Apple launches ‘buy now, pay later’ service

According to Apple, more than 85 percent of US retailers accept Apple Pay. (AFP/File)
According to Apple, more than 85 percent of US retailers accept Apple Pay. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 March 2023

Apple launches ‘buy now, pay later’ service

Apple launches ‘buy now, pay later’ service
  • Apple Pay Later service will allow users to split purchases into four payments spread over six weeks with no interest or fees
  • Apple said service is currently available to selected users in the US, full rollout coming soon

LONDON: Apple Inc. on Tuesday launched its “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) service in the United States, a move that threatens to disrupt the fintech sector dominated by firms like Affirm Holdings and Swedish payments company Klarna.
The service, Apple Pay Later, will allow users to split purchases into four payments spread over six weeks with no interest or fees, the company said. It will initially be offered to select users, with plans of a full roll-out in the coming months.
Users can get loans between $50 and $1,000 for online and in-app purchases made on iPhones and iPads with merchants that accept Apple Pay, according to the company.
More than 85 percent of US retailers accept Apple Pay, the company said.
“Apple Pay Later will absolutely wallop some of the other players. Other companies would’ve taken a look at Apple’s announcement today because they are an ubiquitous name. This will take a bite out of the market share of other players,” said Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell.
BNPL firm Affirm’s shares fell more than 7 percent, while PayPal closed about 1 percent lower.
In 2020, pandemic-related lockdowns turned shoppers to online payment platforms, bolstering demand for fintech companies offering BNPL services, especially to millennials and Gen Z customers.
Digital payments behemoths including PayPal and Block Inc. have expanded into the sector through acquisitions, while Affirm went public in a multi-billion dollar listing.
The sector’s fortunes have since turned as rising interest rates and red-hot inflation dampened purchasing power and forced consumers to tighten their purse strings.
“We expect Apple to tread cautiously, especially in this macro environment,” said Christopher Brendler, analyst at D.A. Davidson, alluding to its decision to not use a partner and underwrite, fund, and collect on the loans directly.
Apple Pay Later is enabled through the Mastercard Installments program, the company said, adding that Goldman Sachs was the issuer of the Mastercard payment credential.


Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV journalist returns home after being freed

Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV journalist returns home after being freed
Updated 30 May 2023

Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV journalist returns home after being freed

Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV journalist returns home after being freed
  • Sami Abrahim returned home early Tuesday after being released by his captors, his family and his employer said
  • Another pro-Khan TV journalist, Imran Riaz, went missing earlier this month and was yet to be freed

ISLAMABAD: A prominent Pakistani television journalist who went missing last week, apparently because of his public support to former Prime Minister Imran Khan, returned home early Tuesday after being released by his captors, his family and his employer said.
Sami Abrahim’s brother, Ali Raza, took to Twitter to confirm his release. BOL TV confirmed his release in a news announcement.
Abrahim went missing Thursday when eight people in four vehicles intercepted his car on his way back home from work in the capital, Islamabad, and took him away, according to his family and BOL TV where Abrahim works.
No one had claimed responsibility for Abrahim’s abduction, but it is widely believed that he was being held by the country’s security agencies, which are notorious for abducting, harassing and torturing journalists.
Abrahim has long publicly opposed the government of Khan’s successor, Premier Shahbaz Sharif. Khan, a former cricket star who became an Islamist politician, was in office in 2018-2022 and was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last year.
Another pro-Khan TV journalist, Imran Riaz, went missing earlier this month and was yet to be freed.


UAE-based creatives launch Cannes Lions prediction platform ‘The Loudest Roar’

UAE-based creatives launch Cannes Lions prediction platform ‘The Loudest Roar’
Updated 29 May 2023

UAE-based creatives launch Cannes Lions prediction platform ‘The Loudest Roar’

UAE-based creatives launch Cannes Lions prediction platform ‘The Loudest Roar’
  • “The Loudest Roar” is an independent project that is not affiliated with Cannes Lions

DUBAI: A team of UAE-based creatives has launched “The Loudest Roar,” an interactive prediction platform for the advertising industry’s premier awards program, Cannes Lions, which takes place next month.

