Ant Financial signed a deal enabling Alipay to be used in Apple’s stores in China – the first retail agreement the smartphone manufacturer signed with a rival mobile payments provider anywhere in the world.
The two companies already struck agreements for Alipay to be accepted online and for purchases through both iTunes and the App Store. But the latest move clears Alipay for use in Apple’s 41 official stores in mainland China – the device maker’s largest retail market outside the US.
As part of the agreement, iPhone users will have access to an Apple section in the Alipay app containing offers for App Store purchases.
Alipay is one of the two brands dominating China’s burgeoning mobile payments sector alongside Tencent-owned WeChat Pay. In contrast, Apple’s mobile payment service Apple Pay struggled to gain a foothold in China: a South China Morning Post report from September 2017 stated brands owned by Tencent and Ant Financial made up 94 per cent of China’s mobile payment market, with Apple relegated to the “others” category alongside PayPal.
Apple’s progress in the country was partly hampered by its lack of support for QR code payments, which account for the vast majority of retail payments in Asia. Apple only added native support for QR codes in a 2017 iOS update, after previously relying on NFC-based payments.
However, even its NFC system isn’t as widely accepted as rivals, with a reported failure to grant access to its NFC chip responsible for its omission from a major mobile payment project for the Beijing subway.