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Apple Pay in Asia? Don't put your money on it

Apple's new mobile payment system is to set to take the U.S. e-commerce sector by storm but its launch in Asia remains far off, analysts said.

"Apple Pay will probably take at least four years to arrive in Asia," said Ryan Huang, market strategist at IG in Singapore. Seeing as iTunes was only launched in Asia in 2012, nine years after its U.S. debut, expectations aren't high for an Asia expansion, he told CNBC in a phone interview.

Late on Tuesday, Apple unveiled a suite of new devices and a payment system called Apple Pay. The platform utilizes near-field-communication (NFC) and will be built into the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to store debit and credit card information.

Asia's cultural mindset towards NFC technology is a key challenge to Apple Pay's expansion in the region, IG's Huang said.

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"The region has dealt with NFC for a number of years, and it's been a lackluster takeoff so far. The biggest hurdle is standards. Telecom firms took a long time to collaborate and have only just started to work together. For a long time, there was just one telecom working with Mastercard and another with Visa. It will take a long time for Apple to try and get a pipeline of retailers in Asia to get on board," he added.

Apple introduces Apple Pay.
Source: Apple Inc.
Apple introduces Apple Pay.

On top of that, consumers need to foot the cost of an NFC-enabled sim card in most Asian countries. "Some cities like Hong Kong are embracing subsidized options, which will be a key driver for NFC growth in the future," Huang said.

Content concerns

The move comes as more Asian users complain of not receiving enough content from Apple's content provider, iTunes. Users that open an iTunes account in Asia often don't get access to the same content as their American peers.

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Varying content is a major drawback for the tech giant as it tries to ramp up its presence in the region, Bradley Gastwirth, chief executive officer of ABR Investment Strategy told CNBC on Wednesday.

"It's very important for Apple to be successful in the Far East, it's a major part of their growth initiative. Are they going to be successful? It remains to be seen," he said.

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Earlier this year, Apple announced a partnership with China Mobile, the world's largest mobile operator, to sell iPhones to the network's estimates 760 million subscribers.

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However, not everyone is pessimistic. IHS Technology expects Apple to extend Apple Pay internationally as soon as possible.

"Apple's product strategy is globally focused and as a result keeps variation in products, models and services to a minimum in order to maximize global-scale economies. Even when it launches in one country first, Apple ensures its product design is suited to selling worldwide as soon as Apple has overcome launch hurdles," said Jonathan Cassell, senior manager, editorial, in a note.

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Content rights, regulatory barriers and securing partnerships and distribution are key reasons for U.S.-only Apple product launches, Cassell said, noting that Apple made 2013's iPhone models available in over 60 countries within six weeks of its U.S. launch.

Competition for Alibaba?

Experts don't anticipate much competition for Alibaba's payments platform, Alipay, already the largest mobile payments processor in the world.

"Apple and Alibaba have different markets. Alibaba will do well in China and Chinese e-commerce and Apple will do better in North America given their massive install base on iTunes," said Gastwirth.

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IG's Huang agreed, saying that AliPay operates in an "enclosed loop." It's very dominant in China and thus will be largely insulated from Apple due to regulatory hurdles, he said.

While Alipay is targeted towards Chinese consumers, it's looking to bring online shopping opportunities outside of the mainland to its users.

In Taiwan, the service has teamed up with a department store to accept payments made by Chinese tourists using the Alipay Wallet app while Singaporean hotel Resorts World Sentosa has become the first vacation sport outside of China to accept Alipay. Most recently, the service partnered with U.S. payments firm Stripe to allow Chinese shoppers tap into U.S. and European businesses."