Apple Pay will go live in China this week, according to social media posts from banking officials and reports on state media, making it the fifth country to gain support for the mobile payment solution that allows customers to pay for goods by simply tapping their iPhones in stores.
Quoting posts on social media from individuals within the banking industry, Reuters said the service will initially be rolled out for customers of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (ICBC). Apple has yet to confirm the date, but had said previously that it would be rolling out the service to customers in the world's biggest economy in early 2016. A Wall Street Journal report in November pinpointed February as the launch month, adding that it would gain support from the four main banks at launch — with China Construction Bank Ltd., Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and Bank of China Ltd. joining ICBC.
Apple is currently listing 19 Chinese lenders as official Apple Pay partners with state media reporting more will come online with the service from Feb. 18. China is increasingly becoming one of Apple's most important markets, second, in revenue terms, to the U.S. The company has been aggressively expanding its retail footprint in the country in recent months with the company now boasting 30 stores across China, up from just 15 store 18 months ago — and the it is planning to add 10 more by October.
The biggest challenge for Apple in China is getting users to move from entrenched services like Alipay, operated by e-commerce giant Alibaba, and Tencent's WeChat, which have a billion users.