Rivals Apple and Samsung have separately announced partnerships with China Unionpay, the country’s leading card payments network, that will see them offering NFC-based payments for smartphone users “as soon as early 2016”.
Holders of China Unionpay cards, who number in the hundreds of millions, will be able to pay for goods in shops and restaurants where there are point-of-sale terminals offering its Quickpass contactless technology.
Apple claims to have the support of 15 unnamed Chinese banks as well as China Unionpay. Samsung also said it has bank support, without offering any more detail.
Apple Pay launched in the US last year and subsequently rolled out in the UK. Most recently it debuted in Canada and Australia but only for American Express cardholders. Spain, Singapore and Hong Kong are on the roadmap for next year but again only for Amex cardholders.
A China move is not surprising since it is such a major market for Apple. In fact, reports surfaced last month about a launch.
Meanwhile, China is the third market for rival Samsung Pay, following launches in South Korea and the US.
Apple Pay in China will enable NFC-based payments on the following devices: iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. Samsung Pay will work with some of the vendor’s Android line-up, although Samsung’s announcement did not specify which ones.
It’s also been a busy time for China Unionpay with two other announcements over the past week relating to mobile payments. One, relating to Android devices, now sounds like a warm-up for the Samsung announcement.