Apple locks in key partnership in China

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Apple keeps making big moves in China.

The iPhone maker announced Sunday that it would add UnionPay as a payment option in its App Store for consumers in China, making the checkout process for consumers in the region much simpler.

The addition of UnionPay, which is a bankcard network, to the platform will enable users one-tap check-out. Previously, users had to setup prepaid accounts linked to a bank account, and then make a deposit before they were able to make purchases.

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UnionPay boasts more than 4.5 billion cards issued and is China’s most popular payment card, according to the company’s statement.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, said in Apple’s statement that the new payment feature was one of the most requested features from customers in China. There was no mention of Apple Pay in the release, however, its partnership with UnionPay could help give it an edge in mobile payments.
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As China’s wireless infrastructure continues to develop, the region continues to be a huge growth opportunity for Apple, some analysts say.

China accounted for about 14 percent of Apple’s revenue in its fourth quarter and about 16 percent in its third quarter.
Apple’s launch of the bigger iPhone 6 and its partnership with China Mobile, which accounts for about two-thirds of the wireless subs in the region, are two of the big drivers for expected growth, said Brian White, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald.

“The mobile Internet is a baby there,” White said. “Apple put a lot of work into China, they thought about it meticulously. They saw these trends, they invested years and years ago.”

—By CNBC’s Cadie Thompson.

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