First-hand experience with Apple Pay in China

Apple Pay officially launched in China on Feb 18th, 2016. An AllChinaTech writer spent an entire morning setting it up and finally got it to work! What’s the user experience like? And how does it compare with the current payment dominators Alipay and WeChat Payment? Follow this step-by-step tutorial.

Before you search Apple Pay on your phone, make sure your device falls into one of the following categories:

Apple devices that can use Apple Pay at offline stores: iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch.

Apple devices that can use Apple Pay in the app: iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3.

apple pay device
Screenshot from Apple Pay’s official page.

Also remember to update to iOS 9.2 and watchOS 2.1 before you make any fruitless attempts to find Apple Pay in your Wallet.

1. After you make sure everything is ready, go to the Wallet app on your phone and click “add a card”.

apple pay pre-add

2. Once you get to the next page, you’ll be welcomed by an intro page. You can see a clear UnionPay logo on the sample page.

apple pay intro

3. Then you can either choose to scan your bank card (both debit and credit are accepted) or enter the information manually if your iPhone can’t capture your card information. (Check the list of banks that support Apple Pay.)

apple pay add card

4. After your card information has been put in, you can press “Next” to proceed. A problem many people encountered here is that Apple Pay seems to have been having connection problems all day — possibly because too many Apple enthusiasts are eager to be the first to use the new feature and Apple’s server has just been overwhelmed by their enthusiasm.


5. Once you’re lucky enough to finally get connected to Apple Pay, your card issuer will then send a verification code to the phone number you’ve saved in your bank’s record.


6. After the bank receives your verification code, BOOM, congratulations! You’re all set!

apple pay done

7. How does it work in store then? Easy. You just need to find a POS machine that supports UnionPay’s Quick Pass (which means it has a NFC function — you can find out more about the relevant technology in our previous analysis) and double-click the Home button. There you go.

apple pay starbucks

8. Tap it on the POS machine and now you can get your coffee from Starbucks without bringing any cards or cash! Also, your transaction record will be shown in Wallet.

transaction apple pay

How’s the user experience?

If I had to score the experience, I’d say 8.5 out of 10.

Where I did the experiment is a Starbucks in the central area of Beijing where staff are supposed to be more tech savvy and informed than many other places in China. However, when I asked to use Apple Pay for the transaction, the barista seemed to have never heard of the term before.

After a brief explanation of what it was and how we might be able to use it, I proceeded to pull out the Apple Pay page by double-clicking the Home button, then I tapped it on the POS machine. Bang! It was all done in a flash. The transaction was completed even before I was ready to take a picture.

What were its pros and cons compared with Alipay and WeChat Payment?

Pros: What you have to admit is that, except for the time I spent explaining it to the barista, the whole experience was really smooth and swift.

I always have a trouble connecting to the internet in this area, which is quite annoying when you’re attempting to use Alipay or WeChat Payment. Apple Pay doesn’t need internet to finish the transaction, so the network is no longer a concern.

Cons: As I mentioned in the tutorial, Apple Pay is only compatible with a few Apple devices. Though it’s much faster and easier to use than many other mobile payment tools, its usage range is just too limited. For now, it can only be used on the devices listed above and on POS machines that support UnionPay’s Quick Pass.

In contrast, Alipay and WeChat Payment can be used in supermarkets and convenient stores in major cities in China and at local markets in cities such as Beijing and Hangzhou, where Alibaba’s headquarters reside. Alipay and WeChat Payment’s Face-to-Face Transaction functions have even been adopted by street vendors to conduct transactions — I once bought a pancake from a street vendor with WeChat Payment.

This distinction may differentiate these payment tools in the future: Apple Pay and payment tools such as Samsung Pay and Google Wallet will be more welcomed by established retail brands for their incredible user experience; while Alipay and WeChat Payment will be more favorable for small businesses and street vendors.

Both payment methods — either supported by online payment or by NFC — have their own advantages. But neither is perfect.

Will it be possible that one day, we won’t have to go through all the hassles of payment at all? No long lines in front of the cashier. No piles of nasty coins. And no troublesome process of registration and verification.

Maybe so. And that would be the best customer experience I can imagine.

AllTechAsia Staff

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