Apple Pay Suica Self Checkout

JR East NewDays stores have been rolling out self checkout terminals which are very useful in small cramped station stores. If you have Apple Pay Suica avoid the cash register lines and give it a try. Just like any self checkout hold items up to the barcode scanner, tap Checkout/Pay on the touch screen and pay with Suica. The touchscreen offers Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean language options. My usual lousy video shows the process.


Why VISA Refuses to Join Apple Pay Japan

Apple Pay Wallet has an interesting animation that shows you exactly which card brands are supported in the selected region. The Japan region shows you: Suica, American Express,  Mastercard and JCB. No VISA. But wait, you can use JP issued VISA cards on Apple Pay with QUICPay and iD payment networks right? Yes but only on QUICPay and iD not for in-app and online purchases. This is why JP VISA cards don’t work for Apple Pay Suica Recharge in Wallet.

Apple Pay Japan VISA cards are ‘backdoor’ indirect support because VISA is required to support QUICPay and iD customers and licensees from previous agreements. To date VISA has yet to sign on officially with Apple Pay in Japan even though VISA issued a comment that they ‘hope to support Apple Pay Japan soon’ when the service launched in October 2016.

I have long suspected that VISA simply does not want anything to do with Apple’s support of the Global NFC standard put in place by the NFC Forum and GSMA/GCF in 2017. It’s not only Apple either. VISA refuses to support Docomo iD/NFC for Android Osaifu Keitai users abroad which Mastercard does. VISA simply wants to bide time until NFC Pay/EMV contactless support in Japan is everywhere and then simply ignore FeliCa (NFC-F) all together.

In short, it’s a power play to bypass FeliCa payment networks and grab a larger share of the cash register processing fee with payWave.

reddit user FeliCaDude has written extensively and authoritatively on all things FeliCa smartphone for a long time. His take on VISA’s Tokyo Olympic strategy matches mine, he also explains why Google’s HCE-F strategy for Google Pay in Japan is a dead-end:

If you want to talk about the Olympics, what you will see instead is more Contactless EMV terminals and Japanese issuers starting to issue Contactless EMV cards. That is the only thing acceptable to Visa and their huge piles of sponsorship money.

Google also has no interest in anything other than Android Pay. Their strategy will be to ride Visa’s coat-tails and wait for additional Contactless EMV deployment, at which point they will tie up with a major issuer and start Android Pay service in Japan. Currently what they have is a marketing sham that builds a thin veneer over Osaifu-Keitai. HCE-F cannot be used to emulate existing FeliCa-based payment systems because of the system code restrictions and lack of secure key storage.

Read the original posts on reddit, they are well worth your time. In Japan, aka the contactless payment turf war epicenter, the battle lines are stored value vs. credit card with stored value cards the clear winner so far. Let’s not forget there isn’t any money in Japanese merchant support of EMV contactless because most Inbound tourist business is mainland Chinese who only want to use QR code contactless AliPay and WeChat Pay.

It’s a shame but not suprising that VISA wants EMV contactless and payWave to be the only game in the world but that is just their business model. For transit systems there are better business models out there. Global NFC (A-B-F) is just a platform to build new kinds of business models on. Diversity is strength, and offers better business opportunities in the long run. Who cares about NFC flavors when smart devices take care of it all. It’s as simple as that.

Apple Pay Suica Spring Campaign 2018

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JR East kicked off their Apple Pay Suica 2018 spring campaign today, running March 19 to April 30. It’s an exact repeat of the 2017 spring campaign:

¥1,000 Cash-back when you renew an existing commuter plan or purchase a new Suica commuter plan.¥1,000 Cash-back when you purchase ¥5,000 worth of goods with a new Apple Pay Suica card, ¥2,000 Cash-back for clearing both.

That sounds easy. The tricky part is that you have to use the Suica App and have a Mobile Suica account to purchase a new Suica commuter plan or receive the ¥2,000 cash-back refund. JR East has a nice Japanese language page to walk you through the Mobile Suica account setup. My English Suica App guide is here.The basic process is simply registering your Apple Pay Suica number in the JR East campaign page. When you clear the campaign goals you receive the cash-back refund in the Suica App Suica Pocket menu. Use Suica Pocket to add the refund to your Apple Pay Suica card balance.fullsizeoutput_89e2.jpeg


Supply Chain Risk

Now that President Trump stuck a national security fork into it and ended Broadcom’s hostile bid for Qualcomm, it’s a good time to put politics aside for the moment and consider supply chain risk.

