It’s the eve of a new battle for Apple in the Chinese market, with the first launch of Apple Pay set for tomorrow.
The service has the backing of 19 major and regional banks as well as a core partnership with Union Pay, the biggest central payment network in China. Apple Pay will be available for Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (ICBC) customers this Thursday, said the bank in a public social media post.
“You no longer need to rummage around your wallet or waste time looking for the right card,” says Apple’s China-facing website. Though it’s been a long time since China’s digitally-enabled middle class did much wallet rummaging, with a highly-consolidated market of existing mobile payment systems.
Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Wallet have expanded aggressively with the backing of their respective e-retail and social empires. Currently the two payment systems cover all aspects of the digital retail market, including the country’s booming offline-to-online services sectors such as ticketing, ride-hailing and food delivery.
China marks Apple’s third official Apple Pay market following the US and Canada. While the service is technically available in other markets including Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, local banks have shied away from strategic deals with Apple meaning that users must still use an American Express card.
Apple may face an uphill battle against China’s local payment giants, but they are holding steady in smartphone sales, which could boost their position as a payment provider.