December 12, 2014
A biometric authentication feature has already been available on the smartphone app of Alipay, the e-payment arm of the e-commerce giant Alibaba. Earlier, the feature was supported on the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 and Samsung Galaxy S5 which made use of the fingerprint sensor. Apart from these Android devices, Alipay is bringing the feature to iOS users as well. As reported by China Daily, the company recently rolled out an updated version of its mobile app for iOS.
The app now allows iPhone users to authenticate mobile payments using Touch ID. The current release of Alipay will support Touch ID for iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus. Alipay is also working towards incorporating other biometric technologies. Alipay is predominantly used in China but doesn’t have a license to offer digital wallet like services. Now, Alipay is tailoring the app for iPhone to help boost its presence overseas.
This new move by Alipay also indicates a potential alliance between Alipay and Apple Pay. Jack Ma and Tim Cook have already publicly discussed the possibility of combining Alipay and Apple Pay services. The collaboration between the two giants would benefit Chinese consumers shopping on US shopping sites. Alipay would be able to gain access to Apple Pay’s US payment network which would make things easier for Chinese consumers.
From Apple Pay’s perspective, it opens up the opportunity to operate in China. It is possibe that Chinese consumers will use Apple Pay on iPhones with Alipay providing the back-end service. Apple Pay is yet to be made available anywhere outside the U.S. Apple has already established a partnership with Union Pay allowing Chinese consumers to use Union Pay cards as a payment option in the App Store.
It’s not certain whether the deal between Apple Pay and Alipay will get a nod of approval from the Chinese government. China’s government has already been keeping a close on third party payment systems like Alipay. Earlier this year, the government banned the use of QR codes and barcodes for enabling payments. The government is backing Union Pay heavily which is the state run payments system and there are doubts whether Apple’s possible relationship with Alibaba could affect the one with Union Pay.