What happened?
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has announced that it has partnered with China UnionPay to launch Apple Pay in early 2016. China UnionPay is China's largest bank card network in China, which also makes it the largest card network in the world. China UnionPay cardholders will soon be able to add their bank cards to Apple Pay. Services chief Eddy Cue also added that 15 of China's leading banks will be supporting Apple Pay through the partnership.

Any point-of-sale terminal that supports China UnionPay's QuickPass, which was launched just days ago, will be able to accept Apple Pay payments. Apple Pay combined with QuickPass will offer enhanced security to consumers. Apple says the service will roll out to cardholders in early 2016 following regulatory tests and certifications.

Does it matter?
China is Apple's most important growth market right now, and naturally the company continues to focus its efforts in The Middle Kingdom. The news comes just a few months after Apple registered a subsidiary in Shanghai's free-trade zone that was intended to operate Apple Pay. Earlier this year, Apple and UnionPay clashed over regulatory concerns and NFC technology, but now the pair has settled their differences.

At a time when the global smartphone market is maturing and growth is slowing, China still has a relatively high proportion of first-time smartphone buyers that Apple is targeting. Launching Apple Pay in China is an important step to the Mac maker's growth in its fastest-growing market.

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