Why iPhone 7 Missed the Global FeliCa iPhone Party

Apple Pay Global FeliCa iPhone Chart

Many iPhone 7 users outside of Japan hoped that iOS 11 would enable FeliCa software on NFC-F hardware which all iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 have, so that overseas iPhone 7 models could join the iPhone 8/iPhone X global FeliCa party. iOS 11 arrived but iPhone 7 FeliCa remains a Japan model only feature. Why?

The silly reason is that overseas iPhone 7 models do not have the legally required Japanese MIC certification mark engraved on the case like the Japanese models. The real reasons are more specific:

  1. FeliCa on iOS is a custom implementation on the A Series Secure Enclave that requires iOS to be running and unique per device keys licensed from FeliCa Networks. Apple only licensed FeliCa Network keys for Japanese models.
  2. Apple did not want to spend resources obtaining new global certification plus the hassle of licensing keys from FeliCa Networks just for doing FeliCa in an older iPhone model

In retrospect iPhone 7 was a transition device to global NFC (A-B-F) model. The hardware was in place but Apple Pay NFC switching wasn’t ready in iOS 10. It took Apple another year to get all the software ready for global FeliCa in iOS 11.

If you have your heart set on using Apple Pay Suica when you visit Japan but don’t want to upgrade to a global FeliCa iPhone, Apple Watch Series 3 is the less expensive option.