Apple and Uber Tied Up in Chinese Ride-Share Economy

Thanks to a major business deal halfway around the world, Apple is now an investor in Uber — at least by a few degrees of separation.

Back in May, Apple made a $1 billion investment in China’s largest ride-sharing business, Didi Chuxing, which has outpaced Uber in the country for years. On August 1, Didi announced it would be buying out Uber’s operations in the country and, in turn, investing $1 billion of its own into Uber’s global efforts.

“Didi Chuxing and Uber have learned a great deal from each other over the past two years,” said Cheng Wei, founder and CEO of Didi, in a statement. “This agreement with Uber will set the mobile transportation industry on a healthier, more sustainable path of growth at a higher level.”

In effect, that means that Apple’s investments will now also help Uber in developing markets, where the ride-share company has had a more difficult time competing with homegrown enterprises like Ola in India and Grab in Southeast Asia.

The announcement has turned Didi Chuxing from a $28 billion company into a $35 to $36 billion one practically overnight, giving Apple’s investment a significant return already.

However, the deal has also raised speculation as to how exactly Apple plans to benefit from the partnership, other than financially. While Apple dominates much of the smartphone business in the Western world, its iPhones are not as popular in China.

Since the average phone only has a lifespan of about two years, many wonder whether the Didi partnership is evidence of Apple’s long-rumored foray into self-driving car technology, part of a secretive project known only as Project Titan.

In a recent discussion on the company’s quarterly earnings, Apple CEO Tim Cook said of Didi, “We think that there are some strategic things that the companies can do together over time.”

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