Before Apple could land Apple Pay in China’s growing mobile payments market, China’s second-largest Internet company, Tencent, announced Thursday (Jan. 28) that its WeChat mobile wallet has arrived in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong users who are participating in the pilot program of the WeChat Wallet service will have the ability to connect it to their local credit cards in order to make purchases, South China Morning Post reported.
There are more than 304 million Chinese consumers who made online payments last year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, while more than 361 million shopped online and more than 282 million banked online.
With the help of China UnionPay and 15 Chinese banks, Apple Pay is expected to launch in China later this year, with the hopes of catching the eye of Chinese consumers who are already a few steps ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to mPay usage.
The WeChat Wallet service is expected to roll out to all users in Hong Kong over the course of the next several months, a source close to the company told SCMP.
But some are doubting how quickly the new service from WeChat will take off, considering it is currently lacking some key features and capabilities compared to what’s available in mainland China.
Those in Hong Kong will be unable to make peer-to-peer transactions or make in-store payments via a scanned QR code on their mobile devices.
Michael Yeo, senior analyst at market research firm IDC, told SCMP that the lack in functionality may impact the popularity of the service among Hong Kong users.
“As functionality is expanded later on, the peer-to-peer payments function will likely be a major draw to users in Hong Kong, but in its current state, its ultimate usefulness will be quite limited,” Yeo explained.
Most recently, Tencent released its standalone mobile payments platform for all users in South Africa. Brett Loubser, head of WeChat Africa, explained that the new service doesn’t require users to link their digital wallets with bank accounts, allowing faster and easier access to payments for South Africa’s smartphone owners.
“The new digital wallet service is WeChat’s most exciting offering yet,” Loubser said in a statement. “It truly showcases the scope of the platform and provides a safe way for users to store their bank cards and make cash payments on the go in a tech-savvy way. The service is another way WeChat is merging the online and offline worlds, providing users with seamless payment integration in a single application. Now, they won’t be inconvenienced if they forget their purses or money at home because everything they need is at their fingertips.”