Samsung Pay Nabs Hong Kong FeliCa Octopus with December 14 Launch

There were many rumors recently that Apple was in discussions with the Hong Kong Octopus Cards Limited (OCL) operator to bring the Octopus smart transit card to Apple Pay. Octopus is based on FeliCa technology and a natural fit with Global FeliCa built into iPhone X, iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3 for an Apple Pay Suica-like service in the Hong Kong market.

However Samsung Pay has beaten Apple Pay to the punch, South China Morning Post has the details:

the minimum amount to add through the so-called Smart Octopus system will be HK$300 and there will be a 2.5 per cent service fee. The service will be available from December 14 for users of Samsung’s latest smartphones, Note 8, S8 and S8+.

The official Smart Octopus press release says service starts 9 am local time.

It will be interesting to see what exactly Samsung is bringing to the party and if they are providing any backend cloud services for a fast rollout. An independent locally operated cloud backend for Octopus will be important for providing the same service to Apple Pay and FeliCa capable Google Pay Android smartphones at a later time.

That said it’s great that Hong Kong transit is finally getting mobile smartcard service that Japan has had since 2006. Hopefully it will quickly expand to include Apple Pay and other digital wallet platforms.

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egword Universal 2.1 Open Alpha v304

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Monokakido‘s Hirose san is busy cranking out egword Universal 2.1 updates with new versions coming every few days, now up to v304.

It’s a great tool for beautiful Japanese vertical text layout. My only wish is for an iOS iPad version with robust iCloud Drive support so I can easily move from device to device. I’m pretty sure Hirose san is planning to add that as soon as he can.

Give it a test if you have time and send feedback.

Apple Pay Suica EX Quick Guide

JR Central offers the EX App for Shinkansen online eTicket purchases that can be linked with Apple Pay Suica for travel on Tokaido (Tokyo~Osaka) Sanyo (Osaka~Hakata) Shinkansen. EX has 2 different kinds of accounts that can link with Apple Pay Suica: smartEX and Express Reserve.

The 2 different kinds of EX accounts that link with Apple Pay Suica have some important differences:

  • Express Reserve: membership costs ¥1,080 a year but offers a wide range of ticket discounts. Registration is done via the Japanese language only Suica App and Express Reserve only accepts Japanese issue credit cards.
  • smartEX: membership is free but discounts are limited. Online registration is offered in Japanese language and English language and smartEX accepts a wide variety of credit cards from Japan and other countries.

EX App from the Japan App Store offers more features: Japanese and English support, login support for all EX services: Express Reserve (Express Card), smartEX and JR West Card, and Face ID/Touch ID support, but does not support direct account creation/registration.

EX downloaded on App Stores outside of Japan support smartEx account creation/registration in the app, but do not support or Express Reserve login or Face ID/Touch ID login.

All versions of EX do not support Apple Pay for In-App eTicket purchases.


smartEX Registration
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.

JR Central smartEX Registration guide here
The English language smartEX App registration process is different from the Japanese registration process: you do registration in the app itself.

  1.  Register name, birth date, email, password, credit card with credit card verification, and transit card ID. Be careful to copy and paste just the last 15 characters of your Apple Pay Suica ID explained above.
  2. Login with your password. Unlike the Japanese EX App, FaceID/Touch ID is not supported. However you can download and use EX from the Japanese App Store which offers full support and works in English.

Express Reserve Suica App Registration
Using Express Reserve with Apple Pay Suica requires a JR East View card or JR Central Express Card or Plus EX membership. This guide only covers JR East View card registration.

The Suica App sign up process is not difficult but requires decent Japanese reading ability, patience and a JR East View Card already registered in Suica App. With that in place and your 4 digit View Card PIN number on hand, tap the Suica App View Express menu, then tap View Express Register.

The View Express Register section will instruct you to enter 4 digits of your PIN number in a random order.

Once View Express Register is successfully completed wait 2 weeks for JR Central to send your View Epresss Express Reserve IC card.

JR Central IC
EX IC Card for View Card

After receiving your View Express IC card go to Suica App and tap Express Reserve. You are bumped to Safari and have to tap the agree-service connect button near the bottom. After tapping the button you are taken to the mobile Express Reserve login site.

Tap the text line just below the orange login banner that reads: “Mobile Suica users accessing Express Reserve for the first time touch here.”

This takes you through a quick registration process where you enter an email address and receive a mail with a special smartphone registration link. Tap the link then enter your View Card number/expiration date and a password. When completed you receive an Express Reserve member ID.

EX App
An interesting and important difference from smartEX is that registration via Suica App automatically registers the Apple Pay Suica card ID with the EX system.

Once registration is complete, use the EX App downloaded from the Japan App Store for Express Reserve Shinkansen ticket reservation and purchases. Be sure to login to EX App with your Express Reserve member ID and password using the Express Card sign-on option. You can also login with a smartEx account.

After login, Shinkansen eTicket reservation and purchase is the same. See the JR Central EX App online guide for instructions.

If you ride JR Central – JR West Shinkansen lines more than 1~2 times a year and have a View Card, Express Reserve ticket discounts are worth the registration via Suica App Express Reserve. Happy transit!

iOS 11.2 Suica Notification Bug

Update: Apple released the iOS 11.2.5 Update that fixes the Suica Notification bug on January 23. I recommend the update for all Apple Pay Suica users

Many more Japanese users are tweeting about the iOS 11.2 Apple Pay Suica Notification bug mentioned yesterday and appears to be widespread. Suica “gate flicker”, a momentary bad gate read or complete re-read, is also a problem for iPhone X users.

Here’s what I have found so far.

  • Not Working: Suica Notifications for Transit, Recharge, Transactions
  • Working: User set Suica Reminders for low balance and commuter pass renewal
  • Suica Help Mode, device restart, deleting and re-adding Suica in Wallet does not solve the problem
  • Apple Pay Suica works normally with all transactions correctly logged in Wallet.

I’ll post any updates and workarounds here.

UPDATE
iPhone X has a NFC hardware problem, for more information see:
iPhone X Suica Problem Q&A Exchange Guide (English Version)
iPhone X Suica問題Q&A交換ガイド(日本語版)

iOS 11.2 Update and Apple Pay Suica Issues

Every iOS update seems to affect Apple Pay Suica performance. For me iOS 11 still does not match the rock solid Suica Express Transit performance of iOS 10.3.x on iPhone 7. The iOS 11.2 update went smoothly for the first few days, then Apple Pay Suica notifications (shown below) stopped working the same time that Apple Pay Cash went live in the USA.

Apple Pay Suica Lock Screen Notification 2

Apple Pay Suica still works but none of the iOS 10 workarounds to revive Suica Notifications work anymore: Suica Help Mode +Restart, delete and reinstall Suica in Wallet, etc.

I also notice that after updating to iOS 11.2 iPhone X experiences “gate flicker”: the station gate flashes red for a fraction of a second then clears. The last time I experienced gate flicker was the iOS 10.1 rollout of Apple Pay Suica service in October 2016. I guess that means performance has regressed a bit and suspect it is connected to the NFC related issue mentioned earlier JR East store reader error notice.

Japanese twitter users are complaining about sluggish iOS 11.2 Apple Pay Suica performance, gate errors and the dead Suica notification problem appears to be widespread.

Hopefully Apple Pay Suica performance will get a proper tune-up in the next iOS 11 update.

UPDATE 1: Read about the iPhone X Suica Problem

UPDATE 2: It’s a hardware problem please see
iPhone X Suica Problem Q&A Exchange Guide (English Version)
iPhone X Suica問題Q&A交換ガイド(日本語版)