Alipay has become the first third party mobile payment platform to be accepted in Apple’s physical retail stores, with the latter enabling support for Alipay payments in its China locations.
For Apple, it is a perhaps embarrassing acknowledgement of the market reality. While Apple Pay surpassed many analysts’ expectations when it launched in China two years ago, it has nevertheless struggled to compete with the entrenched mobile payment leaders, WeChat Pay and Alipay, a branch of the Alibaba e-commerce group.
But it isn’t just Apple’s mPayment platform that has struggled, it’s the entire Apple brand: Its iPhones are thought to account for a relatively small marketshare in the country’s mobile sector, and while many analysts now suspect that Apple’s iPhone X produced disappointing sales figures worldwide, its sales in China are thought to have been particularly rocky. The company has therefore taken maneuvers to adapt to this reality, including enabling Alipay support for its digital stores a year ago.
Meanwhile, Apple has submitted to some serious realpolitik in accommodating the intensive regulatory interests of the Chinese government, removing VPN, Skype, and New York Times apps from its App Store, and giving state businesses joint access to its servers in the country. For Apple, the price of doing business in China cannot merely be measured in dollars or yuan.