Why Apple’s iPhone Can’t Be Used to Pay for Beijing Transport

August 15, 2017, 2:31 PM UTC

Beijing has had a contactless smart card for its public transport system for the last 14 years or so, and now it’s offering the same functionality through a smartphone app. However, the app is only for Android phones, not Apple’s iPhone.

The issue, as noted by the Financial Times, is that Apple doesn’t let third-party apps use the contactless payment functionality in the iPhone and Apple Watch. Instead, the company reserves this ability, which relies on industry-standard near-field communication (NFC) technology, for its own Apple Pay system.

While the omission may prove annoying for iPhone users in Beijing, Apple only has around a sixth of the smartphone market in China. Local brands making Android phones—such as Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi—are significantly more popular. As recent global smartphone shipments have shown, Huawei is catching up with Apple in the worldwide market-share stakes.

The reservation of Apple’s NFC implementation for Apple Pay may not last long. Changes coming in iOS 11, which is currently being tested in beta versions, will open up the functionality for other uses.

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A Goldman Sachs analyst report earlier this month indicated that Apple Pay is struggling to catch on with consumers in the U.S. Though, to be fair, the same goes for the branded payments systems from Android and Samsung. Apple Pay adoption has been growing, but this is largely down to its rollout across new market, China included.

Mobile payments are popular in China, though Alibaba Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay are the big, local beasts there.

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