SLIDESHOW

Apple Retail Stores: Hits and Misses

Many of Apple's retail stores dazzle the senses, but a few don't shine like they should.

Apple Retail Stores: Hits and Misses

There are more than 300 Apple retail stores worldwide, and some are truly spectacular-- particularly those in world-class locales such as London, Paris, New York City, and Shanghai.

According to ifoAppleStore.com, a site devoted to news on Apple's retail shops, these stores vary considerably in size, ranging from around 3,600 to more than 20,000 square feet. Most storefronts are all glass and feature a white, backlit Apple logo. Some stores have upper floors and glass staircases, particularly the larger, higher profile sites.

We've selected our favorite stores--which shine, thanks to Apple's spectacular photography--as well as several duds that don't quite live up to Apple's reputation for sensory stimulation.

Image Credits: Apple

HIT: New York City (Fifth Avenue)

A glowing glass box in the middle of Manhattan? Come...come to the light. The 30-foot glass cube entrance alone cost $7 million to design and build, according to ifoAppleStore.com. Like the city itself, this store never sleeps: Business hours are 24/7, 365 days a year.

New York City (Fifth Avenue) - Interior

There's a surreal allure to this Fifth Avenue location, which features a spiral glass staircase that descends to a spacious store in the bowels of the Big Apple.

HIT: Paris (Carrousel du Louvre)

The most fervid fanboys consider Apple's creations objets d'art, so what better place to set up shop than near one of the world's most renowned art museums? The Apple Store at the Carrousel du Louvre, a high-end retail center beneath the gallery, is a gorgeous blend of high-tech sheen and Old World charm. High ceilings give this Parisian beauty a more spacious feel than the average Apple emporium.

Paris (Carrousel du Louvre) - Interior

The interior of this Paris Apple store features another spiral glass staircase.

HIT: Scottsdale, AZ

The most striking feature of the Scottsdale store is its peekaboo design: A wall of glass on each end of this stainless steel rectangle allows visitors (or passersby) to see through the entire store to the world afar—suggesting there's life beyond Apple. A 75-foot long skylight provides additional illumination. The design is so eye-catching that Apple has used it for stores in Chicago, Manhasset, NY, and elsewhere.

Scottsdale, AZ - Interior

There's no spiral staircase, but the glass walls make the possibilities (of Apple products) seem endless.

MISS: Highland Park, TX

Is it an Apple Store…or a bank branch? Remove the Apple logo and it's hard to tell what you're passing by. The red brick exterior should prove more durable than stainless steel when it comes to battling rain, sleet, or snow, however.

Image Credit: upper left-hand corner Flickr user Cordey and lower left-hand corner Flickr user aeizziea,

HIT: Shanghai (Pudong)

Apple has a thing for spiral staircases, which are featured in many of its stores. Last year, it re-imagined Fifth Avenue's dramatic, glass-encased entry for a new store in China's most populous city. Shanghai's shop isn't a cheap knockoff, though. Rather, Apple replaced the Big Apple's glass box with a 40-foot cylindrical foyer that descends to a subterranean store. The growing legion of Chinese fanboys have plenty to cheer about.

Shanghai (Pudong) - Interior

That's right...another glass spiral staircase.

HIT: London (Covent Garden)

This mammoth tech temple is currently the biggest Apple Store on the planet. With more than 16,000 square feet of showroom space housed inside an elegant brick exterior, the Covent Garden location won't disappoint Apple addicts.

London (Covent Garden) - Interior

The open atrium floods the interior with natural light and contributes to an overall sense of gadgetry glee.

HIT: Chicago (Lincoln Park)

Like Apple Stores in Scottsdale and Manhasset, NY, the Lincoln Park locale is an eye-grabbing rectangular structure with glass walls at each end. But since Apple also chipped in a few (million) bucks to renovate a subway station that's just steps away from the store, it helped beautify the neighborhood too. What's next, ending the Curse of the Billy Goat?

MISS: San Luis Obispo, CA

The ho-hum Apple Store in this central California college town has all the dazzle of a Kinko's. (OK, FedEx Office.) Austere zoning restrictions may be to blame, but this location is too tastefully anonymous for our tastes.

HIT: Boston (Boylston Street)

A modernistic, wall-of-glass beauty wedged between two nondescript buildings. Three floors of retail and training space are visible from the street, and the well-lit store casts a vibrant glow after dark. Apple planted grass on the building's roof to add a touch of green to the project, an eco-design featured at its North Michigan Avenue store in Chicago too.

Boston (Boylston Street) - Interior

Naturally, this Apple Store features a de rigueur spiral glass staircase.

HIT: New York City (Upper West Side)

This eye-catching oddity occupies a bustling corner lot on Broadway. The overall effect of the glass roof and storefront is one of openness, an invitation to Manhattanites to seek sanctuary amid the iPhones and iPads. A prominent low-rise among a sea of skyscrapers, the store makes a bold statement as to the popularity (and profitability) of Apple.

New York City (Upper West Side) - Interior

Indeed, few retailers would dare build a single-story structure on such an exorbitantly expensive slice of the Big Apple.

HIT: Apple Company Store (Cupertino, CA)

We praise the Company Store not for its architectural splendor, but rather for it unique inventory. Located at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, this outlet doesn't sell Macs or iPhones, or provide on-site service and support. It is, however, the only place you'll find t-shirts, caps, and other gear with the hallowed Apple logo. Think of it as Mecca for fanboys.

MISS: Chandler, AZ

Apple Stores in shopping malls (even nice ones) usually aren't architectural gems, and this generic offering in Chandler is a prime example. The cluttered windows mask the interior, thereby preventing shoppers from glancing at the goodies inside. Is it an Apple Store or Williams Sonoma?

HIT: Greenwich, CT

Apple converted a former movie theater to house this relatively modest store, which features a dramatic, dual-arch entry. As with many Apple Stores, an open storefront invites passersby to come in and sample the wares. To appreciate the building's dramatic transformation from seedy to sexy, check this photo of the site before Apple moved in.

HIT: London (Regent Street)

Like its nearby Covent Garden sibling, this shrine on London's Regent Street is Applemania on a grand scale. The dignified, historic façade melds nicely with adjacent architecture, while the interior is pure Apple glass and flash. One of the company's largest retail sites, the store was renovated in 2006. Despite its massive size, it's cozy and inviting. A breathtaking 33-foot long glass staircase rises to the second floor. For a closer look at the Regent Street site, see ifoAppleStore's 3D map of the store's interior layout.

HIT: Simpson's Mapple Store

"It's so sterile!" gasps a fawning Lisa Simpson upon entering Springfield's first "Mapple" Store. Sadly, young Lisa can't afford the pricey Mapple gear-not even a pair of fake earbuds (MyPhonies, $40) to trick people into thinking she has a "MyPod." The Simpsons' "Mypods and Boomsticks" episode takes a funny, good-natured jab at Apple's sycophantic subculture.

Images: Fox

MISS: Best Buy

What, no spiral glass staircase? No stainless steel? The Apple table at your local Best Buy may be handy for test-driving the latest gear, but it's an uninspired alternative to the eye candy extravaganza of the best Apple Stores. Perhaps Cupertino could enhance the experience by adding a Genius Bar? Maybe the Geek Squad dudes could play genius on their lunch breaks.

Image Credit: GedBlog