It’s official. According to Reuters, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) announced via social media that Apple Pay will be available in the country starting later this week on Thursday, Feb. 18.
ICBC is the largest lender by assets in China. Earlier today, the China Guangfa Bank – which supports China UnionPay cards – first confirmed the news.
With China, Apple’s mobile payment system is available to use in five countries. Originally launching in the United States in October 2014, it has previously been rolled out to Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
The China market is extremely important for Apple Pay’s long-term success. The country is the second largest for Apple products by revenue.
But a whopping 358 million people in the country are already making purchases with their mobile devices, meaning Apple will have some work to do:
Dominating those payments are China’s two biggest Internet companies: social networking and gaming firm Tencent Holdings Ltd and e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, through its Internet finance affiliate Ant Financial Services Group.
Tencent operates WeChat Payment, while Ant Financial runs Alipay.
Taking hold elsewhere
Earlier this month, Apple announced that more than 2 million retail locations accept the payment system in the United States. Chick-fil-A, Crate & Barrel, and Au Bon Pain are currently rolling out Apple Pay support.
And on the bank side, Apple recently added more than 30 new names to the comprehensive list on its site. All told, almost 1,000 banks and financial institutions now support the mobile payment system.
Information found in the code of iOS 9.2.1 also indicates that Interac may soon support Apple Pay in Canada. That’s a network of more than 80 banks in the country including Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Scotiabank, Toronto-Dominion Bank, and Desjardins. Currently, only American Express cards are supported in the country.
For other news today, see: Straight Outta Cupertino: Dr. Dre TV series will be used to market Apple Music, Apple Music and Sonos TV ads feature Killer Mike, Matt Berninger and St. Vincent, and Real Racing 3 updated with Daytona Experience and Apple TV integration.