Apple plans to launch its mobile payments service, Apple Pay, in China as early as February, according to multiple reports. The first rumors appear to have been sparked by Dow Jones sources cited in a tweet by CNBC, with The Wall Street Journal since following with its own report.
While the initial tweet was thin on details, the WSJ says that Apple “has struck deals recently with China’s big four state-run banks… [that] will allow potential Apple Pay users to link the service with their local bank accounts.”
However, some regulatory hurdles are expected to remain. Currently, the mobile payments space in China is dominated by Tencent’s Tenpay (used on popular messaging app WeChat) and ecommerce giant Alibaba’s Alipay.
Quartz reported at the beginning of October that Apple was ramping up hiring in its push to bring Apple Pay to China. Meanwhile, Apple’s newly created subsidiary in the Shanghai free-trade zone is believed to be part of that wider push to enter the lucrative payments space in the country.
It’s hard to tell these days whether the U.S. or China is the more important market for Apple. A few signs are pointing toward a slow but sure shift to the latter. I expect we’ll have more solid details on a China launch for Apple Pay before February arrives.