It worked out pretty well after all. Phil Schiller did not say anything in the keynote but global FeliCa did make it into iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3 and iPhone X.
Global FeliCa (NFC-F with licensed FeliCa middleware) for iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 joins NFC A-B for one seamless NFC world standard that has been a certification requirement for global NFC devices since April 2017. Apple already had FeliCa in iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 but only activated NFC-F for devices sold in Japan.
With all restrictions removed Global FeliCa means that ‘inbound’ visitors to Japan with the new devices can add the Japanese transit card Suica to Apple Pay for using Japanese transit or making store purchases. This also opens up FeliCa systems outside of Japan, such as Hong Kong’s MTR system and Octopus Card, and Singapore’s EZ-Link to Suica-like Apple Pay services in the future.
The whole reason for making NFC A-B-F a single standard was to let our smart devices solve things and ‘just work’ in every country instead of forcing local transit operators and vendors to install unnecessary or incompatible contactless payment infrastructure. NFC A-B processing time for example is too slow for Japanese ticket gates that are designed to instantly process fares in the busiest train stations (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Ikebukuro) in the world.
Long term implications are going to be very interesting. Even though Apple is not advertising it, putting FeliCa into every iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 will make FeliCa a NFC world standard on a level unimaginable, and unattainable up to now.
Put another way, there are lots of global standards which FeliCa was. There are also global standards that really matter. Thanks to Apple putting global FeliCa in iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3, FeliCa just became the latter.
The expanding intersection of seamless NFC, transit fare systems and contactless payments is just getting started and will play out in amazing ways.
A full analysis of global FeliCa iPhone and the new Apple Pay NFC switching features of iOS 11 is here.