Migrate Apple Pay Suica • PASMO to new iPhone or Apple Watch

Apple Pay Suica•PASMO is different from Apple Pay credit cards in that the Suica•PASMO prepaid stored value is stored locally on the device and can only exist on a single device. Apple Pay credit cards can coexist simultaneously on iPhone and Apple Watch, not Suica or PASMO.

The Suica•PASMO Two Step
To migrate Suica•PASMO to a new iPhone or Apple Watch you must do two things:

  • Remove card from Wallet on the old device: On the old device go to Wallet> tap Suica•PASMO > tap ˚˚˚ in the upper right corner> scroll to the bottom>tap Remove This Card. Don’t worry, Apple Pay automatically migrates your card to Apple Pay iCloud and safely stores it for you.
  • Add Suica•PASMO to the new device: on the new device sign in with the same Apple ID, open Wallet, tap “+”, tap Suica, add your Suica.
  • Transfer Suica•PASMO from Apple Watch to iPhone and back again: for Suica•PASMO on Apple Watch users upgrading to a new Apple Watch and keeping the same iPhone, simply transfer the card from Apple Watch Wallet to iPhone Wallet with the Watch app before unpairing Apple Watch. After the new Apple Watch is paired, transfer Suica•PASMO back from iPhone to Apple Watch.

Make sure you do the above steps with a good network connection and outside of the 2am~4am JST Mobile Suica / Mobile PASMO system maintenance window. Don’t worry about losing your card SF account balance or commute plan information. Apple Pay iCloud and the Mobile Suica • Mobile PASMO systems preserve all of your card information. Just make sure that you are signed in with the same Apple ID on your new iPhone and that Apple Pay is turned on. If the add Suica•PASMO option does not show in Wallet, set the device Region to Japan, re-add Suica•PASMO, then return Region to your preference.

If the Suica•PASMO card number changes
The Suica•PASMO card ID number may change when removed and re-added to Wallet. Soft-linked Apple Pay Suica•PASMO services like EX App (smartEX and Express Reservation), Touch and Go Shinkansen and JR East Eki-net Shinkansen eTickets stop working when the Suica•PASMO ID number changes and users have to manually update the registration information to re-link services with the new ID. You can check the last 4 card number digits in the card information section.

If you wipe the old device, or forget to delete Suica•PASMO on the old device before setting up the new one and cannot find your previous Suica or PASMO, see Recover Suica•PASMO from a lost or wiped iPhone. Other topics can be found on the Apple Pay Suica • PASMO Guide.

The Return of Touch ID…or maybe not

Gruber finally clocked in on the Touch ID vs Face ID in the face mask era issue in his iPad Air review:

Will this Touch ID sensor in the power button ever make its way to iPhones? I think not…adding Touch ID to the iPhone power button doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Yes, across the world, many of us are wearing face masks whenever we venture outside the home, and Face ID doesn’t work with masked faces. (Some people report that it does work, sometimes, but it never works for me, and definitely is not officially supported.) But how would a Touch ID sensor on the power button work with an iPhone in a case? Most people use cases, and most cases cover the power button. That’s such a dealbreaker that I think the whole debate might end there. But even putting the issue of button-covering cases aside, how would Touch ID work alongside Face ID?

Practically speaking it would be nice to have Touch ID while wearing a face mask — trust me, I know — but conceptually it seems a bit mushy to have both Touch ID and Face ID on the same device. I think we’re more likely to see a better Face ID system that can identify us while we wear masks covering our mouths and noses than iPhones that have Touch ID sensors on the power button. If we, as humans, can recognize people we know while they’re wearing face masks, computers can do it too.

Gruber is pretty sensible up to this point but then adds:

Touch ID that somehow works through the display, not the power button — that seems like an option worth pursuing, conceptual mushiness of dual biometric systems be damned.

Conceptual mush. A reader quipped a good reply: “Just an incredible coincidence that a (dual biometric) thing Apple could have theoretically done today, but did not, would have been bad, but a thing he thinks they are likely to do in the future will be good.”

It’s too bad Gruber has never experienced Apple Pay Suica Express Transit, it would give him a better perspective and clarity on how big and important the Face ID vs Touch ID issue is for many iPhone users in Asian markets. As a regular Tokyo commuter I’m fortunate that Apple Pay Express Transit Suica makes Apple Pay on a Face ID iPhone tolerable when wearing a face mask, but the majority of Apple Pay users in Japan do the face mask passcode move.

