Samsung Pay will follow its big rival Apple into China in 2016

Hopefully mobile wallet systems will catch on more quickly in China than in the US.
Hopefully mobile wallet systems will catch on more quickly in China than in the US.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
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Samsung and Apple continually swap roles in their high-tech game of cat and mouse. Now in the latest bout, the South Korean giant has announced that it is bringing its digital payments platform to China too, just hours after the news of a Chinese Apple Pay deal hit.

We learned yesterday (Dec. 17) that Apple Pay is due to arrive in China next year through a deal with UnionPay, and now Samsung has confirmed that Samsung Pay will also be available to Chinese consumers next year through a deal with the same company. UnionPay issues credit cards in the country and has deals with the nation’s key banks.

In its press release, Samsung highlights that its contactless digital payments platform complies with “national mobile payment and financial industry standards in China” but will have to go through the usual certification tests by regulators before it can be rolled out.

When it’s available, however, Samsung notes that Pay can be accepted in “most of” the point-of-sale terminals in China, including the NFC-capable Quick Pass terminals. Quick Pass is different to a credit card or debit card system, instead relying on cash that’s stored in the card itself after being withdrawn from the bank by the card owner. Quick Pass is also expected to be supported by Apple Pay.

Just as it is for Apple, China is a critical market for Samsung. The company has been continually trying to appeal to Chinese consumers, recently releasing more budget friendly Galaxy smartphones there to try to achieve more sales. Recent reports suggest that though Samsung is the most profitable Android phone maker in the world, the company may be falling behind Apple in the Chinese phone market. This is partly due to the appeal of the iPhone, and also to aggressive pricing by Chinese Android manufacturers that aim at the low end of the smartphone market.

Samsung Pay launched in South Korea on Aug. 20, and then hit the United States on Sept. 28. Further expansion is predicted in the UK and Spain. Apple Pay has been expanding across the US since its Oct. 2014 launch, and has also been expanding internationally with Canada and Australia as the next key markets alongside Spain, Hong Kong and Singapore in 2016. Though Apple Pay has been heralded as one of the most important moves for the future of digital payments, many question how popular it is: During this year’s big Black Friday sales, very few people seem to have used the system.