Special Suica Apple Pay Downtime Ahead of iPhone 8 Announcement

Signs continue to build for a major addition to Suica and Apple Pay Japan with the September launch of iPhone 8, iOS 11 and the JR Central SmartEX service rollout.

The usually empty Suica app notices section has two new notices, the first ever special Mobile Suica (JR East cloud side) downtime maintenance will take place 1 am~4 am on 9/4 and 9/11. This is noteworthy by itself but the second maintenance notice is unique and unprecedented: a 10 minute Suica related Apple Pay Japan (iCloud side) downtime maintenance window between 3 pm~5 pm on 8/30, 8/31, 9/1.

Suica charging with Apple Pay as well as Suica app services will be unavailable so be sure to charge up before the maintenance time window.

This maintenance is another sign that Apple and JR East cloud backend systems are being reconfigured to add the other major Japanese transit cards to join Suica on Apple Pay for the SmartEX rollout on September 30.

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Google Offs Suica Apple Pay

NHK reports that Google has apologized for causing the August 25 Japanese internet outage that brought down NTT Communications and KDDI backbone services, Suica Apple Pay/Mobile Suica, Line, Rakuten Securities, Nintendo Online, and a bunch of other major services.

Details are frustratingly vague with no trace of an apology on Google’s site. Bad routing tables from Google are mentioned as the cause on some Japanese blogs. Nick Heer is right when he warns of too much internet power being consolidated in the hands of a few American companies:

 Of the many serious flaws in the infrastructure of the internet is that most of it is powered by private corporations, many of which are based in the United States. Due to network effects, we have consolidated much of the web around just a handful of them: Amazon is the largest cloud infrastructure provider by far, Google dominates in many fields, over a quarter of the world’s population uses Facebook monthly, and Prince says that Cloudflare handles 10% of internet requests. As he says, they have very little accountability about what is and what is not allowed on their platforms. We have replaced many of the rights afforded to us in our own jurisdictions with the rights given to American companies.

There has to be a better solution. A press release apology from Google does not make up for all the lost work and investments of many Japanese. No accountability on Google’s part at all.

Suica Apple Pay Confirmed for SmartEX

After yesterday’s SmartEX launch announcement from JR Central, Japanese twitter users furiously analyzed and speculated over the meagre and vague smartphone details. What did it all mean? Can we use SmartEX and board the Tokaido Shinkansen with Suica Apple Pay?

JR East quickly confirmed support on the Suica Apple Pay Q&A site:

Q: Can I use Suica Apple Pay with SmartEX?
A: Yes, you can register and use your Suica Apple Pay with SmartEX.

Now that JR East has confirmed Suica Apple Pay expanding to another Shinkansen transit card system, will all the other major transit cards (PASMO, ICOCA, etc.) be supported by Apple Pay? The answer to that will be coming with the iPhone 8 announcment. This confirmation from JR East makes it very clear.

Suica Apple Pay, SmartEX and the iPhone 8 Connection (U)

SmartEX explantion
Exactly what kind of smartphone is that? The SmartEX explanation diagram does not explain much. I guess we have to wait for the iPhone 8 announcement to find out.

It was a busy day for all things Suica Apple Pay. Earlier today I wrote about why Suica Apple Pay is the only transit card that matters now because Suica is the only transit card system that works on mobile:“SmartEX

The important question is what do all the other transit cards do now. They will have to build their own cloud infrastructure, or they will have to cut a deal with JR East. They can also do nothing but with everything going mobile, they risk losing business to Suica.

Immediately after posting it two things happened.

  • Mobile Suica and Suica Apple Pay services stopped. Suica charging with Apple Pay and adding Suica to Apple Pay didn’t work. 5 hours later services were restored.
  • JR Central announced a September 30 start date for their SmartEX Shinkansen service which promises smartphone reservation and purchases along with direct Shinkansen boarding for all 10 major IC transit card systems including Suica. They also announced special ticket pricing when using SmartEX but released no details about what smartphones are supported.

It’s pretty clear why JR Central won’t release smartphone platform support details: the Apple iPhone 8 Keynote has to happen first and the Apple Pay section will announce the addition of the other major Japanese transit cards.

It’s also pretty clear that JR East cloud infrastructure will be playing a big role hosting the other transit cards for the launch. Today’s Suica service outage was just part of the preparations. I hope things will go smoothly here on, but we could see more Apple Pay interruptions on September 30.

Play it safe. Buckle up and make sure you fully charge Suica Apple Pay right before SmartEX launch day.

Update
Sankei News reports that a major internet outage hit Japanese backbone infrastructure related companies NTT Communications, and KDDI, and services such as Line the same time Suica was out. The Japanese government is investigating which is usually code word for cyberterrorist attack.

It looks like the JR Central SmartEX announcement was really coincidence after all with no connection to the Suica service outage. Regardless of the outage JR East Suica cloud infrastructure will undoubtedly play a big role as the other transit card systems have no mobile infrastructure and SmartEX Shinkansen is the first non-Suica mobile transit service.

In summary: Suica Apple Pay users should still buckle up on SmartEX launch day.

Suica Apple Pay Outage: Where There’s Smoke, There’s More Smoke (U)

Right after posting about Mobile Suica, Japanese twitter users started complaining that Mobile Suica and Suica Apple Pay charging stopped working starting around 12:30 pm. Android Mobile Suica users are also affected so this appears to be a JR East cloud outage affecting Apple Pay Suica service. Suica transit works fine and you can still charge your Suica device with good old cash at a station kiosk or the nearest convenience store. However you cannot add a Suica card to Apple Pay and the Suica app doesn’t work.

The last time a major Suica service outage occurred was the Suica Apple Pay launch last October. This glitch could be another sign that JR East is making big changes to their Suica cloud system in preparation for transit card interoperability and a lot more.

I’ll post any updates here.

Update 16:30: Apple Pay iCloud status is showing yellow with a start time of 12:30 pm Tokyo time.
Update 17:30: JR Central announced more details today for the SmartEX/Suica interoperability launch date now set for September 30. No coincidence. Something is up for an Apple announcement.
Update 18:00: Apple iCloud Status page lists all services restored now. If you tried to charge Suica Apple Pay during the service interruption you may need to reset Suica charging via the Suica app. Touch the red exclamation point (screenshot below) and follow instructions. You can also use Suica Apple Pay Help Mode.
Update 20:00: Sankei New reports that a major internet outage hit Japanese backbone infrastructure companies NTT Communications and KDDI, and services such as Line at the same time Suica was out. The Japanese government is investigating which is usually code word for cyberterrorist attack.

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