Apple Pay Struggling Outside the US?

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While Apple Pay is still in its infancy, especially in markets outside the US, experts are warning that the mobile payments system has failed to make the impact many predicted it would when it came to ushering in a new era of contactless payments.

The service is now available in five countries outside the US; the UK, Canada, Australia, China and Singapore, and continues to add banking partners in these markets, but is still a long way from significant adoption in any country.

Apple Pay usage in 2015 totaled $10.9bn (£7.55bn), but the vast majority of that occurred in the United States, and according to research firm Timetric, Apple Pays transactions during the same period is still below the the annual volume of mobile payment transactions in Kenya, where mobile pay has seen wide adoption.

The situation is especially bleak in China, estimated to be the worlds largest mobile payments market, where Alibaba and Tencent dominated the estimated $1 trillion worth of mobile transactions last year, and Apple barely making a dent into the market.

While Apple Pay appears to be more popular with UK and Australian consumers, the quality of service and interest in adopting mobile payments varies significantly within these markets, often due to differences in technology adopted by varying banking partners. In Australia there have been frequent failures in payment machines supported by one mid-sized bank since Apple Pay launched last month.

“Bendigo Bank is experiencing some unforeseen technical issues in accepting Apple Pay payments at selected merchant terminals,” said a spokesperson for the bank, adding that a lack of wider industry engagement in launching the service had resulted in a limited lead time for testing the technology.

While Apples huge user base in the US made for a relatively smooth launch, the company has faced increasing resistance internationally where banks are building their own mobile payment products. Apple is relatively unused to dealing with industries where it does not control every aspect of the supply chain, from manufacture to retail, and other players in the mobile and financial worlds have jumped in to take advantage.

In addition, there are local factors that Apple has failed to take into account, like the high level of contactless adoption in the UK. While this meant that the public was largely familiar with the technology, it also meant there was less incentive for consumers to switch from credit cards to mobile phones for the same effect.

“You have over 86m contactless cards in circulation,” said Windsor Holden, analyst at Juniper Research. “You have to persuade Britons to register their cards to the (Apple Pay) service when they can already use them to make a contactless payment.”

There have been similar launch hiccups in Australia, where over 60 per cent of credit card transactions are already made through contactless cards, and in China, where users are complaining that Apple Pay is less seamless than local services like WeChat.