As I said before, this global FeliCa iPhone/Apple Watch and Apple Pay Suica thing is going to be fun, for lots of people. Frommer’s tweet perfectly captures the Suica + credit-card-from-home magic of Global FeliCa Apple Pay.
The English language version of JR Central-JR West smartEX, the Tokaido~Sanyo Shinkansen e-ticket service launched October 30. What follows is a simple explanation and review for Apple Pay Suica users.
To understand the good and weak points of smartEX and see if it’s worth using or not, it’s important to look at the whole EX system: smartEX and its older sister service EX-press Ride.
smartEX and EX-press Ride both do the same thing from the same EX system: provide ticketless Shinkansen reservations and purchases for JR Central (Tokyo~Osaka) and JR West (Osaka~Fukuoka). EX-press is the older of the two. From October 2017 the system was updated so that registered Apple Pay Suica users can ride the Shinkansen with just Apple Pay Suica. EX membership costs ¥10,000 and is aimed at frequent Shinkansen business travelers offering a variety of discounts.
smartEX is a new sister service that is free but offers limited discounts. The service is all about convenience over discounts and is aimed at the occasional traveler. Anybody with Apple Pay Suica, Mobile Suica on Android or regular plastic Japan Transit IC cards (ICOCA, TOICA, etc.) can register them for smartEX Shinkansen travel. You can also use the smartEX just for purchasing regular Shinkansen paper tickets that you pickup at the station.
To register and use smartEX you need 2 things: a Japanese transit card ID number and a credit card. Apple Pay Suica users must have Suica App installed to access their Suica ID.
I highly recommend preparing your Apple Pay Suica ID number before smartEX registration. Copy Suica ID in Suica App then paste it into Memo app. It will be one long 17 character alpha-numeric string starting with “JE”. Put a few spaces between JE and the following 15 character string so that you can easily copy just the last 15 characters without JE.
smartEX Registration in EX
Your credit card verification step experience depends on your credit card bank; it can be jarring jump to a web page within the app. The transit card ID registration step requires selecting first 2 letters in one field, followed by manually entering the remaining 15 characters of the code in a separate field.
Once registration is complete you can access and update your smartEX membership information in smartEX App. I highly recommend verifying your membership information in samrtEX App to make sure everything is correctly registered.
smartEX e-ticket Purchase
JR Central smartEX Purchase guide here
In the login screen enter your smartEX password. The main screen is the Reserve a train search screen set for the current time and place.
Be careful because once you tap Purchase e-ticket purchase is instant. You can change a reservation for free but a refund costs ¥300.
JR Central smartEX Boarding guide here
Once you have Apple Pay Suica registered and have purchased a Shinkansen ticket in smartEX all you do is enter the station gate and the Shinkansen ticket gate with Apple Pay Suica. The Shinkansen ticket gate will issue a ‘Seat Information’ receipt’, take the receipt and board your Shinkansen. At the destination ticket gate use Apple Pay Suica for exiting the Shinkansen gate and the regular train gate.
Be sure to hang onto the Seat Information Receipt as it may be valid for other transit from your destination station.
As the comparison chart explains, smartEX is not about cheap Shinkansen e-tickets. Discounts are small, almost full price although smartEX offers better discounts with round trip ticket purchases and advance ticket purchases. If you want the best discounts, buy boring old paper Shinkansen tickets at any discount ticket shop. Other weak points:
The current smartEX registration system has no way to validate Apple Pay Suica ID numbers or any plastic transit card. The only way to find out if everything works is the first time you use smartEX and Apple Pay Suica at the Shinkansen ticket gate. If the number is incorrect your trip ends there like mine did.
Apple Pay Suica users need to be extra careful of that transferring Suica from iPhone to Apple Watch can change the Suica ID number. You must update your Suica ID in smartEX App otherwise your Shinkansen trip will end at the Shinkansen entrance gate.
When adding Suica to Apple Pay it does not appear to load completely and hangs during the “adding/activating” process. This can happen when iPhone has a poor network connection. If Suica App is installed it may show a “C102” error.
If Suica does not completely load in 10~15 minutes do the following:
Leave Wallet in that state until 5am Tokyo local time
This allows Mobile Suica Cloud to completely load your Suica information during the 2am~5am maintenance down time.
