The race is still on for the all-important title of the first Western-popular mobile payment service to land in the world’s largest smartphone market, but despite Samsung’s best efforts, it seems Apple will ultimately prevail.

Then again, Apple Pay can’t possibly get the head start it was gunning for in China anymore, as Samsung Pay should spread from Korea and the United States in “early 2016” as well, likely as soon as next week.

If that ETA pans out, iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches will have barely been able to support on-the-go transactions and simple and secure in-app purchases in the country for a few days earlier than select high-end Samsung Galaxy handhelds.

According to multiple rock-solid sources, including local bank representatives, the Apple Pay switch shall be flipped on in China this Thursday, February 18. After lengthy, laborious negotiations, Cupertino joined forces with UnionPay to set up a comprehensive nationwide credit and debit card processing network.

At least 15 major regional banks should back the digital wallet service off the bat, which is a refreshing change from the opposition of key financial players in Canada and Australia, plus Hong Kong, Singapore and Spain, three other countries where Apple Pay might soon launch with limited American Express support.

On the bright side for the mobile giant and its faithful aficionados, the big banks in Canada will purportedly throw their weight behind Apple Pay before long, followed by their counterparts in France sometime in Q2 or Q3, most likely after WWDC in June.

Sources: Reuters, MacRumors

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