Rating Apple Pay Suica Performance in iOS 11.2.5

Japanese Apple Pay Suica users and iPhone X users are tweeting and blogging about the Apple Pay Suica performance improvements in the iOS 11.2.5 update. So far the reports are good. But how good is good and can it be even better?

iOS 11.0.x ~ 11.2.x Apple Pay Suica performance on iPhone X was a big step backwards from iOS 10.3.x on iPhone 7. There were three kinds of errors:

  1. Transit errors: the gate flashes an error and closes forcing you to wait a moment to let it clear and try again. The second try always works. Approximately 1 in 10 gate transits resulted in error.
  2. Transit error flicker: when you touch iPhone to the transit gate, the gate flashes an error but immediately clears. Normal Suica transaction time is under 200 milliseconds. With error flicker transaction time is about 400 milliseconds but the momentary error flash is irritating. Approximately 1 in 5 gate transits resulted in error flicker.
  3. Store reader errors: this was never a problem with NEC or Panasonic NFC readers but J-Mups and UT1-Neo NFC readers were a big headache again. Things were so bad that JR East issued a support notice. Every purchase with J-Mups or UT1-Neo was a two touch, or more operation.

During the iOS 11.2.5 beta test period and a weekend with the official release golden master, transit gate errors are a thing of the past. Store reader improvements are tricky because J-Mups and UT1-Neo are always finicky but performance seems about on par with iPhone 7/iOS 10.3.x

What about error flicker? This one is also tricky, and subjective. 1 in 20 6 feels about right. An interesting aside is that error flickers in iOS 11.2.5 only happen on JR East gates, not on other rail line or subway gates.

If iPhone 7 on iOS 10.3.x is the gold standard Apple Pay Suica benchmark, a 10, then iOS 11.2.5 on iPhone X rates an 7. Apple needs to improve Apple Pay Suica Express Transit performance. An 11 rating for Apple Pay Suica on all devices running iOS 11 would be a great and welcome achievement.

UPDATE: because of the annoying iPhone X Suica problem, I’m downgrading my original 9 rating to 0 for iPhone X, iPhone X Suica performance is a failure. The 9 rating remains in place for iPhone 8/8 Plus.