Samsung and SK Telecom have both made mobile payment announcements, confirming Korea remains the main source of mobile payment competition to Apple and Google.
Samsung Pay has been around since last year and launched in the US last September. Today Samsung announced its launch in China via a partnership with China UnionPay (CUP) that is reminiscent of a similar deal announced by Apple a month ago.
“In compliance with national laws and regulations, thanks to cooperating with CUP and many banks, we ultimately want to make Samsung Pay available to as many consumers as possible in China, so that everyone can have the opportunity to enjoy the simplicity, safety and convenience of this mobile payment solution,” said Injong Rhee, Head of R&D, Software and Services of the Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics.
“With the joint efforts of banks and Samsung, based on the safety testing and certification by relevant national testing agency, CUP QuickPass starting Samsung Pay service will bring users safer and more convenient mobile payment choice.” said Hu Ying, Assistant President of UnionPay.
Samsung Pay currently supports payments from nine Chinese banks and will add six more before long. The CUP partnership seems to have the additional benefit of satisfying some of China’s unique trading rules. Samsung Pay is running behind Apple Pay but arguably ahead of Android Pay, which is the mobile payment it wants to supplant in high-end Galaxy devices. There has been talk of Android Pay coming to China via CUP since 2014, but we have yet to get a formal announcement from Google on the matter.
Fellow Korean SK Telecom has announced that the launch of its carrier billing mobile payment system T Pay two weeks ago went well. T Pay uses Bluetooth Low Energy, in a claimed breakthrough for two-way communication using BLE POS, and also has a barcode payment feature. SKT says it has topped 100,000 subscribers since its launch.
“SK Telecom has opened a new chapter in the field of mobile payment with T Pay,” said Yun Won-Young, Head of Service Innovation Division of SK Telecom. “T Pay’s innovative features, including hands free payment, barcode payment, and integrated T Membership discount benefits are expected to deliver greater convenience and value to our customers daily lives.”
There is little time to waste for any mobile payment platform hoping to succeed on Android (the nature of Apple devices means Apple Pay will face no such competition). Android Pay is still in its early stages but is already expanding its reach beyond the US and has a huge advantage in being native to the underlying platform. It could be that China, Korea and the rest of the Asia Pacific region will represent the best opportunity for companies like Samsung to head Google off at the pass.