Chinese ride-summoning giant Didi has recently reached a partnership with Apple to allow iPhone users to make payment with Apple Pay for all of its ride-hailing services from Didi Premier, Didi Express, Didi Luxe, as well as ofo, the bike rental service that’s been embedded in Didi’s main app since April.

Screenshot of Apple Pay on Didi

In addition, the firm is also adding English service for Didi Luxe to provide high-end limousine services through its ride-hailing platform. After launching the original Chinese version several months ago, Didi Luxe is now available in both Chinese and English. The service is currently only operating in Beijing, but it will arrive in Shanghai in the coming months. It will extend to other cities throughout 2017 and 2018, Cai Jingyan, Didi’s senior manager for product communications told TechNode.

This is one of the few cooperations that has been announced since Apple’s billion-dollar investment in Didi was publicized in 2016. Although we have been expecting the news for quite some time—media has predicted the Apple Pay integration upon Apple’s investment announcement one year ago—it may still be translated as a signal for further cooperation between the two big names.

“The main goal of our investment and strategic partnership with Apple is to provide users with better products and service. As a developer in the iOS community ourselves, we are excited that since 2016 Didi has integrated a number of iOS features to its service, including ride-hailing by using Siri, from within the Maps app and from your wrist via Apple Watch. We look forward to strengthening this productive relationship,” Cai told us.

Obviously, support for Apple Pay will be a major step forward for DiDi, which has been pushing its globalization initiatives aggressively. The integration of English version for Didi Luxe also shows the company’s effort to go more international and expat-friendly.

“More flexible and convenient payment options is a core element of user experience. China is home to one of the world’s largest iOS user communities, as well as the world’s largest rideshare market. Today Didi app accepts international credit cards, Union Pay, CMB OneNet, and WeChat and Alipay, plus Apple Pay—probably the most diversified payment structure in our industry; plus cash is accepted for our taxi business. Most of these payment options on our app also have growing influence abroad,” Cai noted.

Along with Didi’s globalization plan, it has partnered or invested in a raft of regional ride-hailing leaders to prompt its ambitious drive. Will these partners benefit from the Apple-Didi tie-up as well? The logic behind proposition makes sense, but it seems it will take time before it can be realized.

Cai gave a vague response: “Didi has invested in seven ride-hailing companies across the world. The network of regional ride-hailing leaders now extends to over 60% of the population across over 1,000 cities in North America, Southeast Asia, South Asia, South America, Middle East, Africa and Europe. These are all very promising markets going through a mobile revolution, a consumer revolution, with expanding purchasing power. We believe that lifestyle revolution will continue to offer excellent opportunities for great products and services.  We are sure our partners are proactively seeking those opportunities.”

This is also a major step for Apple which has launched a series of efforts to localize its services for China, an important but slowing market for the smartphone maker. In addition to naming a new China head in July, Apple has launched its largest promotion for Apple Pay in the country and added WeChat Pay earlier this month. Support for Didi, a dominating and high-frequency usage app in China would not only help Apple’s overall China strategy but also the development of Apple Pay, which has suffered fierce rivalry from local competitors of Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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