Google Pay users outside of Japan who do not have a Osaifu-Keitai compatible model are waking up to the rude fact that Google Pay does not give them all that FeliCa Apple Pay Suica-like goodness out of the box.
Google Pay Japan is exactly what Android Pay Japan was: a thin veneer over Osaifu-Keitai that confuses the hell out of Android users around the world. A lot of angry users will vent and make up shit that this is a ‘Japan tech’ failure but the reality is that this is simply a Google choice made at Google HQ in the good old USA. Google could have licensed the entire proprietary FeliCa stack like Apple along with proprietary EMV contactless and proprietary MIFARE stacks that they already do, but they didn’t.
My money says it is a market related political choice to keep the JP carriers happy selling carrier locked Android devices. The Android equivalent of the Global FeliCa iPhone has yet to appear.
Japanese Twitter users are posting lots of interesting details and the list of Google Pay Suica limitations continues to grow: one Suica per phone, limited (no?) Suica Commuter support, no Shinkansen e-tickets, Google Pay Suica transaction records only cover purchases, not transit, and so on.
Is this a HCE-F limitation thing to keep the JP carriers happy?
Osaifu-Keitai Android users will continue to rely on the Mobile Suica app to cover the functions that Google Pay Suica does not support.
The Japan Transit IC Card Association announced that daily Transit IC card transactions, which include transit, e-money purchases with plastic transit cards, Apple Pay Suica and Mobile Suica, have topped 7 million. The growth curve is a good indication of the power of a transit platform like Suica when matched with a digital wallet platform like Apple Pay.
As anticipated by Android Police earlier this month Suica has officially launched on Google Pay in Japan. Mobile Suica has been available on the Android platform since 2011 via the Osaifu-Keitai e-wallet service offered by the major Japanese carriers NTT Docomo, KDDI au and Softbank. For Japanese customers on Android, Google Pay offers a limited sub-set of full e-wallet services they already have.
With this rollout all the major stored value “prepaid” e-money cards are now on Google Pay: Suica, WAON, nananco and Rakuten EDY. JCB and JACCS credit card support and the Japanese P2P payments startup Kyash service is promised for later this summer. It’s not clear however what Android devices are supported beyond Only Osaifu-Keitai models from the major JP carriers (for the most part) support Google Pay Japan. As I wrote earlier, FeliCa support on Android devices outside of the Japan market is a complicated story, Google native support of FeliCa has been uneven at best. Support for the major FeliCa payment networks iD and QUICPay is missing.
Hopefully we’ll get a clearer picture in the days and weeks ahead.
UPDATE 1: as suspected, Google Pay Suica requires a Osaifu-Keitai ready smartphone and Android 5. Google is not going to promote or make a Global FeliCa Android answer to the Global FeliCa iPhone. Pixel 2, Android Pay and HCE-F made that clear.
UPDATE 2: looks like Google Pay Suica does not have native support for Suica Commuter Pass creation/renewal or extra functionality that Suica App provides to Apple Pay Suica users, also only a single Suica card per Android device is supported. Mobile Suica app to the rescue.
UPDATE 3: Android users who can’t use Google Pay Suica out of the box are losing their shit
The eMarketer blog post making rounds on Apple Insider and other sites basically says Starbucks in-app payments are bigger than Apple Pay and that in-app payments will probably grow faster than Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.
That’s not surprising for the American market where credit cards are the norm. There is no stored value card you can use everywhere for purchases and transit while racking up points, like Apple Pay Suica.
For people who use Starbucks all the time in-app recharge is basically a stored value card, it’s just not sitting in Apple Pay Wallet. And it’s a barcode (sigh). If a Starbucks card existed in Wallet, eMarketer would be reporting that Apple Pay is a hit.
Apple Pay Suica proved that small purchases are the no-brainer starting point for digital wallets. Anybody will use an app, or Apple Pay, to pay for the 3.05 cup of coffee because nobody wants to bother with coins. Nobody uses Apple Pay to purchase a 600 dollar couch.
The real golden uptake path for a digital wallet platform like Apple Pay is when it is matched with a stored value card that includes transit and purchase with points, in short a transit platform. America doesn’t have one yet so the in-app recharge with reward points approach will continue to be more popular than Apple Pay by itself.