Apple continues to be locked out of China’s massive mobile payments space. The latest reminder came this week when Beijing’s transportation system opened up to smartphone payments… via an Android app.
Already Tencent’s WeChat Pay and Alibaba’s Alipay services dominate China’s mobile payment space, which is estimated to have processed $3 trillion last year, but now Apple has missed out being part of what is sure to be a very convenient usage case.
The Financial Times reports that Beijing’s public transport payments company Yikatong launched an app for ‘most’ Android devices that allows commutes to ditch their physical card and pay fares via their phone.
Apple isn’t included most likely because its operating system doesn’t support third-party payments like Yikatong, instead favoring its own Apple Pay. But it is also worth noting that iOS accounts for just 16 percent of all smartphones in China, according to data from Kantar as of March. Though the figure in urban areas is likely to skew in Apple’s favor, it doesn’t dominate which may be another factor.
It’s unclear whether potential iPhone owners would go to the lengths of buying an Android device just to use the transportation app, but it’s another piece of anecdotal evidence that shows the difficulty Apple is up against in China, where revenue was down 10 percent year-on-year in its most recent quarter of business.
Apple recently removed the popular tip feature from chat app WeChat, a move that some believe might tempt its users to move over to Android where it continues to exist. While WeChat itself, far and away the most popular Chinese app, has ‘leveled the playing field’ in some ways by standardizing parts of the mobile experience for users whether they are on iOS or Android, the latter of which is often (far) cheaper.
That said, analysts are optimistic that the forthcoming next iPhone — which has been heavily linked with a range of new features — can sell well in China if Apple is able to differentiate it from previous models. Time will tell, but missing out on wide deployments like Chinese public transport remains a blow.