iOS 11.3 Update Does Not Fix The iPhone X Apple Pay Suica Error Problem

iPhone X has been on sale for almost 6 months but the Apple Pay Suica Express Transit error problem still plagues Japanese iPhone X users. Unfortunately the iOS 11.3 Update does not fix the iPhone X Suica Express Transit error problem. Up to now I have documented it as a software issue, it’s time to consider faulty hardware too. Here is a timeline of error problem coverage so far.

iOS 11.0~11.0.3 (September 26~October 11): Apple Pay Suica Express Transit on iPhone 7 was as fast and reliable as the iOS 10.3.x gold standard.

iOS 11.1 (October 31): The first signs of trouble came from Japanese iOS 11.1 beta testers who complained that Apple Pay Suica Express Transit was slow or unusable. The official release on iPhone X was unreliable from the start: Suica Express Transit performance was so poor that JR East issued a Apple Pay Suica system notice on November 8 just 5 days after the iPhone X launch.

iOS 11.2 (December 2): The Apple Pay Cash release broke Apple Pay Suica even more: Apple Pay Suica notifications stopped working, iPhone X Suica Express Transit performance and gate errors became a real problem..

iOS 11.2.5~11.3 (January 23~March 29): the Apple Pay Suica notification bug was fixed in iOS 11.2.5 unfortunately Express Transit error problems were not and continue to be a performance issue with all 11.x  releases including iOS 11.3.

Living with the iPhone X Suica error problem seriously degrades the iPhone X experience:

  • Transit gate errors occur regardless of Suica card type, regular or commuter.
  • Transit gate errors occur regardless of transit mode: JR East gates, non-JR East gates and bus transit readers but occur more frequently at JR East gates.
  • The error pattern is the same for transit and stores: the first read is an error. Transit gates instantly reread and clear the error automatically most of the time. Store readers reread only by store clerk manual operation. In all cases the reread is successful.
  • Error ratios: 1 in 5 gate transits is error flicker, 1 in 10 gate transits is a full error,  1 in 2 for TMN UT1-Neo store readers used in CardNet and JSIC systems.

The problem doesn’t appear to affect all iPhone X Apple Pay Suica users but it is widespread. Complaints on Twitter and Japanese blog sites the past few months have been constant. Japanese iPhone X customers are frustrated at Apple’s lack of action:

AppleCare Response
Some customers have gotten a replacement iPhone X from Apple and report that it fixed their Apple Pay Suica error problem. Other iPhone X customers who requested a replacement from Apple have been denied and told that they are holding iPhone X incorrectly at the transit gate reader. Apple Pay Suica Express Transit gate errors can only be confirmed at a train station so Apple has no proof to back any rejection claim including the one that users are holding iPhone X incorrectly. The arbitrary rejection does not sit well with Japanese customers who used Apple Pay Suica on iPhone 7 without any problems or have long experience with Mobile Suica on Android.

Summary and Suggestion
After months of troubleshooting and testing I have no idea if the iPhone X Apple Pay Suica Express Transit error problem is a software bug or a hardware flaw. Apple is the only one who can answer that for Japanese customers but have not offered anything so far.

As Apple is not forthcoming with any information the only course of action for iPhone X users experiencing the Suica error problem is to contact Apple Support and request a new replacement to fix faulty iPhone X hardware.