Apple is planning a buy now pay later (BNPL) service as part of its new operating system, iOS 16.
Apple Pay Later will allow users in the US to spread the cost of a purchase into four payments over six weeks, without paying interest or fees.It forms part of a range of new iPhone features, including the ability to edit iMessages and a feature intended to help people in abusive relationships.
The features were unveiled at WWDC, the firm’s annual developers’ conference.
BNPL services – which are currently unregulated in the UK – have been criticised for the way they are used by low-income groups.
Panorama reported in December 2021 that an estimated 15 million adults of all ages in the UK are actively using BNPL, with the main operators offering the service in the UK being Klarna, Clearpay, Laybuy and PayPal.
Concerns have been raised over whether people are relying on it too much, after Citizens Advice found in March that one in 12 people are using BNPL services to cover essentials such as food and toiletries.
Citizens Advice also said young people, people in debt, and people claiming Universal Credit, were at least twice as likely to have used BNPL for these basic costs than other groups.
The BBC has approached Apple for comment on whether it intends to bring its BNPL service to the UK.
New iOS 16 features
The new version of iOS 16, due to be released in the Autumn, will bring a range of additional features to the iPhone.
The iPhone lock screen will have a significant shake-up, with users now able to do more than simply change the background image.
It will become possible to change how the clock locks, and introduce widgets for showing information on weather, the user’s activity rings and more, as is currently possible on Apple Watch.
This will also introduce the ability to choose between different lock screens with different functionalities – for example, a lock screen for exercising which has activity monitors.
Other significant announcements include the ability to edit and “unsend” iMessages that were sent using Apple’s Messages app, and the introduction of a feature Apple calls Safety Check.
It says Safety Check is intended to “protect individuals in abusive relationships”, by giving users the ability to view and quickly remove all the permissions given to someone else on their phone.
That includes removing other peoples’ access to passwords, as well as Find My Phone.
Apple said this also included a “emergency reset”, that allowed people to sign out of iCloud on all devices, and only allowed one device to send and receive messages.
Apple has been praised online for this feature, with one person saying it is “going to help so many people”, and the director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation calling it a “good thing for survivors of intimate partner abuse”.