Founded by Chirag Khushalani, Tobbi Vu, Teena Mathew, and Jack Rogers, “The Loudest Roar” aims to become the “fantasy league” for awards festivals, according to a company statement.

Khushalani said: “If the world can have a say on who can win the Superbowl or Premier League, why can’t they cast an eye on the Cannes Lions too?

“It’s a space where everyone has a say on what’s great, and can feel inspired to create more great work.”

The free, gamified platform is open to all. Participants compete for leaderboard positions and prizes, including cash rewards of up to $500 in Amazon gift cards and a portfolio revamp by Pimp My Portfolio. Each player will receive a personalized juror badge that can be shared on social media.

Industry experts and former Cannes Lions jury members such as Rob Schwartz, Tracey Follows and Akhilesh Bagri will also be present on the platform, sharing their advice on judging and creating award-winning work.  

Voting will begin when Cannes Lions releases its shortlists on June 2, and end a few hours before the winners are announced. Participants can view the shortlisted case studies and vote for Grand Prix winners in six categories: Titanium, Innovation, Film, Entertainment Lions for Gaming, Creative Effectiveness, and Creative Business Transformation. 

After the Cannes Lions awards are announced, “The Loudest Roar” will announce the winners chosen by the participants, as well as invite this year’s jury members to share insights into the work that won the Grand Prix trophies.

The company plans to roll out the concept across other award festivals and add interactive features like a simulated jury room.

It also plans to introduce private leagues for agencies and universities to gather insights into how their employees and students think, and how they can improve their entries to be more successful on the awards circuit.

“The Loudest Roar” is an independent project that is not affiliated with Cannes Lions.


OSN signs partnership with Mintroute to expand streaming app’s reach

Regional entertainment company OSN has signed a partnership with UAE-based e-voucher distribution platform Mintroute. (Supplied)
Regional entertainment company OSN has signed a partnership with UAE-based e-voucher distribution platform Mintroute. (Supplied)
Updated 29 May 2023

OSN signs partnership with Mintroute to expand streaming app’s reach

Regional entertainment company OSN has signed a partnership with UAE-based e-voucher distribution platform Mintroute. (Supplied)
  • Mintroute is an e-voucher distribution platform with over 250,000 retailers across the MENA region

DUBAI: Regional entertainment company OSN has signed a partnership with UAE-based e-voucher distribution platform Mintroute to expand the reach of its streaming app, OSN+, in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The partnership will allow OSN to access Mintroute’s network of more than 250,000 retailers across MENA, including Virgin Megastores in Bahrain and Kuwait, Sadad and Zain Cash in Iraq and Jordan, and Smartbuy in Jordan.

Customers will be able to purchase OSN+ subscriptions from these retailers through an e-code delivered via email, text message, or an e-receipt.

“This alliance will enable us to reach and increase awareness of our service offering through Mintroute’s impressive network of retailers providing more people with access to our leading entertainment platform,” said Ryan Restell, vice president of growth and strategy for OSN+.

Last year, Mintroute also partnered with TikTok allowing users to purchase digital vouchers at 50,000 points of sale across Saudi Arabia including STC, Jarir Bookstore and Virgin Megastore, which could be used to make purchases on TikTok instead of using a credit card.

“As a leading electronic voucher distribution platform with an unrivaled network of retailers in the region, we are excited to partner with OSN to provide our clients access to a comprehensive entertainment experience,” said Samar Mushainesh, chief commercial officer at Mintroute.


Former Google X CBO urges for more high-quality Arabic content to train AI

Former Google X CBO urges for more high-quality Arabic content to train AI
Updated 29 May 2023

Former Google X CBO urges for more high-quality Arabic content to train AI

Former Google X CBO urges for more high-quality Arabic content to train AI
  • Mo Gawdat expressed concerns about scarcity of rich online content and AI ability to provide valuable insights into the Arab world

LONDON: Artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT should be trained with more high-quality Arabic content, Egyptian writer and entrepreneur Mo Gawdat said.

