Great Britain

Join a virtual queue to get the latest upgrades when phone shops reopen next week

UPGRADING to the new iPhone or Samsung be very different when phone shops reopen in a week’s time.

Numbers inside will be strictly limited but customers won’t have to queue outside.

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They can wait in a virtual queue — popping off to grab a coffee, say, until a text alerts them to their turn.

Often EE, O2 and Vodafone branches are small, which would make it difficult to keep customers two metres apart at busy times.

The firms this week outlined their plans to deal with issues faced by small shops in which goods are handled.

The Sun toured an EE store in Croydon, South London — one of 90 to open initially.

Normally, it has a dozen members of staff and as many as 30 customers browsing.

But from June 15, when it opens, there will be a limit of four customers and five staff — including one at a welcome desk wearing a plastic visor.

Store manager Rachel booked me in. If a member of staff is free, customers will be seen right away or put in the virtual queue. Appointments can be made online or by phone.

There were no phones on display. Instead, I was directed to sit down with a member of staff to talk about phones ­—­ with a screen between us.

I was encouraged to look at phones on a tablet. Then Rachel brought one out for me to inspect properly —­ after it had been cleaned thoroughly.

Being two metres apart when discussing a contract and handing over bank details isn’t ideal, hence the screen. No cash will be taken.

Lee Frankham of BT, EE’s parent company, said: “There is no substitute for personal, local service. We’re ready to reopen.”

O2 will have a similar system in place. Sales director Gareth Turpin said: “Retail has changed in the wake of Covid.

"The result is a more personal service which saves customer waiting time.”

Vodafone is reopening 65 stores on June 15 and 300 more a week later.

Dust down motors and charge 'em up

MOTORISTS firing up cars for work after lockdown face a shock: Flat batteries and tyres.

Some of us have driven for the weekly shop but others have stayed local while furloughed or working from home.

Halfords has solutions for unlucky motorists at its Autocentre repair garages and shops. With its Get Road Ready pledge, it is offering 25,000 free vehicle checks – which normally cost £15 – at its garages.

At its stores and online, Halfords also does the 30-minute Get Road Ready check.

That involves looking at tyre depth, inflating tyres, a battery health test, checks on headlights and brake lights, screen wash, coolant and oil levels.

It is intended to keep motorists in control and give reassurance at this unpredictable time.

Mini jump charger: Like a battery pack for your phone but powerful enough to jumpstart your car up to a 2-litre engine. The £85 charger works for 3-litre motors. Good for smartphones too.

Powerful jump charger: So powerful it will start a lorry battery. An industrial starter for totally dead batteries, big SUVs and trucks. Great for builders firing up vans after months.

Charge car battery by mains: Plug into mains and it can charge a battery to full in three hours. The 2-amp is for small cars and up to 10 amps for SUVs. Or buy jump cables for £10.

Digital tyre inflator: Inflate tyres in minutes, with a sensor you get the pressure correct. Powered by the car cigarette lighter. Fully inflated tyres save money on fuel and cut tyre wear. Version with analogue dial is £19.99.

Data day habits have changed

MOBILE phones have a new function: Giving insights into how we live differently in lockdown.

We are ordering twice as many takeaway deliveries, for instance.

EE looked at popular apps across fitness, social media, shopping and travel to see how our habits have changed.

At first, with restaurants shut, orders plummeted with services such as Deliveroo.

But by April, orders with the app had soared to an all-time high.
Social media apps such as TikTok no longer experience regular spikes at 8.30am and 4pm – at the start and end of the school day.

Instead, usage has been spread more evenly across the whole day. It was boom time for Zoom, with users of the video-calling service growing fivefold.

Voice calls of longer than five minutes doubled, with spikes on Friday and Saturday evenings to catch up with friends and family.

With gyms shut, demand grew too for fitness apps. MapMyRun usage doubled.

Stevenage and Hereford had the biggest surge in data usage on communications apps, up 120 per cent and 118 per cent respectively. But in central London it fell 58 per cent.

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