Tracking the iPhone X Suica Problem

To be fair to Apple engineers who track and debug iPhone X NFC problems, it has to be one of the hardest jobs to do because the normal syslog capture is unlikely to contain anything useful. Filing the usual Apple Bug Radar doesn’t help. Take a good look at the JR East gate errors in my iPhone X Suica Problem video:

In all error cases the iPhone X screen shows the ‘all done’ check mark: iPhone X says ‘everything is OK’, the gate reader says ‘try again’. It’s a 2 way interaction. Apple engineers need both device logs and any SEP (Security Exchange Protocol) information they can get their hands on to find out what is going wrong with the iPhone X NFC. Unfortunately this deep geek kind of information can only be captured on site by a field test engineer working with counterpart system engineers from JR East and all. Last time I checked Apple was still advertising for one in Japan.

On the bright side Apple engineers seem to have already fixed the iPhone X NFC problem with some kind of hardware tweak to later iPhone X production. The bad news is there is no reliable way to obtain a ‘Revision B’ iPhone X. When I exchanged my ‘Day 1’ iPhone X for another Day 1 iPhone X at the Tokyo Omotesando Genius Bar, none of the Apple Tech support people had ever heard of the iPhone X Suica problem (yeah, right) and the Genius guy NFC diagnostic check was very rudimentary: a USB card reader attached to a MacBook confirming a simple NFC signal just like a cash register, not a transit gate.

In order for Apple to help customers with the iPhone X Suica problem Apple Support  needs to do the following:

  • Stop playing dumb: support staff should be briefed on the problem and acknowledge it with customers who need assistance.
  • A reliable on-site diagnostic check or some other method to quickly identify bad units as the current tools cannot detect faulty NFC on Day 1 iPhone X units.
  • Maintain a good supply of clearly identified Revision B iPhone X exchange stock.

It would be great if Apple comes to their senses and does the right thing for iPhone X customers who use transit cards and experience iPhone X NFC hardware problems. Unfortunately all Apple has offered is complete silence, playing dumb with everyone who needs help.

Until there is news from Apple regarding the iPhone X Suica problem there isn’t any more to write about and I’m just a voice in the wilderness: the iPhone X Suica problem has not gained any traction with the tech press in America or Japan. I guess this will be my last post on the subject for a while. I hope I am wrong but it could be a very long wait.

UPDATE: I have a manufacture date benchmark to test the Revision B iPhone X theory: iPhone X units manufactured on or after production week 18 (April) 2018 appear to be free of the iPhone X Suica problem. Details here.

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