Apple Pay may (finally) be on its way to China.
The latest buzz on MacRumors points to the possibility that Apple Pay will officially launch in China this Thursday (Feb. 18). A customer service representative at China’s Guangfa Bank reportedly posted, via the bank’s WeChat account, that Apple’s mobile wallet would make its debut in the country this week. Today (Feb. 16) the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. further backed the news when it confirmed it would start accepting Apple Pay on Thursday, according to Reuters.
In December, Apple confirmed it would, in fact, bring Apple Pay to China, but no confirmation date was provided. Apple, China’s state-run bank card giant UnionPay and 15 Chinese banks will all be part of the road production of Apple Pay.
There are more than 304 million Chinese consumers who made online payments last year, according to the official China Internet Network Information Center, while more than 361 million shopped online and more than 282 million banked online.
Alipay is far and away the market leader in this field, followed by Tencent, which embedded payments in its WeChat app. Apple’s main issue launching Apple Pay may be its reliance on NFC, which requires special infrastructure from merchants. Both Alipay and Tenpay are QR-based when used in physical stores.
According to MacRumors, a pair of YouTube videos surfaced last month showing Apple Pay working with UnionPay bank cards in China, leading many to speculate that Apple has already done a soft launch in China for both in-store and in-app purchases.
But China may not be the only country on the horizon for Apple Pay.
A French site called iGeneration said Apple Pay could launch in France within the first half of 2016, but the post does not provide any details on the participating banks and issuers that may support the service or if Apple Pay would even work inside French stores.
As the mobile wallet (supposedly) continues to pursue global expansion, stateside, the adoption of Apple Pay is still leaving much to be desired.
Last week, the results of a consumer survey from First Annapolis Consulting found that of the 580 iPhone 6 users that were polled in Dec. 2015, only 20 percent reported having used Apple Pay at least once — a 2 percent decline from First Annapolis’ spring survey. Even fewer — 15 percent — said they used it more than once a month (another drop from the spring survey, when the number was 19 percent).
Those low numbers cannot likely be attributed to a lack of awareness of Apple’s mobile wallet, as 73 percent of the survey respondents (numbering about 1,300) reported to have heard of Apple Pay (while that number rises to 84 percent among the iPhone 6 users).