Adding Suica to older iPhones with Apple Watch Series 3 (U)

Here’s how to add a virtual Suica to an older iPhone from abroad paired with Apple Watch Series 3. Loading a physical Suica card requires iPhone 8 or above but you can get around this limitation with the JR East Suica app. It’s not especially tricky but there are some basic requirements and you have to follow a particular order of steps.

First of all a disclaimer: I do not own an Apple Watch and have not personally tested all of the steps explained below. Instructions are based on discussions with Apple Store staff, Apple Japan Support staff, the JR East Support pages (Japanese only), the experiences of others, and my own testing with Suica Apple Pay and foreign issued credit cards.

This explanation also does not cover the Suica app option of directly entering a credit card to create a digital Suica card which requires you to sign up for a Mobile Suica account. Mobile Suica accepts many foreign issue credit cards but Suica app is only available in Japanese. If you have any experiences of your own to share, please post them in the comments section.

Basic Requirements
You need to have a few things in place before starting. A quick preflight check list:

  1. An iPhone 6 or above running the latest iOS version that can pair with Apple Watch Series 3 also running the latest WatchOS.
  2. An App Store Japan or USA App Store account to download and install the JR East Suica app.
  3. A credit card that is already loaded into your iPhone Apple Pay Wallet. The card can be any Apple Pay compatible card issued from your home country.

Requirements when adding Suica

  1. Your iPhone must have mobile data turned on for Suica to work. If you plan to use Suica in Japan you should have a SIM card for using mobile data in Japan or have data roaming turned on. You need to have network access when adding Suica to Apple Pay, recharging Suica with an Apple Pay credit card or using the Suica app. After successfully adding Suica to your device you can use Suica transit with your device in Airplane mode.
  2. Make sure mobile data app use is turned on for Suica, Wallet and Watch apps.
  3. Make sure your iCloud account is signed in on iPhone with Wallet services turned on.
  4. Make sure you have a passcode set for both iPhone and Apple Watch. You can also use Touch ID on iPhone.
  5. Make sure that Bluetooth is turned on and your Apple Watch Series 3 device is paired with your iPhone.
  6. Make sure Apple Watch wrist detection is turned on.
  7. Make sure the Region setting for both devices is set to Japan. The Language setting can be any language you prefer.
  8. Download the Suica app.
  9. Launch the Suica app. Note that Suica app will only fully launch after successfully pairing the global FeliCa ready Apple Watch Series 3 device in step #5.

Adding Suica
Now comes the tricky part if you cannot read Japanese. Follow the screenshots and captions to create a new Suica card and add it to your Apple Pay Wallet.

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Touch the “Add Suica”button at the bottom right of the screen highlighted in the screenshot.
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In the next screen select the top “Suica Unregistered” option highlighted in the screenshot. This is the simplest option to create a Suica card on iPhone.
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Ignore the notices and touch the “Next” button in the upper right as highlighted in the screenshot.
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In the next two screens add the initial money amount to your Suica card account (SF) from your Apple Pay card.
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In the next two screens: first select Apple Pay as your Stored Fare (SF) payment method, then confirm that you want to add this Suica card to your Apple Pay Wallet.
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Last but not least you have to comply with the JR East Terms and Conditions by touching the “Agree” button highlighted in the left hand screenshot, if all is successful Wallet will notify you that Suica has been added to you Apple Pay Wallet as shown in the right hand screenshot.

If all went well you should now have a Suica card in your iPhone Wallet app setup for Express Transit. The last step is transferring the Suica card from iPhone to Apple Watch. Read the “Move your Suica from your iPhone to your Apple Watch” section of the Set up a Suica card in Apple Pay support page for details. The first Suica card added to Wallet will automatically be set to Express Transit mode. Those details on are the same Apple Suica support page.

Remember to keep the iPhone mobile data and Bluetooth services turned on. If you do not, Suica will stop working. Suica will be invalidated for security reasons if you do any of the following: sign out of iCloud, unpair iPhone and Apple Watch, turn off passcode on either device, turn off wrist detection.

