Apple Pay on its way to China next year

China is a huge market for Apple, but the company's mobile payment service faces stiff competition.

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Early next year, Apple is bringing Apple Pay to China, which means the mobile payment service is poised to take off in a big, big way.

Apple is partnering with payment network China UnionPay and 15 Chinese banks so customers there can add their cards to Apple Pay. The rollout is subject to approval by Chinese regulators, so there’s no firm launch date, but Apple will be testing the service over the next few months.

“Apple Pay has revolutionized the way millions of people pay every day with their iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president software and services, said in a statement on Thursday. “China is an extremely important market for Apple and with China UnionPay and support from 15 of China’s leading banks, users will soon have a convenient, private and secure payment experience."

Apple has slowly been expanding Apple Pay’s availability since its launch in the States last October, and iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad owners can now use the service in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Singapore, Spain, and Hong Kong are up next, with launches planned for sometime next year.

Why this matters: With China on board, Apple could see a mass influx of Apple Pay users. But it’s no guarantee—the service is up against Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent, two mobile payment apps that already have roots in China. Samsung is also launching its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, in China next year—the company nailed down a similar deal with UnionPay, announced at the same time as Apple’s.

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