Apple will bring its Apple Pay mobile payments service to China through a partnership with China UnionPay.
The Shanghai-based UnionPay operates a network for issuing and processing credit card and debit transactions, opening the door for consumers to use Apple Pay on their iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads. The service could be available early next year, pending approval from Chinese regulators.
“China is an extremely important market for Apple and with China UnionPay and support from 15 of China’s leading banks, users will soon have a convenient, private and secure payment experience,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, in a statement.
China is Apple’s second-largest global market, behind the U.S. It accounted for more than $12.5 billion in sales during the September quarter.
Competition in the Chinese market is fierce, with the popular messaging app WeChat launching a mobile payment service during the 2014 Chinese New Year celebration. Its digital payments platform competes with Alibaba’s Alipay digital wallet, which boasts over 350 million users and accounts for 80 percent of China’s mobile payments market, according to AdAge.
Apple launched its mobile payments service in the U.S. in 2014, with the introduction of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus phones. The service is seeing double-digit growth in transactions month after month, and announced it would add major businesses, including Starbucks, which plans to introduce Apple Pay to all its U.S. stores in 2016.
The payments service could emerge as an important new revenue source for the company, which relies on new products to drive sales. Apple is said to collect a fee from banks with every debit card or credit card purchase, Bloomberg reported. If consumers find Apple Pay more convenient than fishing a credit card from their wallets, the service could help keep consumers loyal to their Apple devices — or attract new users.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.