Apple Pay launched after Touch ID for a reason: Apple Pay + Face ID/Touch ID is one complete thing. Apple Pay with passcodes is far more frustrating than a regular passcode unlock because it short circuits the entire Apple Pay experience and catches you at the worst moment when you least expect it, usually at checkout with the wrong Wallet card selected and people behind you. It’s so bad you want to go back to plastic.

There are no easy choices. An iPhone that does Face ID and Touch ID (in screen or button) would be expensive, risky, problematic and juggling both technologies would probably suck UI performance-wise. We don’t need a repeat of the 3D Touch misstep because of cost and/or not panning out because Apple didn’t think things through. I think Apple needs to see Face ID through.

The real interesting thing for me is what Apple is telling customers on its own web pages. For example the Apple Pay Japan page featuring PASMO and Suica only shows Touch ID for recharge, etc. It used to show Face ID too but that was removed with the Apple Pay PASMO launch refresh. Apple recognizes Face ID Apple Pay isn’t the best way to market Apple Pay in Japan right now.

Computers already recognize face masks, which NEC face recognition technology does very well. So the bottom line is…until Apple develops and delivers its own insanely great Face ID with x-ray vision, or licenses NEC face recognition technology, Apple Pay on Apple Watch is the way to go…regardless of the outcome.

Road to Super Suica: 2 in 1 shared infrastructure and mobile transit card expansion update

The JR West Osaka Expo 2025 transit vision looks exactly like the Super Suica one

The October 21 announcement from JR East-Hachinohe City-Northern Iwate Transportation is the 3rd Super Suica local transit card and follows earlier Super Suica local transit card announcements for Utsunomiya Light Rail and Iwate Transit Co. Ltd. These fit neatly into the narrow definition of Super Suica as a local area ‘2 in 1’ transit card within the JR East region that hosts different transit company commute plans and reward points on a single card. New FeliCa chips announced in September have new features like ‘Extended Overlap Service’ to support the ‘2 in 1’ model.

The real test of Super Suica is the wider definition and how it plays with both private transit companies inside and outside of the JR East (JRE) region, JR Group companies and what infrastructure resources JRE is sharing to eliminate needless duplication and save costs for all players. In the COVID era of constrained public travel, reducing costs while maintaining good service is more important than ever.

On the mobile front I think we can safely say that Mobile PASMO is an unannounced joint effort between JR East and PASMO Association. Mobile PASMO service and software is Mobile Suica dressed up in PASMO colors, the penguin character swapped out for a robot. The JR West announcement of Mobile ICOCA one week after the Apple Pay PASMO launch is no coincidence. The Super Suica mobile template is in place and road tested, PASMO and ICOCOA are the first 2 customers.

Who’s next? Junya Suzuki pointed out that Suica and PASMO together account for 80% of Japanese transit card issue, ICOCA added in makes that 90%. The next largest market and logical choice is manaca, the Nagoya area equivalent of PASMO. Forget about the Kansai area PiTaPa, the credit card as transit card concept was a bust and will likely never go mobile unless it’s repositioned as just a credit card. JR Central’s TOICA has deep pockets, and it’s said that TOICA runs on Suica servers, but JR Central has a sibling rivalry thing with JRE that might get in the way.

I’m taking a wild guess but I think manaca will be the next mobile service announcement with the Kyushu area transit cards (SUGOCA and nimoca) following soon after. The next development to keep an eye on is the ‘2 in 1’ Super Suica local transit card model and if other major JR Group members offer a rebranded version of it in their respective transit regions.

From a western perspective people wonder ‘why not just have one national transit card and be done with all this nonsense’. A national transit card has been discussed by various Japanese governments from time to time, and gone nowhere. The shared infrastructure Super Suica model that aims to lift all boats certainly plays more to the traditional Japanese business mindset. In these challenging times that can be a good thing.

Mobile ICOCA announced for early 2023 launch

Mobile ICOCA Announcement

That didn’t take long. When Mobile PASMO was announced in January this year with Apple Pay PASMO launching October 6, it was clear that a basic shared ‘Super Suica’ mobile infrastructure was coming together for a larger transit card rollout for ICOCA and other cards.

