The service had been tipped to go live in China since December — further hints were dropped this week — and now Apple has delivered in the country, which is its second largest market behind only the U.S. based on revenue.
Apple Pay initially supports credit and debit cards from UnionPay, which counts 260 million users. UnionPay isn’t just relying on Apple though, it secured a similar partnership with Samsung last year and also already offers its QuickPass contactless payment technology, which it plans to expand to cover alternative technology such as wearables.
Apple Pay has been one of the pioneers of mobile payments in the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia — the four other countries were it is operational — but it is playing catchup in China, where it must compete with services like Alibaba’s Alipay, which has over 400 million registered users, and Tencent’s WePay, which is available through blockbuster Chinese messaging app WeChat. Both are already widely used for online, offline and mobile-based purchases. Interestingly, Tim Cook is reported to have met with Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma last year to discuss integrating Apple Pay with Alipay. A deal didn’t materialize, however.
Taking a significant slice of this competitive market will not be easy, but Apple is confident that it can make an impression.
“We think China could be our largest Apple Pay market,” Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay, told Reuters in an interview.
It’s been a busy 24 hours for Apple. Aside from launching Apple Pay in China, the company has hit back at the government for trying to create a backdoor into the iPhone. Disrupting payments in the world’s largest country and fighting the U.S. government — just a regular day then.