Samsung Pay officially launches in China

Samsung's mobile-payments service debuts a little more than a month after rival Apple Pay arrived in China.

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Steven Musil
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Samsung Pay is now available in the world's largest smartphone market.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Pay has officially launched in the world's biggest smartphone market.

Samsung said Monday that its mobile-payments service is now available in China under a partnership with China UnionPay, the bank dominates the interbank payment business in China. The deal, announced in December, allows customers in China to add their credit or debit cards to the mobile-payments service.

"The reception of Samsung Pay since its launch has been extremely positive and the service has already seen tremendous success in terms of availability and adoption by consumers," Injong Rhee, the global chief of Samsung Pay, said in a statement.

The ability to pay for goods via a smartphone has been around for years, especially in countries like China. But consumer interest in the concept got a jump-start in 2014 with the launch of Apple Pay, which enables owners of recent iPhones and Apple Watch to pay for items on the go via the wireless technology NFC (near-field communication).

Samsung's debut comes a little more than a month after Apple Pay launched in China.

Samsung Pay, which hit the US in September, doesn't require NFC technology and can work with any magnetic-strip card reader. The service is supported by Samsung's Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, and Galaxy Note 5, with more devices expected to be added in the future. Also available in South Korea, the service is expected to launch later this year in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Singapore, Spain and the UK.

The rival electronics giants also face competition from Samsung Pay and Google's Android Pay. Also looking to jump on the mobile payments bandwagon are banks such as JP Morgan and retailers such as Walmart.

Companies are eager to push mobile payments in the belief that the additional service will build consumer loyalty. Users of mobile-payments services might be more likely to stick with their current smartphone if they can store their payment data and use the device to buy shampoo, beer or whatever their hearts desire.

As the largest smartphone market in the world, China represents a significant business opportunity for mobile-payments systems. The country's massive population of 1.35 billion and its growing middle class have created a lucrative market for companies like Apple and Samsung.

At the end of last year, 358 million Chinese had been paying for goods via their smartphones, Reuters reported last month, citing data from the China Internet Network Information Center.