(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. has expanded an internal test of its upcoming “buy now, pay later” service to the company’s thousands of retail employees, a sign the long-awaited feature is finally nearing a public release. 

The tech giant contacted retail staffers this week to offer them a test version of the service, according to Apple workers who asked not to be identified. The offering, called Apple Pay Later, lets shoppers split the payment for purchases into installments. The company previously rolled out a test for corporate employees.

The offering will vault Apple into a fast-growing financial market, but it’s already faced several setbacks. The service was first announced last June and was planned to be released last September as part of iOS 16. Instead, it was delayed until 2023 after technical challenges, Bloomberg previously reported. The service will run on a new financial platform that Apple designed for in-house initiatives. 

The company has used a similar rollout strategy with past financial products. In 2019, it introduced the Apple Card credit card to retail staff about a month before a public debut. 

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

The first version of the new service will allow consumers to split a purchase made through Apple Pay into four installments paid over six weeks — without interest or fees. The company also has been developing a version of the service called Apple Pay Monthly Installments, working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., that will split up the cost of large transactions over several months with interest. That offering hasn’t been announced yet.

To launch Apple Pay Later, the iPhone maker set up a wholly owned subsidiary called Apple Financing LLC. That allows the Cupertino, California-based company to handle lending itself, sidestepping partners. Apple has about 270 stores in the US and more than 80,000 employees across the country, letting the company quickly test the feature with a large population. 

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