Speaking during the International Congress for Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries event in Abu Dhabi, Gawdat expressed concern about the scarcity of rich Arabic discourse online.

The author of “Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy” and former chief business officer of Google X, the company’s experimental arm, argued that without deeper Arabic content, AI applications may struggle to provide valuable insights into the Arab world.

“A lot of megabytes of Arabic language online are very empty,” Gawdat explained. “The initial versions of AI will reflect whatever it is that we put out there.”

Even though he believes that future AI iterations will become smart enough to discern between “real information and fluff,” he said the lack of quality content should be tackled as soon as possible.

Gawdat called on Arabic content creators, publishers, and educational institutions to produce more insightful material for AI tools to analyze.

“The problem we are facing is that we are creating an impression that knowledge of the Arab world is shallow, in comparison to the incredible wisdom that is really coming from the region,” he said.

“We need to create content with depth and with more intellectual value.”

Gawdat added that as future AI systems increasingly rely on authoritative sources, educational institutions should make more Arabic research accessible online.

“With AI utilizing the Arabic content that we put in, it is our responsibility to put the right kind of content out there,” he emphasized.

“This will ultimately determine the quality of Arabic artificial intelligence-driven content.”

Gawdat compared this responsibility to parenting, describing the process as being aware of how children learn to interact with the world.

He also urged researchers and content creators to reconsider their strategies, as the ChatGPT-led revolution in information access and content creation has the potential to threaten human authors.

However, Gawdat also recognized the opportunities that AI brings.

“As an author, I have learned to no longer define myself as someone who is supposed to write words on paper,” he said.

“My job definition now is to provide interesting human perspectives and inspiration regarding certain topics.

“Through whatever knowledge is available to me and in whatever form, I am trying to find a way to connect with other humans and communicate what I believe needs to be communicated.”


Websites linked to Iran’s presidency hacked with images of exile group’s leaders

Websites linked to Iran’s presidency hacked with images of exile group’s leaders
Updated 29 May 2023

Websites linked to Iran’s presidency hacked with images of exile group’s leaders

Websites linked to Iran’s presidency hacked with images of exile group’s leaders
  • Iran has been targeted by a series of embarrassing hacks amid the rising tensions over its rapidly advancing nuclear program

DUBAI: A series of websites linked to Iran’s presidency bore the images of two leaders of an exiled opposition group Monday, with others showing the pictures of Islamic Republic’s supreme leader and president crossed out.
An Internet account describing itself as a group of hackers claimed responsibility for allegedly taking down websites. The account GhyamSarnegouni, whose name in Farsi means “Rise to Overthrow,” previously claimed hacking websites associated with Iran’s Foreign Ministry earlier this month.
Iranian state media and officials did not immediately acknowledge the apparent hack. However, Associated Press journalists accessing the sites found them defaced with images of Massoud Rajavi, the long-missing leader of the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, and his wife Maryam, who is now the public face of the group.
One site bore the slogan: “Death to Khamenei Raisi- Hail to Rajavi.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi both were targeted similarly in the previously claimed hacked in May.
Iran has been targeted by a series of embarrassing hacks amid the rising tensions over its rapidly advancing nuclear program. That’s included the signal of Iranian state television being targeted, gasoline pumps that provide subsidized fuel being targeted in a cyberattack and government surveillance camera imagery being released, including from a notorious prison.
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, known by the acronym MEK, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The MEK had angrily condemned a prisoner swap Belgium conducted with Iran on Friday to free an aid worker that saw an Iranian diplomat convicted of being behind a bomb plot targeting the group released.
The MEK began as a Marxist group opposing the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It claimed and was suspected in a series of attacks against US officials in Iran in the 1970s, something the group now denies.
It supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but soon had a falling out with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and turned against the cleric. It carried out a series of assassinations and bombings targeting the young Islamic Republic.
The MEK later fled into Iraq and backed dictator Saddam Hussein during his bloody eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s. That saw many oppose the group in Iran. Although largely based in Albania, the group claims to operate a network inside Iran.