Apple has revealed the UK will be the first country to get its Apple Pay service outside of the US.
The digital wallet facility will allow Brits to make payments by waving their iPhone or Apple Watch at contactless payment terminals from next month.
The firm said its service would be offered at about 250,000 locations across the UK and would cover 70% of issued credit and debit cards.
Take-up of Apple Pay has been limited since it launched in the US in October.
A survey by the Reuters news agency recently indicated that less than a quarter of the US’s leading retailers accept the facility.
Part of the problem for Apple is that Wal-Mart and 18 other stores have teamed up to launch a rival digital wallet scheme, and they have agreed not to support Apple’s facility until 2016 at the earliest.
However, one expert said that the tech firm should find it easier to attract support in the UK, where machines that accept tap-and-go payment card transactions will be able to work with Apple Pay.
“The equipment is already out there and Visa Europe has made the necessary infrastructure changes that pave the way for an Apple Pay rollout – it just hasn’t flipped the switch yet,” explained Chris Green from the Davies Murphy Group consultancy.
“In the US there have been instances where retailers have been committed to specific payment handling service contracts that have prohibited them from being involved in Apple Pay as it would represent a breach of contract for them.
“In contrast in the UK there aren’t those types of roadblocks.”
Apple said that the pharmacy Boots, the coffee chain Costa, the supermarket Waitrose and the London transport network were among British organisations that would support Apple Pay.
However, Barclays Bank was a notable omission from the list of lenders it said were committed to the plan.
Elsewhere, however, the launch is expected to be much simpler because Apple Pay uses the same technology as that found in conventional contactless card readers, already common across much of Europe and Asia.
But unlike contactless cards, Apple Pay includes an extra security measure – tokenisation – which ensures that the card details stored on a phone are never passed to the retailer. Instead, the payee receives a one-use “token”, which allows them to debit the payment but cannot be reused in future.
Online, Apple Pay uses the same tokenisation system to speed up and secure e-commerce, letting iPhone owners pay for goods on supported websites with just a tap of their finger on the phone’s fingerprint reader.
In the US, uptake of Apple Pay was strong, with more than 40% of iPhone 6 owners having used it at least once, according to Auriemma Consulting.
But the service was hampered by a need to bring partners in one by one, leading to some major hold-outs: most notably Walmart, which is already waging a war against credit card firms over merchant fees and reportedly views Apple Pay as merely perpetuating an expensive system.