JR West announced Mobile ICOCA today for a March~April 2023 launch. Details follow the service outline of Mobile Suica and Mobile PASMO and I think we can expect the same kind of rollout: Android Osaifu Keitai first, closely followed by Apple Pay ICOCA and Google Pay. Kansai commuters will rejoice when they finally have the choice to add their ICOCA to a digital wallet. ICOCA is the Kansai region ‘Suica’.

It will be interesting to see if other transit cards like manaca will make an announcement soon. Suica and PASMO account for 80% of Transit IC card issue who have gone mobile, adding ICOCA would nudge that number to 90%. The next biggest card yet to go mobile is the Nagoya area manaca.

We all float

The float is essentially double-counted money: a paid sum which, due to delays in processing, appears simultaneously in the accounts of the payer and the payee.

Individuals and companies alike can use float to their advantage, gaining time or earning interest before payment clears their bank.


One of the great tragedies of the NYC MTA is that it’s a too-much-public-not-enough-private transit cash pipe with too much exposure to local NY politics. NYT has a wonderful video on YouTube that explains the critical MTA flaw: politicians cleverly borrow against the MTA cash pipe for pork barrel projects that have little or nothing to do with MTA, but leave it highly leveraged and helpless to fix it’s own problems or invest in infrastructure.

Think of what MTA could really do if it was effectively protected from political interference, with full control of its own money and a Suica-like transit+payment empire, free to use the float of all those MetroCards soon to be OMNY transit cards.

One of the many things never discussed about open loop is who uses the float, but banks hold the money until the user account is settled with the transit company and they take a cut of the fare. It doesn’t take much imagination to see why banks and credit card companies really like promoting open loop.

Closed loop Japanese transit companies don’t talk about the float either but Japan IC Transit cards are like micro bank accounts with unused e-money balance and plastic card deposits sitting in all those Suica, PASMO, ICOCOA, manaca, etc. Japanese transit companies love to put all those micro bank accounts to work earning interest.

Japanese transit companies and Hong Kong Octopus have built those micro bank account transit cards into a very nice transit payment platform business that combines transit, payments and other services attached to the card which means there’s a lot more stored fare floating around than plain old transit-only cards. The addition of digital wallets like Apple Pay Suica and Apple Pay Octopus means there’s ever more e-money moving through those cards with short term parking…more float for transit companies to earn interest.

It’s a wonder why more transit companies haven’t followed the transit payment platform model to capture more business in the digital wallet era, but it’s testament to how little control they have over their own business destiny. Next time when you hear the praises of open loop over closed loop, remember to think about who’s floating in that business arrangement…and who’s not.

Sorry Steve I’m not upgrading to iPhone 12

Japanese iPhone haters cira 2008, Wired updates to the original piece are hilarious btw. Photo by Danny Choo (dannychoo.com)

I’ve upgraded my iPhone every year since the Japanese debut. Yes, that infamous Brian X Chen ‘Why Japanese Hate the iPhone‘ 2008 Japan launch when a huge line ran from the Omotesando SoftBank store, past Yoyogi Park all the way to Shibuya. This year, for the first time, I am not upgrading.

This is not because of any iPhone 12 Pro shortcoming. It looks like a great device and I’d love the camera upgrade, but things have changed: Face ID sucks in COVID era Tokyo commuting, Japanese carrier subsidies dried up in 2018. We live in an unbundled world so I switched to a 3 year Docomo plan for iPhone 11 and Docomo stopped offering an upgrade program. Oh, and Yahoo Japan Auction went to the dogs long ago. Too many shady Chinese buyers with questionable Yahoo Japan mail accounts asking for direct deals and international shipping. None of this is allowed by Yahoo Japan Auction rules but if you ignore those pesky rule breaking requests they trash your Yahoo Japan Auction rating. It’s not worth the bother.

It used to work like this: 2 year subsidized iPhone contract, upgrade to the newest iPhone, unlock the old iPhone SIM and sell it on Yahoo Japan Auction, use the proceeds to pay off the remaining installment payments on the old iPhone. Rinse, repeat. That was then, this is now. I’ll wait until iPhone Face ID is joined with an iPad Air-like Touch ID side button. That is my iPhone upgrade criteria now because face masks in public are here to stay. It won’t come soon or cheap, but I can wait.

So my apologies to the iPhone guy in the sky. I’ve enjoyed the yearly iPhone upgrade routine over the years. My favorite remains the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone that really made the Japan market, a fun time. We’ll meet again at iPhone 14…or 15.