Apple Pay to launch in Hong Kong via six banks this summer / by Gavin Lau

Hong Kong is much slower than China in mobile payments thanks to the popularity of the Octopus card system, but the upcoming launch of Apple Pay in the city may shake up the situation.

HONG KONG - This summer customers of six major banks in Hong Kong will be able to make payments using Apple Pay.

Greg Hingston, HSBC's head of retail banking and wealth management in Hong Kong, said the bank is among the first in the city to incorporate the payment platform and offer it to its Visa and MasterCard account holders.

Other banks taking part are Standard Chartered, BOC Hong Kong, The Bank of East Asia, DBS Hong Kong and Hang Seng Bank.

Apple Pay, which works only with the iPhone 6s and Apple Watch, had a lukewarm reception in its China debut four months ago, for three reasons.

First of all, Apple Pay has been "largely limited by devices," said Xiaofeng Wang, Forrester senior analyst. Apple has a "rather small" smartphone market share in China. Among metro Chinese users, only 16 percent use iOS, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics Asia Pacific Survey.

Secondly, Alipay and WeChat Pay have already won over millions of users, before Apple Pay even stepped into China. Almost all offline retailers, including big department stores, cafes, restaurants and small convenience stores, support Alipay and WeChat Pay, Wang said.

She also added that Apple Pay's collaboration with UnionPay did not reap an immediate payout. Traditional banks are not as fast as internet companies in terms of adopting mobile payments, and less aggressive in promoting it even if they do. At the same time, UnionPay is "distracted" in pushing its other mobile banking service Yun Shan Fu (云闪付), and exerting less efforts on Apple Pay, Wang said.

Will the launch in Hong Kong have a stronger chance than it did in China? The current Hong Kong environment already has many kinds of mobile payment services available, with different strengths and weaknesses, said Arthur Cheung, country manager for Greater China at Practicology.

"Hong Kong did have the first-of-its-kind Octopus card for mobile payment," he said. "We did have a very good start. But now, I think it's about the survival of the fittest in the global trend of omni-channel ecommerce. It depends on how Apple Pay and its partnering banks enable convenience. "The Hong Kong customer will select the most convenient one to use."