Somebody linked my Apple Pay Japan One Year Mark post on reddit, reading user comments there was fun. Most were “Apple Pay Suica is neat” variety but in true reddit fashion there were a few rants.
First there is the typical ‘why can’t Japan follow world standards’ complaint that’s pretty standard outside of Asia.
Japan was the first country to introduce osaifu keitai (e-wallets) for mobile contactless payments on Docomo feature phones starting July, 2004. FeliCa (NFC-F) was the technology behind it. The Nokia 6131 in 2006 was the first feature phone outside of Japan to use NFC (A-B). Next time you hear somebody complain about Japan ‘re-inventing’ the mobile contactless payments wheel, kindly remind them that wheel was invented first in Japan.
This complaint goes hand in hand with the ‘you can’t use proper Apple Pay here’ in Japan complaint. I guess NFC-F and FeliCa are somehow not ‘proper’.
The NFC Forum and EMV members could have added NFC-F during the NFC Forum sponsored credit card NFC normalization process about eight year ago. They did not choose to do so. Philips developed NFC-A, Motorola NFC-B, Sony NFC-F. World Standards are loaded with international politics. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that American and European interests chose to freeze Japanese mobile payment technology out of the game.
I’ll write more about Japanese NFC Pay support (paywave, Mastercard Contactless, etc.) in a future post.
The complaint about the richly diverse Japanese ‘e-money’ contactless payment network is an interesting one. It would be great to simply tell the store clerk ‘Apple Pay’ and have the correct Apple Pay card magically appear for authentication. Japanese carrier Osaifu Keitai already do something like this and automatically recognize the correct payment network. All smartphones need to work this way too.
But there will always be limits, what if you have two cards under the same payment network sitting in Apple Pay Wallet? iPhone X / iPhone 8 hold up to 12 Apple Pay cards, some manual selection will always be necessary.
The Suica Recharge complaint is fascinating. Suica not being a credit card and stored value is the very thing that separates it from the creaky credit card payments processing networks and makes it so fast with transactions. It’s also ‘safe’ and only holds what you put into it which is why so many Japanese love to use Apple Pay Suica as a kind of daily allowance card. Spending habits are highly personal. There are cash people, credit card people, and stored value card people too.
What’s right is simply what is right for you.
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