The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets are reporting their sources have told them Apple is planning to launch its Apple Pay mobile payments system in China come February 2016.
Word of the supposed debut arrived in a “breaking” tweet from CNBC, though the news outlet failed to offer further details, including specifics on how Apple plans to deal with regulatory hurdles, credit card processor partnerships and national bank agreements.
The Journal says Apple is about to strike a deal with China’s four state-run banks, which means users could link Apple Pay directly to their bank accounts. The publication says the Cupertino firm is aiming for a launch in the country before China’s Spring Festival holiday on February 8th.
Apple is anxious to debut its contactless payments system in China, as the country accounts for more of Apple’s revenue with each passing year. Apple’s main stumbling block so far has been its inability to make a deal with state-owned credit and debit card processor UnionPay. Without UnionPay in its pocket, Apple’s card-based product is dead on arrival.
Previous reports have indicated Apple was close to striking a deal with Union Pay, but talks eventually broke down, reportedly due to Union Pay’s reluctance to agree to Apple’s usage rates, which, while in line with those charged in Apple’s other markets, are considered high for China.
Apple CEO Tim Cook told reporters in May that he was “very bullish” on Apple Pay’s chances in China. He noted that the country’s growing middle class and high number of smartphone owners indicated there would be mass adoption of the service there.