Apple Pay Unlikely to Crack China’s $1 Trillion Mobile Payments Market

Apple Pay, according to most metrics, has been a huge success since launch. Save for recent reports of increasing fraud,

Apple Pay, according to most metrics, has been a huge success since launch. Save for recent reports of increasing fraud, it has achieved what its creators had envisioned for it, gaining support from most banks and succeeding in mobile payments where Google Wallet and others have failed.

But most of its success has been confined to the US. Banks in the UK, for example, have expressed concern over the collection of private data, reportedly delaying launch.

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And in China, it may be even harder for Apple Pay to gain penetration. Although iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus units have been a huge hit in the country–nearly 10 million units were sold within three days upon launch on jd.com–China is still more of an Android market. But this is of lesser concern.

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It is debatable how well the American brand can culturally fit into the Chinese market. But making matters far more difficult is the stranglehold existing players already have on the nearly $1 trillion mobile payments market. In addition to AliPay, which has cornered 82.3%, competitors like Tencent’s WeChat Wallet are becoming increasingly relevant.

The two services, leveraging their e-commerce dominance in the country, have propelled the mobile payments market to a nearly 400% YoY growth rate in 2014. Users have become very comfortable in these ecosystems and are unlikely to move elsewhere unless offered compelling value-adds.

To lower the barrier to entry, Apple has reportedly entered talks with UnionPay, China’s only bank card organization. Apple Pay may be able to work off of UnionPay’s near field communications (NFC) standards. UnionPay has also reportedly developed a secure platform for banks to load cardholder information onto NFC-enabled phones.

Further crowding the market are disruptive technologies like Bitcoin, which is believed to have made progress in the country despite government restrictions.

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