Enjoy using Suica. Here are some related blog posts that might be of assistance.

Using Suica Apple Pay without Credit Cards
Suica Apple Pay in Airplane Mode
Line Pay and Suica Apple Pay

Update 2017-9-20
Removed Apple Watch Series 2 references and replaced them with Apple Watch Series 3.

Update 2017-3-31
You do not need to be on a network while traveling or using Suica Apple Pay at the ticket gate. You need to be on a network when recharging Suica with the Wallet app or when using the Suica app.

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What’s in a Comma? Unraveling the Mystery of iPhone 7 NFC, FeliCa Support

When Apple announced FeliCa support for iPhone 7 there was speculation that all iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 devices could, in theory, use Apple Pay in Japan. The reality is that Apple uses the same NXP 67V04 NFC controller in all devices worldwide but only activates FeliCa in devices sold in Japan.

The difference is confirmed on Apple’s iPhone 7 tech spec web pages in the USA and Japan.

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The USA site only lists NFC Type A/B support as expected but the Japanese site lists all the NFC flavors: Type A/B, and FeliCa.

Does this mean that iPhone 7/Apple Watch Series 2 devices sold in Japan work in the other Apple Pay countries if you load Apple Pay compatible cards issued from those countries?

The answer is yes. Apple Japan Support says that you need to set the Region preference to the country that the credit card was issued in, then add the card into Apple Pay. It appears that the correct Region setting is required to match the appropriate NFC signal (Type A/B/FeliCa) for the card when adding it into Apple Pay.

I successfully loaded my Wells Fargo USA issue Visa card into Apple Pay. Unfortunately there is no nearby store to personally test the setup but after a card is successfully loaded into Apple Pay the Region setting appears not to have any affect on the NFC signal: FeliCa Apple Pay works just fine with a non-Japanese region setting.

There are stores in Yokohama that accept NFC Type A/B  Apple Pay,  I will update this post after testing them.

Station Codes Arrive in Yamanote Line Trains

Station codes started appearing on the in-train information screens of the Yamanote line this week. As I said before, station codes, JY 17 SJK for Shinjuku, etc., are really designed as a convenience for visitors to Japan and not for the Japanese who live here. Station announcements on the PA confirm this: English announcements uses station codes but Japanese announcements do not.

fullsizeoutput_5fb9Tokyu in-train info screens (above) have been using station codes the past few months but they have not been added to PA announcements. I don’t think they will. All in-train info screens in Japan show information in Japanese and English. Station codes just end up as unnecessary screen clutter.

The whole station code effort feels like one of those 1970’s era UNESCO projects to solve a problem that isn’t a problem. Would anybody of right mind say, ‘Hey I’ll meet you at station JY 17 SJK’?  Of course not. ‘I’ll meet you at Shinjuku station’ works best, in any language.

Apple Pay Suica Express Transit & NFC Readers

Using the Apple Pay Suica Express Transit Card feature of iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 devices purchased in Japan is slick and convenient. It’s the big killer feature heavily marketed by Apple and JR East in Japan and fun to use for transit and store purchases.

The Apple Pay Suica support page store section states:

If your Suica card is set as your Express Transit card, simply hold the top of your iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus or the display of your Apple Watch Series 2 within a few centimeters of the contactless reader until you see Done and a checkmark on the display. You don’t need to wake or unlock your device or open an app to make the purchase.

In the field however this is not always reliable and depends on the kind of NFC reader and the store POS system.

The Good
Fortunately, most NFC readers are Express Transit card savvy. Tell the clerk you want to pay with Suica, when the reader lights up put your device a few centimeters away, it beeps a completed transaction and you are on your way. No need to wake the device, choose the Apple Pay card or use TouchID. It just works.

The Bad
Unfortunately some  NFC readers are not Express Transit card savvy. Be wary when you encounter the NFC reader pictured below. Seibu Ikebukuro and all the Tokyu Group line store readers force you to wake the device, select the Suica Apple Pay card and perform TouchID confirmation. On top of everything else, they are slow and prone to electromagnetic interference.

