Google and Apple are both looking to launch major services in China next year.
Apple is planning to debut Apple Pay in the market as early as February, having reached agreements with all 4 of China’s main state-owned banks allowing customers to link the service to their bank accounts. It is aiming to bring the service into effect before Chinese New Year, but it may face regulatory hurdles.
China is now the second-largest market for Apple after the US, with revenue doubling year-on-year to $12.5 billion for the quarter ending on September 30th. China would be the fifth market for Apple Pay, which is currently available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
Meanwhile, Google is planning to re-launch in China with a version of its Google Play app store for the Chinese market in preparation for a launch next year. The app will not be connected to the international Google Play store, allowing it to meet China’s strict censorship requirements.
Google has confirmed that the app will comply with local laws, storing data locally and blocking undesirable apps. It will likely support payments from Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat – the major electronic payments providers in China. These services may be resistant to the advent of Apple Pay; the service could be further hindered by the monopoly on credit and debit processing held by China UnionPay.
The US search engine giant pulled out of China 5 years ago following clashes with the government over censorship of its search results, with rumours that it would return to the market emerging around September this year. The Google Play launch would be its first step, but it has a lot of ground to make up after losing out to local rivals.