Apple Pay Rolling Out in Czech Republic and Saudi Arabia

Apple Pay is rolling out to users in Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic, according to multiple reports from tipsters and posts across social media this morning.



Apple's digital payment system already appears to be active for a number of banks and financial services across both countries. In Czech Republic, users have so far reported successfully adding cards to their mobile wallets from Air Bank, MONETA Money Bank, Ceska sporitelna, and payments company Twisto.

When Apple Pay was rumored to be coming to the country in late February, support for the country's two largest banks Česká spořitelna and Komerční banka was mooted, so hopefully they'll also be added to the "active" list soon.

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, Apple's regional Apple Pay website has gone live and lists Visa and Mastercard support for Al Rajhi Bank, NCB, MADA, Riyad Bank, Alinma Bank, and Bank Aljazira.

Apple said in October that Apple Pay would be "coming soon" to the country, and reports are coming in from users who have successfully registered cards with Apple Pay issued by the above banks.


Apple's website also lists several supporting outlets in the country, including Carrefour, counterpoint, KFC, Bershka, baby shop, MacDonalds, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, among others.

Apple Pay has been gradually expanding across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The service launched in Belgium and Kazakhstan in November and made its long-awaited debut in Germany the following month.

Apple Pay first launched in the United States in October 2014, and has since expanded to many other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, China, Singapore, Switzerland, France, Japan, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Russia, New Zealand, Brazil, Poland, Ireland, and Ukraine.

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Apple Pay is ‘Coming Soon’ in Saudi Arabia

Apple today announced that Apple Pay is "coming soon" in Saudi Arabia, without providing a more specific timeframe.


The Saudi Payments Network (MADA), a major payment system in Saudi Arabia, also confirmed that it will soon introduce support for Apple Pay.


Saudi Arabia would become at least the 30th region where Apple Pay is officially available. Apple Pay is also set to launch in Germany later this year, as Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed on the company's earnings call in late July.

Apple Pay first launched in the United States in October 2014, and has since expanded to many other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, China, Singapore, Switzerland, France, Japan, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Russia, New Zealand, Brazil, Poland, Ireland, and the Ukraine.

(Thanks, Abdullah and Ahmad!)

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Saudi Prince Meets Tim Cook at Apple Park to Discuss Education and App Development Opportunities

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Tim Cook and other top Apple executives on Saturday at the company's new Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino to discuss app development, education, and other partnership opportunities (via Saudi Press Agency).

For the Saudi prince and his entourage of officials, the visit was part of a whirlwind tour that included stops to visit Virgin founder Richard Branson, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and CEO Sundar Pichai, and Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz.


According to the press release, the aim of the discussion with Apple executives was to talk about technological solutions for "enriching the Arabic educational content in the classroom" as well as the creation of an educational curriculum for Saudi schools. The meeting also covered the potential creation of job opportunities for Saudi youths who received their training at Apple's headquarters.

The themes are broadly consistent with Apple's most recent focus on education at its Chicago event last month, where the company revealed its Everyone Can Create curriculum alongside its most affordable iPad with Apple Pencil support.

Following the meeting, members of the official delegation received technology-led presentations on Apple's work in the areas of health and marketing, before visiting the Steve Jobs Theater to learn more about Apple's "modern voice applications", which is likely a reference to the Siri digital assistant.

Apple is known to have been in discussions with Saudi Arabia to open its first retail store in the country as soon as 2019. State officials are said to be in licensing discussions with both Apple and Amazon in an effort to entice major technology companies into the country.

Saudi Arabia also recently lifted a ban on FaceTime and other services that provide access to calling someone over the internet, as part of government efforts attempting to attract more business to the country.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Apple Holding Discussions With Saudi Arabian Government to Open Retail Store in 2019

Apple could debut its first retail location within Saudi Arabia as soon as 2019, thanks to the government's current push towards a "high-tech look" for the country. Reuters reports today that officials in Saudi Arabia's capital of Riyadh -- including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- are currently in licensing discussions with both Apple and Amazon in an effort to entice major technology companies into the country.

Apple is rumored to be talking with SAGIA, Saudi Arabia's foreign investment authority, and a licensing agreement for Apple's retail stores with the authority is expected to come by February 2018. The first location would then be targeted for an opening in 2019.

Image of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia via Wikimedia Commons
Apple and Amazon are in licensing discussions with Riyadh on investing in Saudi Arabia, two sources told Reuters, part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push to give the conservative kingdom a high-tech look.

A licensing agreement for Apple stores with SAGIA is expected by February, with an initial retail store targeted for 2019, said two sources familiar with the discussions.
Amazon's cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, is said to be leading the company's discussions with Saudi Arabian officials. The talks are believed to be in "earlier stages" than Apple's, with no specific time frame given for Amazon's investment plans in the country.

The Saudi Arabian government's regulations previously placed heavy limits on foreign ownership of businesses, preventing companies like Apple and Amazon from coming to the country. In the past two years, however, falling crude oil prices "highlighted the need to diversify" the country's dependency on oil within its economy, leading to courting technology companies.

Evidence of this came in September, when Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on services that provide access to calling someone over the internet, including Apple's FaceTime. The ban was enacted in 2013 and began due to the government's fear of non-secure internet communication among its residents, but was lifted this year in the country's new efforts to "attract more business" to its economy.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on FaceTime and Other Video/Voice Calling Apps

Saudi Arabia today lifted a ban on services that provide access to calling someone over the internet, part of government efforts attempting to attract more business to the country. This means that "all online voice and video call services," including Apple's FaceTime, Microsoft's Skype, and Facebook's WhatsApp, opened up for user access last night at midnight (via Reuters).


These apps and services previously faced harsh regulations in Saudi Arabia with a ban that began in 2013, due to the government's wariness over secure internet communication. Now, users in the country will be able to FaceTime friends and family members, with the Saudi information ministry stating this should help "kick-start" the country's economy after recently being hit by low oil prices.
Saudi Arabia will lift a ban on internet phone calls, a government spokesman said, part of efforts to attract more business to the country. All online voice and video call services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp that satisfy regulatory requirements will become accessible at midnight (2100 GMT), Adel Abu Hameed, spokesman for the telecoms regulator CITC said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Digital transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivise the growth of internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries,” a statement from the information ministry said. “Access to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship – that’s why it is such an important step in the Kingdom’s internet regulation,” it said.
The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission also published a press release [Google Translate] on the ban's lifting.

According to a tipster's email this morning, because iPhones sold in Saudi Arabia have had FaceTime completely blocked in the past, these devices will need some kind of carrier update in order to enable the feature. In response, local carriers are reportedly saying that this update is Apple's responsibility, so it's unclear when such an update will occur.


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