sized Doodle Wall. By now we are all pretty familiar with the topical Google Doodles on its homepage. What’s special about this real-time digital one, is that everyone gets to create their own — with a wireless motion-tracking “spray can”. You can even capture and save your innovative creation afterwards.

Doodle wall says, "Google has been Doodling for 16 years. Now it's your turn!"
Doodle wall says, “Google has been Doodling for 16 years. Now it’s your turn!”

We have seen some extraordinarily creative Doodles during our stay, which we won’t be able to share them all here unfortunately.

The wireless motion-tracking "spray can" is a prized possession that's safely locked away (but still in front of our eyes) when not in use.
The wireless motion-tracking “spray can” is a prized possession that’s safely locked away (but still in front of our eyes) when not in use.

It’s as if Google knows what we are thinking, “Hmm, we could sure use a caffeine fix right about now!”

Then, boom! Amidst all the state-of-the-art technical “toys”, an old-school yet fancy coffee cart catches our eye effortlessly.

FREE espresso-based coffee — from what we are told (barista circle talk!) — will be available for a limited time only.
FREE espresso-based coffee — from what we are told (barista circle talk!) — will be available for a limited time only.
Even the espresso machine they use is cool! (Former Bubbobar patrons would know our appreciation for a mighty manual workhorse.)
Even the espresso machine they use is cool! (Former Bubbobar patrons would know our appreciation for a mighty manual workhorse.)
THE portal presents a transcendent Google Earth experience. And it's not just the caffeine talking.
THE portal presents a transcendent Google Earth experience. And it’s not just the caffeine talking.
Say what now?! You can even play PAC-MAN at the portal?! Yes. And act quick. No one can save your way out of the Google maze but you.
Say what now?! You can even play PAC-MAN at the portal?! Yes. And act quick. No one can save your way out of the Google maze but you.
Booth-style home theater helps you relax a little after all that adrenaline rush.
Booth-style home theater helps you relax a little after all that adrenaline rush.

There is also an open photo “booth” around the corner, tucked between the home theater and the shopfront’s Google glass wall. You can choose between filters, and email the resulting pictures to yourself.

While one could technically (pun intended) spend all night here playing with the cool “toys”, there comes a time when one really needs to collect accompanying friends and call it a wrap.

Ah, Friend A is here at the "living room", playing with the smartphones and tablets.
Ah, Friend A is here at the “living room”, playing with the smartphones and tablets.
Hardware / gadget counter for people to try out the latest products before potentially buying any.
Hardware / gadget counter for people to try out the latest products before potentially buying any.
Including this watch. Now, where's Friend B?
Including this watch. Now, where’s Friend B?
There he is!
There he is!

By the way, as we are visiting during opening week, many aspects of this “field trip” feel a lot like what one would experience at a tech expo. For one, you get a swag bag!

So what's in the swag bag?
So what’s in the swag bag?
You get a selection of traditional British sweets!
You get a selection of traditional British sweets!
And this spectacular Oyster card sleeve, which we absolutely love!
And this spectacular Oyster card sleeve, which we absolutely love!

We would imagine that all this freebies-driven (coffee, swag, and what have you) expo heat would die down a little as time goes by. The shop space itself, nevertheless, is here to stay for a while.

Our thoughts — This being Google’s experimental launch in one of the world’s busiest cities, we couldn’t help but think that the under-hype was actually all part of the plan. It might be set up this way to answer questions such as, “Let’s see how much traffic we can generate with almost zero organic advertisement!”

After all, Google is one of the pioneers and leaders in data science. We wouldn’t be surprised if they were to roll out other campaigns to target this location at different stages, just to collect data on how the public would react accordingly.

Just our theoretical speculations, anyway.

What we do know for sure now, is that Google already has plans down the road to launch similar (and possibly bigger) retail stores in other parts of England, and beyond.

Have you had a chance to visit this first ever Google Shop yourself? What do you think of it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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