The Chinese tech giants are dropping major cash to rise to the top in the country’s mobile payment battle.
The scale: In 2017, $15.4 trillion worth of mobile payments were handled by third-party platforms in China—more than 40 times the amount processed in the US. Alipay, owned by Alibaba, handled nearly 54 percent of those payments, and WeChat Pay, owned by Tencent, processed around 39 percent.
The cost: Holding onto market share cost Ant Financial, an arm of Alibaba, a pretty penny. The discounts and rebates it provided to keep people on Alipay contributed to an uncommon quarterly loss. Despite such efforts, though, WeChat Pay is gaining ground—it’s been cutting more and more into AliPay’s customer base each year.
Why it matters: It’s all about the data. Sure, transaction fees are nice, but market dominance over mobile payments mean companies can amass data on the largest number of people possible. That can then be used to pitch consumers other products, like loans or investment funds.
America is lagging: The US is dragging its feet on mobile payment adoption. Plenty of people’s smartphones have the capability—think Apple and Google Pay—but not many stores or services have gotten with the program. Starbucks stands out as an exception, accounting for around 40 percent of all mobile payments in America.
Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build
“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”
ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it
The narrative around cheating students doesn’t tell the whole story. Meet the teachers who think generative AI could actually make learning better.
Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives
The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.
Learning to code isn’t enough
Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.