My predictions for SmartEX and more transit cards joining Apple Pay did not materialize. My mistake was assuming the other transit card companies had, or could build, a cloud service like JR East Mobile Suica. They do not. The low tech 2007 era web browser sign up approach for SmartEX is proof of that but fear not, it turns out SmartEX got an iOS app after all: an updated EX App:
The missing Apple Pay support does not mean SmartEX will not get smarter. It will. The low bar launch is about laying a solid foundation. This is the Shinkansen, everything must work, evertying must be failsafe. That’s why we love using it.
One important thing to remember is that SmartEX also marks the JR group smartphone interoperability startup date: you can now board a Shinkansen in Fukuoka, ride to Tokyo JR station, transfer to regular train lines and ride to your final destination with just Apple Pay Suica, Mobile Suica Android, or any one of the major (plastic) transit IC cards. Watch the video to see Apple Pay Suica in action.
As SmartEX improves I hope JR Central’s TOICA and JR West’s ICOCA will join Apple Pay at some point. The key will be how fast JR Central and JR West can build a shared mobile service infrastructure to make it happen. They will have to move fast if they want one in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Here are some screen shots of the updated EX App and the SmartEX reservation process from the SmartEX page. I will post a full review later.