A new report from Bloomberg this week, co-bylined by Mark Gurman and Sridhar Natarajan, claims Apple and Goldman Sachs are said to be collaborating on a new payments service that would allow customers to pay for goods in installments over time. The buy-now-pay-later service has been dubbed “Apple Pay Later” inside Apple.
Goldman is the bank with which Apple has partnered to bankroll Apple Card, which debuted in 2019. As it currently stands, the pay-as-you-go option for Apple products has been a benefit reserved for those with Apple Card accounts. This new service would extend that benefit to anyone using any credit card. Bloomberg, citing sources familiar with Apple’s plans, explains customers who purchase something via Apple Pay will have the option to pay for it over time in one of two ways: four interest-free installments made every two weeks or across several months with interest.
Applying for and managing Apple Card has myriad accessibility benefits with the Wallet app’s deep integration into iOS—and, by extension, the system accessibility software. Using, say, VoiceOver to apply for the card is an incredibly nicer, more accessible experience than using an issuer’s webpage. By this logic, so too does this expansion of the Apple Card installment plan feature have relevance to accessibility.
I typically don’t write about rumors for this column—Gurman’s knack for putting out well-sourced, eminently scoopable rumor reporting is a skill I don’t have so I don’t play the game—but I decided to make an exception here. What strikes me about this story in terms of accessibility is how an Apple Pay installment plan service could become the de-facto disability discount store, modeled after the longstanding education and military stores, that many in the disability community has clamored for Apple to create. Crucially, it would carry none of the awkward, ableist “prove your worth” dynamic that would come with a bonafide disability store; with this rumored new service, you can use the installment plan if you’ve got a credit card. Surely not all disabled people has or can afford a credit card—but for those who do and can, then likely sooner than later, paying for their laptop could potentially get much easier.
The biggest benefit is how paying over time obviously makes Apple products more affordable and accessible. The majority of disabled people live on fixed incomes and tight budgets, both factors which are not exactly conducive to procuring premium-priced tech products like an Apple Watch or MacBook. Unless one is willing to amass serious credit card debt, Apple products can simply be unattainable to many people with disabilities due to their prohibitive price tags. Thus, breaking up the cost of a $999 MacBook Air, for instance, into smaller chunks makes the computer infinitely more practical—even for someone on a limited budget. Apple still gets their money in the end, they just won’t demand it in full up front. That matters to the customer.
Why this matters in a pragmatic perspective is because the ability to pay for that MacBook over time means one has access to an indispensable tool they need to live their life. For many disabled people, not only is macOS second to none as a system—the operating system’s accessibility features are without peer too. To prefer the Mac way, software-wise, is one thing; to be able to get around a computer at all is an entirely other matter. It could very well be that only Apple offers capabilities and functionalities that just isn’t up to par on an alternative like Windows or Chrome OS. This isn’t to say the alternatives are objectively bad or worse; it’s that they just might not do what a disabled person needs not only for productivity but functionally. A good example of this ideal is Voice Control, also a 2019 addition, that may be more robust on the Mac than it is elsewhere; these are uses cases that merit serious consideration.
Bloomberg hedges in their reporting by offering the boilerplate disclaimer that “Apple Pay Later” is still in development and could never see the public-facing light of day. That’s standard journalistic practice. Still, however, it is perfectly reasonable to read the article as a disabled person—as I did!—and come away excited at all the possibilities that an installment plan would enable. For me and others like me, that Apple could make their products more affordable (and literally more accessible), even without offering a conventional discount, would mean greater access to Apple’s top tier products and their associated accessibility features. That would not be insignificant news, especially considering disabled people are by and large disproportionately less financially privileged than their abled counterparts. For a disabled person to be able to afford good tools that makes life better is huge not only extrinsically for work, but also intrinsically with regards to independence and self-esteem. Put another way, Apple has embarked on building yet another way to make their already technically accessible products more literally accessible than ever before.