The number of people in China using phones to pay for goods and services at the Point of Sale (POS) more than doubled last year, according to eMarketer, which expects mobile payment users this year to surpass 195 million – or a quarter of the country’s 805 million smartphone users.

That makes China by far the largest and fastest-growing mobile payments market in the world. The US is predicted to have just 37.5 million proximity mobile payment users this year.

The research firm forecasts that by 2020 nearly half of all smartphone users in China will make proximity mobile payments (see chart below, click to enlarge).
Despite having a higher penetration rate than the US, China’s proximity mobile payments market still remains largely untapped, said eMarketer forecasting analyst Shelleen Shum, noting that usage is mostly concentrated in larger cities.

She said that the challenge, like in the US, is to encourage retailers to upgrade their systems to accept mobile payment methods at the PoS.

The firm explained that Chinese users are comfortable with new forms of e-commerce technology, evident by the rising number of digital buyers making purchases on smartphones, which is helping to drive the growth of proximity payments.

eMarketer predicts that smartphone buyers in China — those making at least one purchase from a web browser or app during a calendar year — will account for more than 72 per cent of smartphone users in 2016.

China has an estimated 1.3 billion mobile connections, with 62 per cent smartphone penetration, according to GSMA Intelligence.