Apple’s iTunes platform now allows customers in the People’s Republic to pay for their mobile apps and music purchases with their Chinese bank cards. However, instead of paying for each purchase as you go, you’ll now have to first top-up your iTunes account in pre-set amounts of 50, 100, 300, or 500 RMB. Payments via Alipay or Union Pay are also not currently available. Steven Millward of Penn Olson dissects Apple’s move:
The move is also designed to combat piracy of iOS apps in China, which has been thriving under the previous inconveniences/restrictions. Just this week we saw a major Chinese web company, Tencent (HKG:0700), launch a shanzhai iTunes app that helps you avoid Apple’s tightly-controlled ecosystem, and there’s the Chinese-made iTools desktop app that assists in the jailbreaking and adding of pirated/cracked apps.
In addition, Apple has been fighting the ongoing problem of iTunes ‘black cards’ circulating on the internet, which use hacked credit card accounts to give buyers dollars worth of credit on a temporary iTunes account for a mere few RMB. The fraudulent practice got so out of hand earlier this year, that e-commerce site Taobao blocked searches for “iTunes” and “app store” so as to suffocate the black card vendors.
If we’re not wrong, payment with a Chinese bank card will only be possible if you switch your iTunes account to the China region. Before you make that switch though, first ask yourself if you really want a heavily censored app store just to be able to pay in RMB.