Apple Pay Suica Express Transit and Security


Express Transit is one of the great features of Apple Pay Suica. Apple support says,

If your Suica card is set as your Express Transit card, simply hold the top of your iPhone or Apple Watch within a few centimeters of the ticket gate scanner when you enter and exit. Your iPhone or Apple Watch must be turned on, but it doesn’t have to be connected to a network. You don’t need to wake or unlock your device or open an app when you enter or exit the ticket gates. You’ll see Done and a checkmark on the display.

This works for store purchases too. iPhone X users still getting used to the Apple Pay double click side button Face ID gesture really appreciate the simplicity of Express Transit Suica. Express Transit is also secure:

  • Suica can only hold up to ¥20,000 a day
  • Express Transit is not enabled until the iPhone passcode is entered and Touch ID / Face ID is enabled after turning on the device
  • Express Transit is automatically disabled when Touch ID / Face ID is disabled

The video below illustrates Suica Express Transit security on iPhone X:

  • iPhone is powered on, Face ID not yet enabled
  • Face ID enabled, Express Transit off
  • Face ID disabled via the side buttons, Express Transit disabled

As the video shows, Apple Pay Suica without Express Transit is awkward and stupid. Apple could improve the Apple Pay Face ID experience by making the default card selection more intuitive, or better yet automatically matching the right card for the reader.

One feature that Mobile Suica on Android devices have over Apple Pay Suica is that Mobile Suica works on those devices even when the power is off. The recently launched Smart Octopus service on Samsung Pay Galaxy phones works the same way. Transactions are limited when power is off but I prefer Apple’s more secure approach of keeping Express Transit off until Touch ID / Face ID is enabled.

Samsung also recommends keeping the device off because once the battery is completely dead, so is Smart Octopus. It’s the same for Mobile Suica on Android.fullsizeoutput_895c

Suica Auto Charge Security
Suica Auto Charge is one of the extra Apple Pay Suica features users can add with Suica App and a JR East View card. You might think that Suica Auto Charge used with Express Transit  is a security risk but Suica Auto Charge has some interesting security limitations:Apple Pay Suica Auto Charge

Auto Suica Charge only works on Suica and PASMO region transit gates. It doesn’t work on transit gates outside of the region, store purchases, vending machines, etc. This limits Suica Auto Charge to riding trains in the Tokyo area. If somebody swipes your iPhone only the Suica balance is at risk and you can disable Suica by putting iPhone in Lost Mode.

Update 2-27-2018: text edited for clarity and re-edited video clip.