Following months of speculation Apple Inc. has finally confirmed that Apple Pay will come to China in early 2016 through a partnership with UnionPay. Apple has long been seeking to tap the payments market, which is currently dominated by wallet systems from Alibaba and Tencent.

“China is an extremely important market for Apple and with China UnionPay and support from 15 of China’s leading banks, users will soon have a convenient, private and secure payment experience,” said Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services at Apple in a public post.

The company said the service would be available “as soon as early 2016” pending “tests and certification required by Chinese regulators.”

The announcement comes as UnionPay inked another mobile payments deal this week with Powa Technologies, a London-based venture-backed mobile commerce company. UnionPay will take a 51% share of the strategic partnership, which will initially focus on transactions within the online-to-offline (O2O) market.

Powa’s technology is based on specialized QR codes, unlike the Apple Pay system which uses NFC antenna technology and a dedicated chip within the device to conduct point-of-sale purchases without keeping bank data on Apple servers.

Apple’s relationship with UnionPay could see the rollout expedited. The company will be hoping to launch the service before Chinese New Year in February, when retail spending peaks around the holiday.

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Cate Cadell

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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