Apple has invested $1 billion into Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing service formed when Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache merged under the approving nods of their backers, Tencent and Alibaba.
Buying into Didi could become a means of bringing iOS and Apple’s fleet of iPhones into closer contact with China’s payment services ecology, in which taxi-hailing apps feature heavily. Valued at over $25 billion and with cash holdings of over $200 billion, Didi certainly isn’t hurting for money.
But that is likely beside the point.
Rather, Apple seems to have accepted that if it can’t beat ’em (faced with the triple threat of censorship, nationalist sentiment and brand mimesis), it had better well join ’em.
“Didi exemplifies the innovation taking place in the iOS developer community in China,” CEO Tim Cook said in a recent statement. Apple may be hoping to signal to the world and to domestic competitors that it wants to become an integrated part of the vast Chinese tech landscape, rather than engage in a costly war of attrition like the one being waged by UberChina.
Opting to bet on Didi rather than Uber in the Chinese ride-hailing game, regardless of which company comes out ahead in the long-run, has the added benefit of bringing Apple closer to domestic firms, and may even ease tensions with authorities. This move may more than pay for itself if it helps Apple’s services gain further traction here (or at least become unblocked).
Though it’s too soon to say, extending a friendly red envelope to Didi could be a very smart move that could see people paying for their Didi rides with Apple Pay, alongside the already-ubiquitous WeChat Wallet and Alipay payment options — right out of their leather “IPHONE” case.
By Christopher Ivan