Apple Inc. launched its mobile payment system in China on Thursday in a challenge to the country’s dominant service providers.
“We think China could be our largest Apple Pay market,” Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay, told Reuters in an interview in Beijing.
Earlier this week Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (ICBC, 01398.HK, 601398.CN), the country’s largest bank, said customers would be able to use Apple Pay from Thursday.
Apple has 19 of China’s biggest lenders as partners.
That means 80 percent of China’s credit and debit cards are eligible for Apple Pay, usable at about one-third of all locations that accept those cards, Bailey said.
The US firm, however, may find that China is not an easy market to crack.
“People switch applications for significantly better experiences, [Apple] has to deliver not just a little bit more secure, or a little bit easier to use,” said Mark Natkin, founder of Marbridge Consulting.
For years Chinese customers have been using payment services from China’s two biggest internet companies, WeChat Payment from Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Alipay, run by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. through its internet finance affiliate Ant Financial Services Group.
“With 100 percent saturation of local payment systems, no one in China is clamoring for Apple Pay,” a retailer told Reuters.
“Today, everyone has a local payment option on their phone, so Apple Pay is a solution in need of a problem.”
Greater China is Apple’s second-largest market by revenue, and the world’s biggest smartphone market.
By the end of 2015, 358 million people had already taken to buying goods and services by mobile phone, the report said, citing data from China Internet Network Information Center.
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