Public transit can be a hassle in big cities like Boston, New York City and London. Most of the time, a physical card allows riders to load money and pay for rides quickly, without having to hold up busy commuters or the bus or train schedule with a stack of cash or a pocket full of change. For example, Boston has its Charlie Card, New York City has its MetroCard and London has its Oyster card.
Now, imagine being able to hop on or off a subway through the tap of a smartphone.
One global city that’s looking to streamline the public transit process with smartphone taps is Beijing. Through the city’s public transport company Yikatong, commuters can pay for a ride by using their smartphones — but if it’s an Apple iPhone, then they’re out of luck. Starting this past Monday, most Android smartphone users in Beijing gained access to a mobile app that allows for public transit payments.
Apple Pay’s exclusion from this new Beijing public transit smartphone payment system is rooted in Apple’s policy regarding contactless payments. For Apple users, the ability make mobile payments can only be completed through the Apple Pay app. By not letting third parties use Apple Pay inside their apps, the tech giant may see itself excluded from future online and mobile payment offerings.
According to data from iResearch, there were $8.8 trillion online payments in China during 2016 — a large piece of the eCommerce pie on which Apple is missing out.
Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting’s Managing Director, Mark Natkins, commented to The Financial Times about the lack of a smartphone payments capability with Chinese consumers, saying “[Apple’s policy] is counterproductive. It potentially locks them out of a variety of initiatives, particularly the major push in China to introduce smart city initiatives.”
As it stands now, Apple Pay makes up 1 percent of the Chinese mobile and online payments market, with its current policy leaving WePay and Alipay to duke it out for the mobile payments technology crown in China.