All The Proof You Need That Japan Has Left QR Codes Behind

MMD Labs QR Code Payment Survey

Rakuten Pay, Origami Pay and the soon to be released Docomo ‘d Harai’ are trying to convince Japanese users that QR Code payments are the next big thing. Good luck with that.


As I said before Japanese left QR Codes behind and are not coming back. The latest market survey data from MMD Labs shows that less than 2% of Japanese use QR Code payments. 4% are considering it. 50% could care less, and the rest don’t care either.

However now that there about 1.2 million Chinese living in the Tokyo-Yokohama area alone, I think Rakuten and Docomo are simply servicing their Chinese customers. It would be interesting to see if usage patterns change over time: will long-term Chinese residents drop QR in favor of Japanese FeliCa payment networks?


Last Day for Mobile Suica on KDDI au Flip Phones

End of service announcements from KDDI and JR East were made a long time ago but today is the last service Mobile Suica service day for KDDI au 3G Keitai ‘flip phones’. It was a good 11 year run.

KDDI au is pushing holdout 3G users to upgrade to 4G smartphones and be done with CDMA support once and for all. Too bad that the rumored Global FeliCa capable iPhone SE 2 isn’t out yet. SE 2 would be the perfect upgrade for Mobile Suica KDDI au users looking for a small inexpensive replacement device.

Japan is the Contactless Payment Turf War Epicenter

QR Code Nonsense
QR Code vs FeliCa

Japan is known as the perfect guinea pig market. Not too big, not too small, tightly integrated, it’s the best test market that exists. Japanese also love to fill out questionnaires, the only people on planet earth that do.

Japan is also the world’s most interesting contactless payment market. There are the large well established FeliCa payment networks that cater to Japanese customers (QUICPay, iD, Edy, Suica, etc.), there are a number of QR Code payment networks catering to ‘inbound’ Chinese tourists (WeChat Pay, Origami Pay, etc.), and now there is NFC Pay (EMV) that will cater to ‘inbound’ westerners in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Rakuten and Mizuho Bank have been promoting QR Code payments for Japanese but Japanese are responding, “what’s the point? QR codes are so 2008.” Twitter user Takumi sums up the Japanese viewpoint nicely:

Demerits of OR Code Payments

  • QR requires a good network connection
  • Slow transaction speed
  • Weak Security and QR Code Chinese payment apps keep transaction records in Mainland China
  • Device needs be on and screen active
  • No ‘on the spot’ refunds

Merits of FeliCa (NFC-F) Payments

  • Works without network connection
  • Very fast transactions
  • High security and transaction records stay in Japan
  • Device can be off (Android only) or screen off (Apple Pay Suica, Mobile Suica Android)
  • On the spot refunds

What’s interesting is that Global FeliCa support in iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch 3 lets anybody visiting Japan with those devices add Suica to Apple Pay and instantly enjoy the benefits of Japanese FeliCa contactless payments.

Apple Pay in Japan is the only place in the world where you can mix and match FeliCa and EMV payments side by side with the same device. That’s astonishing, and lots of fun.

Apple Maps Spot Check

Maps tell stories. A simple glance can tell us a lot: what does the map want us to see, what’s important, what’s not, what’s wrong.  Let’s take a look and see what stories Apple, Google and Yahoo Japan maps are telling us.

Yahoo Japan Map Default View

Yahoo Japan Map default view
Yahoo Japan Map Asagaya area

Yahoo Japan Map tells us about transportation. Main routes, train and subway stations are highlighted above everything else. Note that Kanji color is restricted to high contrast dark colors that stand out well against the lighter background, station names are big and bold. ‘Three C’ icons are banished, the cartography is a nice clean balance of a few major labels and icons (7-Eleven, city hall, public school, post office, hospital) that stand out nicely from the background.

Google Maps Default View

Google Maps default view
Google Maps default view Asagaya area

Google Maps has followed the Yahoo Japan Map use of larger Kanji labels for (Google designated) important points: stations, parks, temple, church, hospital, school, but city hall is missing. While the larger Kanji labels are great for Kanji legibility, Google botches it by using low contrast green, gray and blue Kanji colors, a no-no.

Another mistake is that major roads are indistinguishable from side roads, Why does Google think that parks are more important than train stations, main roads and supermarkets?

Last but not least it is unfortunate that Google is using more three c icons in default view. Google cartography was better when they did not.

Apple Maps Default View

Apple Maps default view
Apple Maps default view Asagaya area

Apple Maps does not tell a story because it doesn’t have one. Unfortunately Apple Maps cartography has not changed much from the horrible Justin O’Beirne lead cartography design that dates from the 2012 launch era and is long overdue for a makeover. Until that happens, here is some constructive criticism:

  • The default view is zoomed out too far to be useful
  • Follow Yahoo Japan and banish ‘three c’ icons from the default view. Three C icons clutter and distract instead of relaying useful information. Reserve them for user searches where they work best.
  • Do not use color Kanji labels
  • Increase the contrast on everything. Roads should stand out from background, main routes should stand out from side roads, stations colors should be red.
  • Use larger text sizes for important station labels.

iOS 11.2.5 Official Release Due This Week (U)

iOS 11.2.5 reached the end of the beta cycle with the beta 7 golden master system number 11.2.5 (15D60), The official release should come the week of January 21 (one week later than predicted)

Beta testing was a very good experience with improved Apple Pay Suica performance on iPhone X that eliminates transit gate error flicker and Suica mis-reads at store readers. 11.2.5 also fixes the Suica Notification bug introduced in iOS 11.2 as well as the recently discovered iMessage chaiOS “Text Bomb”.

If you use Apple Pay Suica on iPhone X  I strongly recommend updating to iOS 11.2.5 with the official release.