An interior business training document from China Minsheng Bank, a member of UnionPay, was leaked on Weibo, saying that Apple Pay is planning to start operating in early February and Minsheng Bank will start training for it, Tencent Tech reported on Friday.
The document, named “a notice on Apple Pay’s launch”, says “our clients will be able to link their debit cards or credit cards to their Apple devices (iPhones, Apple Watches or iPads) and they can pay through POS machines without direct contact or through the app downloaded on Apple devices.”
Apple announced its plan to cooperate with UnionPay last December, saying that the service would begin early this year in mainland China, but it has not yet revealed the specific launch date.
A few days ago, two videos showing transactions made through Apple Pay were posted to YouTube. One video was the payment made by Near Field Communication (NFC) at a McDonald’s and the other was an in-app purchase made through online Chinese travel platform Ctrip. UnionPay cards shown in the videos were mostly issued by local banks, and only one of the four state-run banks were shown in the video.
“This could indicate that the UnionPay rollout will come in stages, akin to the U.S. launch,” said AppleInsider.
But at least there have been customers in China who have used the Apple Pay service, meaning that Apple Pay’s plan in China has been proceeding faster than expected.
Although Apple Pay is aggressively entering the China market, it has a hard battle to fight against robust rivals in the Alipay-led mobile payment market, followed by Tencent-backed WeChat Wallet and the ambitious late-comer Baidu Wallet. Another competitor that can’t be ignored is Samsung, which announced almost at the same time as Apple Pay that it would also work with China’s UnionPay to introduce its business in China.
Apple Pay was initially introduced in the U.S. in October 2014, entered the U.K. market last July, then launched in Australia and Canada last November. Mainland China will be Apple Pay’s fifth market. Its launch in Singapore, Hong Kong and Spain is scheduled for later this year.