iPhone X Suica Problem Q&A Exchange Guide

Q: What is the iPhone X Suica NFC Problem?
A: It’s a iPhone X NFC problem that causes reader errors and double reads on transit gates or store readers on a regular basis. See for yourself here.

Q: Is it a big problem?
A: Yahoo Japan and Google Japan Search Suggestions related to the iPhone X Suica problem are highly ranked which tells you that lots of people in Japan are searching the topic.

Q: Is it a software or a hardware problem and can it be fixed?
A: Evidence is building that it’s a hardware problem that affects all iPhone X production before April 2018.
It appears that Apple made production changes in April 2018 that fixed iPhone X NFC hardware issues. I call these NFC error free units Revision B iPhone X. Japanese readers report that Revision B iPhone X NFC performance is substantially better than problem units and immediately noticeable.

Reader Feedback iPhone X Production Tally (as of 8-16-2018)

Unidentified Production Week iPhone X ‘Day 1’ bad units: 2

2017 Production week ? (October) 1 bad unit/factory code (?)
2017 Production week 41 (October) 2 bad units/factory code (F2,?)
2017 Production week 42 (October) 5 bad units/factory codes (F1,F2,DN,?)
2017 Production week 43 (October) 2 bad units/factory code (F2, DN)
2017 Production week 50 (December) 1 bad unit/factory code (G6)
2017 Production week 51 (December) 1 bad unit/factory code (FK)

2018 Production week 1 (January): 1 bad unit/factory code (?)
2018 Production week 3 (January): 1 bad unit/factory code (F1)

2018 Production week 15 (April): 1 good unit/1 bad unit/factory code (GH)
2018 Production week 18 (May): 1 good unit/factory code (G6)
2018 Production week 20 (May): 2 good units/factory codes (DN,FZ)
2018 Production week 24 (June): 1 good unit/factory code (?)
2018 Production week 25 (June): 1 good unit/factory code (?)

Q: Why is it a problem with iPhone X and not iPhone 8?
A:  Both iPhone models use the same NFC chip. It could be an RF routing issue on the X motherboard, which is considerably more complex than 8, an antenna specification problem, an interaction with other components on the device. Only Apple Engineers know the answer.

Q: Is this only a problem in Japan?
A: No, there are reader reports of the same iPhone X problems with China Express Transit cards, readers in America with iPhone X USA models report experiencing the same level of errors and double reads but were unaware of the problem until they saw my posts. I also experience regular errors and double reads with my January 2018 manufacture iPhone X Suica Problem unit using Apple Pay in America so yes: I believe the NFC problem is an issue with all iPhone X production for all models before April 2018.

Q: Why is it that iPhone X users outside of Japan are unaware of the problem?
A: It boils down to using Apple Pay for transit. It’s easy to catch the problem in the high performance, high usage Suica environment in Japan. It’s much harder to catch the problem with regular low performance cash register Apple Pay use outside of Japan.

The Replacement Challenge
Q: How do know if I have a problem iPhone X unit?
A: If you use Apple Pay regularly on your iPhone X and experience reader errors and double reads on a regular basis check the manufacture date by pasting your iPhone X serial number here. If the manufacture date is before April 2018 you have a NFC problem iPhone X unit.

Q: How do I exchange my problem iPhone X unit for a Revision B iPhone X?
A: Apple Support does not acknowledge the iPhone X Suica problem or any NFC problem so getting an exchange takes time, patience and tenacity. You have to rely on your judgement because exchanging your iPhone X for NFC issues with Apple Support isn’t easy, though it is getting easier to exchange it in Japan.

First of all Apple Support needs a solid reason: “I keep getting reader errors when using Apple Pay on my iPhone X,” or something similar. Apple Support will then take you through a laundry list of things to do, you can save time doing these before contacting Apple:

  • Reset All Settings
  • Reset Network Settings
  • Delete/re-add Suica card or credit cards in Apple Pay Wallet
  • Apple ID Sign Out/Sign In
  • iPhone X wipe and restore

Be patient. Explain that you have tried all of these but they did not solve your iPhone X NFC issues. Apple Support will also explain that there is no guarantee exchanging iPhone X will solve the problem. Again be patient, confirm that you understand this but want an exchange iPhone X unit.

If all goes well Apple Support will setup a Genius Bar appointment to exchange your iPhone X. At the Genius Bar the Apple Genius will test your iPhone X NFC hardware and tell you the hardware test shows no problem. Keep saying that you want to exchange your iPhone X anyway.

Before exchanging your iPhone X tell the Genius that you want to check the serial number of the exchange unit. Enter that serial number here to confirm the exchange unit was manufactured after April 2018. If so all should be good.

Note: Apple Support does not stock all international iPhone X models, be sure to confirm if your model is available when exchanging outside of your home country.

Q: Will Apple issue an exchange program for the iPhone X Suica NFC Problem like they did for the iPhone throttling issue?
A: I don’t think so. It took Apple 7 months into iPhone X production to fix the NFC problem. That’s a lot of iPhone X units to replace. I suspect Apple does not want to take that step unless there is enough bad press to force the issue.

Also: Apple Pay usage rates are not that high. People don’t get passionately upset with poor NFC performance as they do with things like battery performance and throttling. In the demanding Japanese transit environment people expect an expensive device to work correctly and Apple to fix it when it does not. I do too. Users and the tech press outside of Japan seem much more willing to give Apple a pass on the iPhone X NFC issue.

If iPhone X users and the tech media made a big stink like the battery throttling issue Apple would do something, but I don’t see that happening. Apple will probably try to quietly ride the issue out as the public attention focuses on new iPhone models.