Japanese governments officials mention supply chain risk from time to time: who and what country makes the components and writes the software controllers that go into our smart devices and where the final products are assembled. How secure are all those components from all those places and what’s the risk? More than a few people have wondered if the NSA and other security agencies knew about and exploited the Spectre and Meltdown flaws and if Intel designed them on purpose.

It’s not only the hardware side either. In light of Apple handing over iClouds keys to the Chinese government software services also fall under supply chain risk: who holds the keys to our cloud data and digital wallet transaction records, where is it stored, how secure is it.

Huawei’s Jeff Wang, regional president for Japan and Korea gave an interview to IT Media in late 2017 for the Mate 10 Pro rollout. When asked if future Huawei models would incorporate global NFC, Wang said yes but explained that Huawei needed to build up their cloud service first to “support FeliCa”. In other words Suica and FeliCa credit card payment network support will be tied to Huawei Pay. It goes without saying that all the transaction data from Huawei Pay will be stored in China with the crypto keys held by the Chinese government. The same goes for QR Code contactless AliPay and WeChat Pay. Japanese are well aware of the risks:

Demerits of OR Code Payments

  • QR requires a good network connection
  • Slow transaction speed
  • Weak Security and QR Code Chinese payment apps (AliPay, WeChat Pay) keep transaction records in Mainland China
  • Device needs be on and screen active
  • No ‘on the spot’ refunds

Merits of FeliCa (NFC-F) Payments

  • Works without network connection
  • Very fast transactions
  • High security and transaction records stay in Japan
  • Device can be off (Android only) or screen off (Apple Pay Suica, Mobile Suica Android)
  • On the spot refunds

AliPay, WeChat Pay and Huawei Pay will never be taken up by Japanese customers no matter how much carriers or banks extol them or competing Japanese QR payment services, but they are not aimed at Japanese customers anyway. They are about capturing Inbound Chinese business leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It’s a given that Apple assesses and manages supply chain risk like all risks, but you can be sure it will never be discussed in the Apple Supplier Responsibility report. With so many supply chain eggs in the mainland China basket that is too risky, even for Apple.

Something Went Wrong in Siri’s and Apple Maps Development, Again

Tech writers keep coming back to Siri again and again. The latest being The Information’s scoop on, yet again, what went wrong with Siri’s development.

John Gruber on Siri September 2017:

Siri, as it stands today, is at best a halfway product. Again, I’m pro-Siri in the voice assistant debate, but even so I think it’s generous to describe it as “halfway”. The whole category is garbage, Siri included. And frankly, it just doesn’t feel like Apple has made as much progress in six years as they should have.

Something went wrong in Siri’s development, and it wasn’t the voice quality.

John Gruber on Siri March 2018:

The gist of The Information’s story is that Siri has existed for seven years without cohesive leadership or product vision, and the underlying technology is a mishmash of various systems that don’t work well together.

I wrote back in September that Siri’s and Apple Maps problems are one and the same. Gruber didn’t agree. That’s OK but the approaches and resulting organizational problems, where to focus and execute, really are one and the same DNA.

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To paraphrase Steve Jobs, yet again, mistakes and problems are not a problem if Apple can find ’em and fix ’em. There is an important point in The Information’s story that Gruber mentions but fails to recognize:

Several former employees said Mr. Williamson made a number of decisions that the rest of the team disagreed with, including a plan to improve Siri’s capabilities only once a year….Team members said they argued in vain that that model was wrong for Siri, which they believed needed to be an online service that continuously improved, not updated annually.

Siri and Apple Maps never learned to walk and chew gum at the same time. Improvements are kept for the annual WWDC rollout, a strategic mistake that only adds to the public perception that Siri and Apple Maps never improve, which is not true.

If Apple simply ditched the annual improvement cycle for Siri and Apple Maps public perception would change for the better. The real work is long term but fixable. Mobile Me was a disaster and iCloud had a difficult birth, but iCloud did eventually learn how to walk and chew gum. Siri and Apple Maps can too.