The announcement was made during a keynote address at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) Jennifer Bailey, Apple's vice president of Internet services.

Apple Pay launched in the U. last October with more than 225,000 retailers and is on course to reach 1 million locations by July, said Bailey. However the absence of a chip and pay credit card system, with its accompanying in-store infrastructure means that Apple’s target of reaching 90% of the  12 million retail locations in the U.S. could take five or more years, according to banking and credit card experts.

Oyster cards, credit cards and phones - the gateway to London's underground system. Image: TFL
Oyster cards, credit cards and phones - the gateway to London's underground system. Image: TFL

The universal presence of card readers in the UK retail sector will make it much easier for Apple to bring other store chains and brands into its payment system – and also allow those based on rival operating systems t0 flourish. Google is set to launch its own payment service, for example, later this year.

Apple’s payment technology will support major credit cards Visa and MasterCard credit cards and also some store credit cards in the US.

"Apple Pay automatically presents the right card" during the payment process, Bailey noted. The improvements she described will work with the coming update called iOS9 for iPad and iPhone, as well as Apple Watch. The update is expected in the autumn.

Bailey also said that Apple Pay will also allow users to buy items from hundreds of stores within the Pinterest app. She also said the Passbook app will be renamed Wallet, and will be the single place to store credit and debit cards, rewards cards, boarding passes, tickets and more.

In a related announcement, Apple said it was updating its maps capability with iOS 9. One new maps feature will include the ability to see if a retail location supports Apple Pay with a small icon that appears in the retailer's thumbnail description inside the maps app.

Privacy and security have already been features of Apple Pay and in other Apple apps, but were mentioned again at WWDC with regard to the coming iOS 9. The upgrade will provide "intelligence without compromising privacy," said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering.

He declared that data on an Apple app "stays on your device under your control...We honestly just don't want to know [it]."

The comment could be considered an obvious swipe at Google, which is expected to mine user data for advertising and related purposes.

In Apple's case, user data is not shared with third parties or linked to Apple services from searches or other functions, Federighi added. "Why would you do that?" he asked.