Then do the following:
The steps are exactly the same as Suica migration to a new iPhone, all on the same iPhone.
When an Apple Pay Suica card stops working and displays a C110 error in Wallet try restarting iPhone/Apple Watch. If this does not clear the C110 error delete the Suica card from Wallet then reinstall it.
I use Apple Maps in the field occasionally but warily, like a dog that isn’t house broken despite 5 years of training, Apple Maps sometimes obeys, sometimes it pees on my leg. In a perfect world Siri would also obey but like one bad dog following another, when Apple Maps goes wrong, Siri goes very wrong.
I was in Nagoya recently to attend a friend’s wedding banquet at Castle Plaza Hotel. Nagoya, aka Toyota Town, is a big city that feels like a country town, everybody grew up there and love it. Landmark places like Castle Plaza are institutions (grandpa got married there) that everybody knows. Except Siri.
At Nagoya station I asked Siri in Japanese for “ Castle Plaza near Nagoya station.” Siri showed me some other places called Castle, none of them in Nagoya. Google Maps got Castle Plaza right away, so did Yahoo Japan Map.
The Apple Maps place card shows the place-name in English: “Castle Plaza.” Apple Maps Japan data supplier, Booking.com in this case, has not followed Japanese place name protocol. Google and Yahoo correctly list the Japanese name as “キャッスルプラザ,” which matches local signage.
Japanese Siri needs Japanese names to find things and it seems to be lurking somewhere out of sight in Apple Maps metadata. A dictation keyword search for “キャッスルプラザ” directly in Apple Maps finds the place, but the same keyword search in Siri does not.
Keyword searches are the trained seals of talking assistants, nothing is more basic: throw it a fish, it honks a horn. Even with an iPhone in Tokyo, keyword search finds the right Nagoya Castle Plaza in Google Maps, Yahoo Japan Maps and Apple Maps, but Siri honks the wrong horn every time.
This means 1 of 5 things:
1) Booking.com is not taking care of their Japanese metadata
2) Apple Maps is not taking care of their Japanese metadata
3) Siri is not taking care of their Japanese metadata
4) Nobody cares
5) All of the above
Take your pick. This is exactly the dysfunction described in Something Went Wrong in Siri’s and Apple Maps Development: One Last Time. Is Eddie Cue OK with a lousy Siri/Apple Maps experience in Japan? Is Tim Cook?
After 5 years they must have some idea of the problem. The only conclusion is that they are OK with it, Team Apple priorities are somewhere else.
If you have problems adding Suica to Apple Pay there are well documented tips on the Apple Support page Get help transferring Suica cards to your iPhone or Apple Watch in the “Try to add a Suica card” section.
The romaji name restriction is strange because your can use romaji for Suica card names in Suica App and you can enter romaji when purchasing Suica at the JR station kiosk. There could be some incompatibility between the systems.
The best thing to do if your iPhone cannot transfer plastic Suica to Apple Pay is to take your plastic Suica the nearest JR station and tell the station attendant that you want to re-issue Suica (with a Japanese name). This is also the thing to do if your plastic Suica card is the very old variety that iPhone cannot read. Re-issue of a plastic Suica at the station is free.
If you are trying to add a second Suica card to Apple Pay, make sure the name on the second card matches the first name on your My Suica and Commuter Suica card. If you have different names on multiple cards, download and register in the iOS Suica app, and call Suica Support at 050-2016-5077.
When you add My Suica or Commuter Suica to Apple Pay you lose the ability to add an Unregistered Suica. Basically you can only have a single Unregistered Suica in Apple Pay. Anything after that has to be a My Suica or Commuter Suica.
As noted above if you do not have Suica App and a Mobile Suica account the second Suica card name has to match the first. If you add Suica App and login to Mobile Suica you can edit card names.
Last but not least please remember that the Suica Support number is Japanese Language only.
Suica App C0007 Error
Another problem you might encounter trying to add virtual Unregistered Suica is a C007 Error shown below:
The C007 error indicates that you already have a Suica card that was deleted from Wallet but is parked on the Mobile Suica cloud. Suica App only allows a single Unregistered Suica card on the cloud or Wallet. The only thing you can do is go to Wallet and add Suica as shown in the 2nd step of the Suica Migration Two Step.