Whenever Liu opened Alipay on his phone, he saw a neat grid of icons that vaguely resembled the home screen on his Samsung.Some of the icons were themselves full-blown third-party apps.Until recently, it was difficult to get a credit card with any bank other than your own. As housing prices spiked, this became increasingly untenable.“Now you need two suitcases to buy a house, not just one,” says Zennon Kapron, who heads the financial tech consultancy Kapronasia.Still, efforts to establish a reliable credit system foundered because China lacked a third-party credit scoring entity.
He added friends in Alipay’s built-in social network.
He realized that he could pay for parking through Alipay’s My Car feature, so he added his driver’s license and license plate numbers, as well as the engine number of his Audi.
He started making his car insurance payments with the app.
One day a new icon appeared on Liu’s Alipay home screen. The name, like that of Alipay’s parent company, evoked the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, in which the words magically unseal a cave full of treasure.
When Liu touched the icon, he was greeted by an image of the Earth.
When Liu went on vacation with his fiancée (now his wife) to Thailand, they paid at restaurants and bought trinkets with Alipay.