Alipay Now an Option at Every Apple Store in China

February 9, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

A strange new development in mobile payments recently took place, as Alipay announced that it was now a payment option at all the Apple Store locations in mainland China. This marked the first time that a third-party mobile payment system was accepted at Apple physical retail stores anywhere in the world, and meant a pretty major sea change for Apple as a whole.

The agreement is specifically established to cover the 41 physical retail locations that Apple holds in China, which is actually the largest concentration of Apple physical retail outside of the United States itself. Apple users will have a specific Apple section built into their Alipay app, and within that section, special offers for App Store purchases will be on hand as well. Billing information will further be built in for both the App Store and the physical Apple store.

This isn’t the first time that Alipay found itself connected to Apple; back in November 2016, Alipay was made available as a payment option in both the Apple China website and in China’s versions of the App Store and iTunes.

While Apple could have used its hardware as a draw for users to put its mobile payments system to work, Apple may have wanted to instead cut its losses. Instead of trying to convince the roughly half of China to jump ship from Alipay in favor of Apple Pay, Apple instead opened up its hardware sales to Alipay payments. That’s not an idea without some merit—it at least means some sales, and it doesn’t give up on the possibility that Apple Pay users may result from hardware sales later—but it does kind of concede the field at least in the short term.

Apple may well see the writing on the wall for any mobile payment system that doesn’t have “Ali” or “WeChat” in the name. Already Apple Pay is part of a stack of also-rans in the region that’s not getting a lot of traction. By handing over Apple hardware purchases to Alipay, it’s lost one battle, but may have a stake in the war to come.