Japanese IT journalist Junya Suzuki brings his clear-headed expertise and sources to explain what The Information’s muddled Apple to Expand Secure Wireless Chip Beyond Payments piece was really trying to say. It boils down to a simple graphic:
As Suzuki San points out the NFC Forum defines 3 NFC Modes: Card Emulation, Reader/Writer and Peer to Peer. iOS 11 Apple Pay supports Card Emulation and Reader/Writer but severely limits Secure Element access necessary for Card Emulation while Core NFC is just a limited Reader/Writer Mode sub-set. Suica App is one of the very rare 3rd party apps that Apple allows to access the Secure Element (SE) because Apple implemented a ‘virtual FeliCa SE’ in the Apple A-Series Secure Enclave.
This case-by-case special access in lieu of established public frameworks is one reason native transit card support in Apple Pay has been expanding so slowly and those China Apple Pay Transit cards are still in beta. The big WWDC18 question is how much will iOS 12 open Card Emulation access to the Secure Element for developers, in what way, plus all the other missing NFC Mode stuff, in Core NFC.
If Apple unveils a super beefy Core NFC at WWDC18 next week we should see expanded transit card support in Apple Pay and much more explained in earlier posts. New hardware is always welcome at WWDC but a robust set of NFC frameworks and developer tools that fully support all 3 NFC Modes with a high level of security will help ensure a vibrant growing iOS ecosystem in the long run.