One day after exchanging my iPhone X for a new one that did not fix the iPhone X Suica problem it was back to testing beta software. Again. I sprinted through my golden circuit of error prone JR East station gates and the new iPhone X Apple Pay Suica left a sweet trail of flickering red transit gate errors. It was bizarrely comforting.
iOS 11.4 is already beta 2. I doubt there will be any improvement in the official release but I will continue testing and post any developments.
iPhone X Apple Pay Suica performance has become an endless joke without a punchline. At this rate I doubt we will see any Suica performance tweaks in remaining iOS 11 releases. iOS 12 will probably be the best hope for that.
I went to Omotesando Apple Store today and exchanged my iPhone X for a new one. The Genius Bar staffer was very kind, he watched my iPhone X Suica problem video portfolio and listened to my 6 month story. He ran the iPhone X diagnostic program again and tested NFC performance with a portable reader/writer,
He agreed that only Apple engineering could figure out if the Suica problem was hardware or software and said, “I think exchanging is a good idea. If you’re lucky it may fix the problem.” If only I was lucky…
I migrated Suica to the new iPhone X. I knew exactly what station gate to go to: Koenji station gate #1, the golden gate for reproducing the iPhone X Suica problem. Sure enough it gave me a nice cheery error flicker. Hello iPhone X Suica error, nice to see you. Again.
This is the one fascinating and infuriating thing about iPhone X Suica, some station gates like Asagaya gate #4, Koenji gates #1/#8, Ikebukuro Chuo exit gate #11, are prone to read errors, other gates are not.
Just for kicks I asked the station attendant if JR East had any kind of information desk I could leave my iPhone X Suica transit gate error information with. There was not. He said, “Different iPhone models behave differently but from the JR East standpoint all of our gates are qualified to one standard and are equal.”
That means the engineering ball is in Apple’s court.
In summary all I can say is this: exchanging iPhone X for a new one did not solve my iPhone X Suica error problem. If you have this problem, and there are some who experience it every daily commute, the only thing to do is try different transit gates to find the good ones and avoid the error prone ones. Until Apple fixes this issue which I assume is a software one, there is nothing to do but wait…and wait…and wait.
As a consolation prize I contacted Twitter user Kamikou to confirm if his exchanged iPhone X completely solved his Suica problem. It didn’t.
When you pass through transit gates in Japan they make a beep. Everybody knows that but did you know the number of beeps have different meanings? There are 5 basic patterns:
1 beep means the transit gate used your Suica Commute Plan
2 beeps means the transit gate used your Suica SF balance (stored fare)
1 long continuous beep is an error that means the Suica SF is insufficient to pay the fare and needs to be recharged, or your Suica commute plan is expired and needs to be renewed
5 very quick beeps means that Apple Pay Suica or Mobile Suica (Android) had a misread and might need to be tapped again (iPhone X Suica problem devices get this a lot)
The dreaded bing-bong sound is a full error that requires an attendant: wait for the gate to clear and try again or see the station gate attendant
In my iPhone X Suica problem video you can hear the 1 beep commute plan sound, the 2 beep SF transit sound and the 5 beep misread sound patterns. Listen carefully near the end to catch the 2 beep SF sound as iPhone X finally clears the gate, at the very end a bing-bong error sounds in the background from a nearby gate.
You can also activate 2 extra Suica gate sounds in Suica App > Notification Sounds:
The extra Suica App notification sounds are:
2 slightly longer beeps when Suica commute plan validity is less than 14 days and needs to be renewed before expiration (Suica commute plans are normally single beep)
3 beeps when SF balance is ¥1,000 or less. Most store readers support this sound too not just transit gates, and is quite convenient.
Both of these sounds are different enough from regular gate beeps to catch your attention, which is the whole point.
Suica sounds are just one of the many FeliCa feedback sounds used by the different payment networks (iD, QUICPay, WAON, nanaco, etc.). Suica sounds might seem trivial but they are well thought out: the sound itself, light but firm, insistent yet unobtrusive, it carries exceptionally well in noisy station gate areas. Suica gate sounds provide important feedback for users and station staff, and especially the visually impaired. Tune in and you hear what’s going on with your Apple Pay Suica card. Tune out and the Suica sounds fade seamlessly into the background, yet are there at a moments notice.