The Daily Grind

The above tweet, from an iPhone X Apple Pay Suica user I’ll bet, perfectly captures the frustration experienced by a daily commuter: “I want to quit Apple Pay Suica, it’s so slow, yesterday it didn’t work. Mobile Suica is useless if I have to worry about it every time I go through a gate.” Some users like this one encounter the iPhone X Suica problem every commute of every work day. Apple not doing anything to fix it tarnishes iPhone X at a time when sales are apparently not doing well. It kills the killer Japanese feature of Apple’s killer product.

The line between a boring daily commute and a horrible one is so thin it’s almost nothing at all. The woman passenger with long, lose not so clean hair (the longer it is the less women are inclined to wash it daily) that drapes across my face and backpack in a packed car and clings on my clothes long after the encounter. The delayed train platform crush, The rainy day stinky train car. Small things in the crush add up into a stressful commute day but there is nothing one can do about rainy days or somebody else’s dirty long hair.

iPhone X Apple Pay Suica is different. Customers buy one expecting Apple Pay Suica to work quickly and reliably just like plastic Suica does. Except that it does not. When that happens it’s not just another small thing that adds up into a bad commute day, it’s also another small thing that adds up with clueless Siri, bad Apple Maps and more, to a negative iPhone X customer experience. For a Tokyo commuter on the daily grind anything less than a flawless, reliable Suica is nothing at all.

One thing I can say about Japanese customers after living in the country for 30 years is this: Japanese customers are quiet, fair, possess a dry, critical but practical way of dealing with things and are hard-nosed, some of the most hard nosed customers in the world I think. They like what is good, dislike what is bad, and simply stop using something that doesn’t work for them. But once they feel betrayed by a product, they silently drop it and never come back.

Angela Ahrendts had said that Apple is going to reinvest in the Japanese market after coasting on it for a few years. Fixing Apple Pay Suica performance bugs in iOS 11 would be an cheap, easy and practical place to start.

And remember Angela, if iPhone sells well with Japanese it will sell well with Chinese too.