Alipay, the payment affiliate of major Chinese marketplace Alibaba, has updated its popular e-payments app to include support for Touch ID on iOS devices, allowing users to authenticate accounts and authorize Alipay payments on compatible iPhone models without the need of a password. The new Touch ID integration will be available on the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus for Alipay's more than 300 million mainland China users, according to a report by China Daily (via Quartz).
The addition of Touch ID authentication for Alipay's iOS app comes after Alibaba CEO Jack Ma and Apple CEO Tim Cook began talks of a China-focused payments partnership last month, although Touch ID app integration is a straightforward process that would not necessarily have required discussions between the two companies to implement.
Though by no means a confirmation, the move does highlight Alibaba's interest in Touch ID for payment security, bolstering hopes for an Apple Pay/Alipay partnership between the two companies down the road. As China's largest e-payment service and with the rampant growing interest of Apple Pay in the United States, the inclusion of Touch ID support could be a hint at Alibaba and Apple's e-payment future together.
As of today, Apple Pay has yet to be made available at all in China or anywhere else outside the United States, as Apple is focusing first on its home market before expanding to other countries. Neil Flynn, a Shanghai-based equity analyst, pointed out the benefits Alibaba could get out of the partnership, namely bolstering Alipay's overseas presence. Apple also stands to benefit from the arrangement as it seeks to increase its presence in the booming Chinese market.
"By teaming up with Alipay, the iPhone is now a more convenient tool for Chinese consumers. In addition, I would imagine that Apple would profit from payments made through Alipay on the iPhone, so it gives Apple access to Chinese consumers," said Flynn, who has been following Alibaba's development for several years.
Apple also has a partnership with Alipay's rival of sorts, UnionPay. Apple announced last month that it would begin allowing UnionPay customers in China the opportunity to use their cards as a payment method in the App Store. Though Apple appears to be hedging its bets, it is clear the company has great interest in growing its e-payments presence in China and elsewhere.