Now that all the iPhone 8 keynote predictions are in it’s helpful to summarize and be honest because nobody else out there is making this prediction for the Japan market: the addition of the other major transit cards to Apple Pay and NFC FeliCa support for all iPhone 8 devices worldwide. There are only three outcomes.
Scenario One: Nothing
A let down that leaves JR East Suica as the only transit card that matters. JR East won’t mind but the other transit card operators certainly will. The booby prize is that all major transit cards can be used by smartEX for Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen travel. JR group Interoperability means they can be used on the JR East Shinkansen trains too.
But wait, do you really think JR East is going to add manual transit card input options to the iOS Suica app when it already uses NFC? Or that JR Central is going to completely bypass Apple Pay Suica information and require manual input in their smartEX app on iPhone? I find that hard to believe which brings us to…
Scenario Two: Something
NFC-F/FeliCa is already in every iPhone 7 and will be in every iPhone 8 too but if JR East doesn’t want to deal with English language support when Japanese support is already stretched to the limit, Apple could keep FeliCa confined to devices sold in Japan for another year. But doesn’t turning off NFC-F violate the new NFC device certification rules?
Another possibility is that only the transit cards that can afford a mobile cloud ticketing system join Apple Pay. That would be JR Central and JR West. A cooperative like PASMO doesn’t have the money and expertise to build a Mobile PASMO.
But again this takes us back to the square one smartEX paradox: even with the limited details available it is clear that some kind of data sharing and IT system agreement is in place to get all 10 major transit cards to work for smartEX paperless ticketing. Taking the extra step to pay JR East to cloud host and get everybody on Apple Pay just seems like a no-brainer win-win.
If I had to choose between worldwide FeliCa (NFC-F) and all the major transit cards coming to Apple Pay, I would choose transit cards because the business opportunities for Apple are immediate and big. The pay off from global NFC-A-B-F is long-term.
Scenario Three: Everything
We get FeliCa on every iPhone 8, inbound Suica and all the other major transit cards join Suica on Apple Pay.
A wild card fantasy bonus: the smartEX app is an iPhone exclusive and Apple Pay finally gets full Japanese Visa support for transit card charging and everything else.
Have a happy keynote.