One Tokyu shop clerk inside Ikegami station told me to wait for the train to pass before paying with the NFC reader. She said, “This thing never works when the train goes by. You just have to wait.”

The Ugly
I have written about temperamental Transaction Media-Networks UT1-Neo NFC readers before. These readers are Suica Express Transit card savvy but are sensitive about how the device is held. I found they work best holding iPhone 7 a little further away and not too close.

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Panasonic NFC Readers
Panasonic makes some of the most reliable NFC readers I have encountered. On February 8 Panasonic took an unusual step of announcing a new NFC reader device, JT-R600CR. The new reader is FeliCa and NFC Type A/B compatible, it accepts any and all NFC and swipe cards if the POS system is plugged into the appropriate credit card networks. It is also the first Panasonic reader that is Apple Pay savvy  and will improve automatic Apple Pay card recognition on the POS side.

Panasonic is aiming this international savvy NFC card reader for the flood of overseas visitors for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Engadget Japan’s Junya Suzuki wrote a good Japanese article covering the Panasonic announcement.

Clearly, Apple Pay is already shaking up the Japanese contactless pay market.

TrueType GX Lives On in OpenType Variable Fonts But Will It Live On at Apple?

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Today is the last day of the JGAT page 2017 expo at Sunshine Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Attendance has been up this year and it was a good chance to talk with the major Japanese font vendors exhibiting there: Morisawa, Iwata, Fontworks, Screen and DynaFont.

The recently announced OpenType Variable Font (OTVF)  format is still too new for any product announcements but there was plenty of discussion on the floor from programmers. Fontworks and DynaFont spent a lot of time and money developing TypeType GX Japanese fonts back in the early~mid 1990’s QuickDraw GX era before Apple pulled the rug out from under them with the Copland termination in 1996.

They can now put that knowledge to good use. An ex-Fontworks programmer said, “If you know GX variable font tables it is pretty easy to add them in and create OTVF. I expect to have full prototypes up and running this summer.”

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Japanese OpenType Variable Font Samples

A Japanese Market Perspective
I wrote about Matthew Butterick’s wonderful Thoughts on OpenType Variations in an earlier post and want to revisit two points he made.

The Upgrade Problem: the Japanese font market is now 90% subscription based with package software less than 10% of font revenue. This evolved because of multiple, painful, and expensive font upgrades that Adobe forced on the Japanese market.

The subscription advantage for Japanese customers is they can download what features they want (Adobe Japan 1-4, 1-5 glyph sets, etc.) and get new font feature enhancements as part of their subscription. Font upgrades are no longer an issue for the Japanese market.

The OS Problem: I agree with Butterick’s analysis that OS support will make or break OpenType Variable Fonts. Apple’s unique position is that out of all the OS platforms, only Apple controls software and hardware across desktop AND mobile. I think the OS challenge also comes down to two issues.

Low Level API vs High Level API: I am not a programmer but it is clear that most macOS/iOS app developers do not bother with low-level CoreText to add advanced typography. A comprehensive high level, clean and simple API needs to exist for advanced typography support than encompasses OpenType Variable Fonts. Put another way, advanced typography support needs to simple and simply everywhere in the OS and in apps.

The UI: Apple Advanced Typography (AAT) has been on the macOS platform since 1997  but the UI to access advanced typography features simply sucks. People don’t use advanced font features because they don’t know they even exist. Apple needs to redo the advanced typography UI for macOS and come up with something for iOS that makes sense for mobile.

If Apple wants OpenType Variable Fonts to succeed on macOS and iOS, they have to solve both problems. It is also time for Apple to decide if AAT has a real future on their platforms front and center, or none at all.

A Japanese font programmer neatly summarized the problem at the expo yesterday, “Today if you want to use Open Type advanced features you have to use InDesign or Illustrator right? That’s not going to cut it for OpenType Variable Fonts if we want them to be mainstream. It has to work everywhere.”