The Information article quoted in reports by 9to5 Mac and Apple Insider is a strange piece. It reads like the reporters don’t know if they are writing about hardware or software. Their key take away is: “The change to the near-field communication, or NFC, chip, which is expected to be announced next month, could pave the way for people to use iPhones for other security-sensitive interactions, from paying transit fares and opening car doors to verifying their identity in other ways.”
Changes to the NFC chip? Apple Pay Suica and Apple Pay Express Transit cards for Beijing and Shanghai already pay transit fares securely…Hello? Benjamin Mayo muddies the water further in his sloppy 9to5 Mac post, corrections in parentheses:
The Information says Apple is keen on replacing transit cards…it has discussed plans (way back in 2014) with Cubic. In the UK, iPhone customers can already travel on the Underground just by tapping their phone on the contactless terminals (plain old cash register credit card EMV contactless not the native MIFARE based Oyster card system built and operated by Cubic). iPhone 7 (iPhone 8 and iPhone X) includes a FeliCa chip (wrong, Apple licensed FeliCa and implemented it in the Apple A-Series Secure Element combined with a NFC A-B-F chip from NXP) to achieve a similar result for the transit infrastructure in Japan. Both of these existing integrations rely on thin layers above the usual Apple Pay protocols to function (what does this mean? any idiot can say this and sound like an expert).
It’s clear The Information writers mean more functionality is coming for Core NFC which debuted with limited capability in iOS 11. Later on the article says, “Apple will launch the latest version of its iPhone operating system, likely called iOS 12. Users of most iPhones made in 2014 or later will be able to activate these capabilities through a software update.” Developers would be a better choice here: developers will create the new NFC savvy software users will activate via, one assumes, a more robust iOS 12 Apple Pay Wallet and apps.
What does this all mean? A list of NFC functions on the FeliCa Networks site suggest what may be coming to iOS 12 Apple Pay Wallet: members card with points and coupons, mobile keys, mobile ticketing.
Door locks….check. It would be nice to go outside for a walk without lugging my fathers overgrown key chain to buzz myself back into his apartment building. Apple Watch with a custom Apple Pay NFC card would be a welcome solution. Hong Kong residents already have this with the FeliCa based Octopus card, current Core NFC limitations could be one reason why Samsung Pay beat out Apple Pay for Smart Octopus.
Point cards…check. In Japan for example, JR East and WAON issue plastic member point cards so that customers can still get points regardless of the payment method: cash, card, digital wallet, etc. It’s a pain paying with Apple Pay while still having to dig a plastic point card out of the wallet standing in line at the convenience store with arms full of stuff. How nice it would be to have that JRE POINT card and more sitting in the iOS 12 Wallet with Apple Pay instead of bulking up my real wallet.
On the transit side Apple already has FeliCa (Suica, iD, QUICPay) and China Express Transit cards for Beijing and Shanghai with more coming. It would be great if iOS 12 NFC changes makes it easier to add other FeliCa transit cards such as Smart Octopus and MIFARE based T-Money (Seoul), Oyster (London) Clipper (San Jose) and Compass Card (Vancouver) or even the Singapore only CEPAS used in EZ-Link to Apple Pay. Native transit cards on smart devices are always going to be much faster and convenient than EMV contactless will ever be.