BEIJING – Apple Inc. will release Apple Pay in China on Feb. 18 as the Cupertino-based company is committed to making it the world’s top mobile payment service. Supported by 19 banks, Apple Pay is about to go live in the biggest smartphone market, meaning that the tech giant is also about to engage in a very fierce competition.
China, Apple’s second biggest market by revenue, would be the fifth country with Apple Pay available.
The service will be available for Industrial and Commerce Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) customers, according to announcements made on Tuesday by bank representatives in social media posts, Reuters reported.
The ICBC is China’s largest lender by assets. China construction Bank and China Guangfa Bank are also set to support Apple Pay on Thursday, while the remaining 16 banks are expected to join the mix not long after, as initially made known by the Chinese state radio station.
About 358 million people were already paying by mobile phone by the end of 2015, as reported by the China Internet Network Information Center. That’s more than the population of the United States.
Apple about to join a hard competition
Similarly to Samsung Pay, Apple partnered with payment network UnionPay to bring its mobile payment service to China this year. Given that this service is so popular in that country, Apple will have an easier time attracting customers than in the United States, but will also face more competitors who have more experience in that market.
Apple will have to prove its ability to win over customers in a country where people use already settled services like Alipay and We Chat Payment, which don’t require the iPhone hardware to work. E-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd operates Alipay through its Internet finance affiliate Ant Financial Services Group, while Tencent Holdings Ltd runs WeChat Payment.
Apple Pay’s rollout hasn’t been that welcomed in other countries
The fact that Apple is being supported by China’s biggest banks is significant. Apple Pay wasn’t immediately welcomed in Australia, where the four largest banks are holding out against the new entrant.
And in Britain, the firm faced resistance from the main banks over fees before relenting, according to a report by Reuters.
Apple is reportedly planning to release its mobile payment service in France, according to 9to5Mac, but the move is most likely to come later this year so the company can put its efforts in China for now.