Over the last decade, Apple has evolved from a mere technology brand, to a household fixture, to finally an entire ethos, a way of life. The sleek and silver devices have burst past American borders and spread across the world with pathogenic speed, to the point where they are now essentially ubiquitous. A recent long-form mission-statement video released by the company, featuring a scene of a couple taking a selfie with an iPhone on the Charles Bridge, begs the question—are Czechs as captivated by the silver Apple as the rest of the world?
Where can I find them?
One thing you might notice is that there are no official Apple stores in Prague, or anywhere in the Czech Republic for that matter. Almost two years ago, an Apple online store was opened; however, there are no official brick-and-mortar shops to be found. Despite this, there are many re-sellers around Prague. One interesting fact—those resellers recognized as ‘Premium Apple Resellers’ are required to use specific furniture and layouts in their stores. This explains why they you might have a sense of déjà vu when walking into qStore, iWorld, or iStyle, three of the most common Apple resellers in the country.
Bringing jablko to Česko
Apple products first arrived in the Czech Republic back in 1993. Petr Mara, a Prague-based certified Apple Trainer, was one of the earliest users here, purchasing an iMac in 1994. “At that time, it was crazy to have an iMac. Everyone was using PCs of one brand or another,” he says. “But I had a Mac because of the easy user interface, and I loved it.”
Though the Czech Republic hasn’t been known historically as a launch pad for cutting-edge technologies, former Czechoslovakia was one of the countries on the frontier of computing, recognizing the potential power of the computer and devoting resources to its development in universities. In fact, the famous Czech computer pioneer, Antonín Svoboda, designed and produced an automatic computer, named SAPO (Samočinný počítač) back in the early 1950’s.
Yet despite the country’s digital disposition, it still hasn’t been the most enthusiastic adaptor of Apple products. Mara tells me that many people here are more inclined to buy computer products that they can take apart and reassemble (which Apple notoriously does not facilitate), or to buy the cheapest option available (“Have you seen the produce in our supermarkets?” he jokes). The most famous accont of Apple in the Czech news was in 2005 when rock musician Lou Reed suggested to former president Václav Havel that he should switch to an Apple computer. It is unclear, however, if Havel ever took his advice.
iPhones are a game-changer
Everything changed here when the iPhone was unveiled—the new smartphones wooed people who had otherwise been unimpressed. Just like in other cities in the US and around the world, there are five-hour-plus lines out the door on day when a new iPhone or iPad debuts in Prague.
Yet it hasn’t been the smoothest transition, says Mara.“There were drawbacks [for people who chose to switch to Apple],” he says. “For example—they had to install the Czech language option. But the iPad changed everything completely, because it is completely localized.”
This is one of the problems Apple has with regional stores; for languages like Czech, it is necessary to not only have the software and support for the Czech language, but also to attach a special keyboard outfitted with the idiosyncratic accents and “hooks” unique to the Czech language (you’ll know this if you’ve ever used a Czech keyboard, where the switched y and z keys can cause a good deal of frustration.)
Nowadays in the Czech Republic, though, Mara says that there are two groups of people who tend to buy Apple products. The first is the hardcore geek group, who are the ambassadors of the brand. The second group connects Apple with luxury. They see it as something akin to Louis Vuitton. Says Mara, “These are people who want to show they have enough money to buy it.” However, he added reproachfully, “Apple is not about luxury; it’s about simplicity.”
Computers for creatives
The third group? Apple has the greatest appeal in Prague for those in creative professions. Artists of all stripes, especially those in the Czech Republic’s fairly large film industry, swear by Apple products for their design needs. I also talked to Karel Greif, a filmmaker and producer running his own private advertising firm, who tells me how the software and hardware has dramatically changed the ease of film production.
“I was leading an agency in 1994 and I bought the Newton—it was a pre-iPhone device. But it didn’t really work, so I sent it back and got my money back.” However, after Apple’s renaissance in the mid-2000’s, Karel returned to Apple software following the introduction of the iPhone. “My wife bought an iPhone in 2008, and that same morning I made the switch to Apple.”
When asked what brought him back, he says, simply, “The editing and graphics software.”
Why so expensive?
Why is Apple so much more expensive here than in the US? It’s a complaint I’ve heard by many since I first arrived in Prague. One Czech woman I used to work with told me that she always asks friends to buy her Apple products for her in the States, because it is so much cheaper.
However, the price discrepancy isn’t so vast. As Mara notes, customers often don’t take into account that here, you are required by law to have a 2-year warranty on Apple products, as opposed to a 1-year warranty, which adds about 10-20% onto the price. Hence, the extra cost, along with an added VAT, makes the products more expensive. So while it may seem cheaper to buy Apple in the US, if you consider the insurance of having an extended warranty, in the end, it’s not such a raw deal.
If you have any problems with your Mac, there are licensed repair stores in Prague and elsewhere in the Czech Republic that will recognize your warranty. One Prague store of note (and the only one recognized as a Premium Repair Store) ITS, a.s. can be found at Vinohradská 184, by the metro station Želivského. Several others can be found here. Also, find a comprehensive list of licensed Apple resellers here.
Share your Prague encounters of the Mac kind here.