The prospect of an Apple Pay Alibaba deal got a lot more likely on Tuesday (Dec. 9) when Alibaba's Alipay payments unit said that it will now allow users to authenticate their accounts with the iPhone’s fingerprint sensor instead of a password, indicating, according to a report in QZ.com, "a deepening relationship between the two companies."
The Alipay statement said that users of any iPhone that supports fingerprint authentication (the 5S, 6 and 6 Plus) will now be able to use that authentication make Alipay payments, once the user upgrades to Alipay Wallet version 8.4, according to a report in the China Daily.
"Alipay, which has more than 300 million users in China, said it is working on other biometric technologies, which could make it possible for people to confirm payments for a wide variety of goods and services by winking or simply by showing their faces in the near future," the China Daily story said. "The fingerprint payment feature is the first real progress between Alibaba and Apple after both of their leaders Jack Ma and Tim Cook publicly discussed the possibility of combining the Alipay and Apple Pay services."
The Alipay statement itself endorsed biometrics overall. "Compared with traditional codes, fingerprints are one of a kind and are not easy to copy. It also effectively improves the security of transactions and reduces the risk of password leaks," the statement said, according to China Daily.
The QZ story pointed out that Apple is hardly offering Alipay exclusive dating yet: "In addition to pursuing a closer alliance with Alipay, the company has also partnered with UnionPay, Alipay’s state-run rival that has a virtual monopoly on processing payments between merchants, banks, and credit card companies. Apple and UnionPay signed a deal last month to allow Chinese consumers to link their UnionPay debit or credit cards to Apple’s app store, enabling one-tap payments from within apps on their iPhones and iPads. Meanwhile, an Apple Pay-Alipay tie-up still faces one daunting obstacle: overcoming the objections of Beijing."