Q: What is the iPhone X Suica NFC Problem?
A: It’s a iPhone X NFC hardware problem that causes reader errors and double reads on transit gates or store readers on a regular basis: on average 1 out of 3 NFC attempts is an error. See for yourself here.
Q: Can it be fixed?
A: The iPhone X production tally below points to a hardware problem affecting all iPhone X units manufactured before April 2018. Apple fixed iPhone X NFC hardware issues and all units made after 2018 production week 15 (April) are free of the problem. I call these NFC error free units Revision B iPhone X. Rev-B iPhone X units have error free NFC performance that is immediately noticeable.
Reader Feedback iPhone X Production Tally*
*Week 15 of 2018 appears to be the Revision B iPhone X switchover production period
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 indicates many people in Japan regularly search the topic.
Q: Why is it a problem with iPhone X and not iPhone 8?
A: Both iPhone models use the same NFC chip but the X logic board is considerably more complex than 8. It could be a logic board RF routing issue, an antenna specification problem, an interaction with other components on the device. Only the Apple Engineers who fixed the problem know the answer.
Q: Is this only a problem in Japan?
A: No, readers report iPhone X NFC problems with China Express Transit cards. In America iPhone X users report similar levels of errors and double reads but were unaware of the problem until they saw my posts. I experienced 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 SKUs 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 low performance EMV regular 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. A manufacture date is before April 2018 indicates 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 publicly acknowledge the iPhone X Suica/NFC problem. 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.
Apple Support does acknowledge the iPhone X NFC problem internally and will issue you an exchange based on 2 conditions:
- A wipe and restore did not fix your iPhone X NFC problem
- You encountered problems using your iPhone X for Apple Pay Transit in Japan (nationwide) or China (Beijing and Shanghai)
- From a reader who got an iPhone X exchange in the US: “tell them (Apple Support) to look up the internal support article on their iPad (in the store) that states issues with iPhone X for Transit in Japan and China. They found it in when I went to the Apple store in the US on their iPad.”
If you cannot connect your iPhone X NFC problem use case to Apple Pay Transit in Japan or China Apple will not give you an exchange.
If all goes well Apple Support will setup an exchange either at a Genius Bar or Delivery Exchange Service (Japan). Apple Support will have you test the iPhone X hardware via the built in diagnostics test and tell you the results show no problem. Repeat that you want to exchange your iPhone X anyway. Be sure to check the serial number of the new unit here to confirm it was manufactured after April 2018. If so, all is good.
Note 1: Apple Support does not usually stock international iPhone X models. It’s best to exchange in the same country that your iPhone X model was sold in.
Note 2: Users who update to iOS 12 and watchOS 5 report the following problems:
- Unresponsive Apple Pay Suica Express Transit cards at transit gates where Apple Pay requests a Face ID/Touch ID/Passcode unlock
- Transit gate error flicker
- Suica balance doesn’t update
Affected devices: iPhone 7/7 Plus (JP models only), iPhone 8/8 Plus, iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 2 (JP Model only), Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch Series 4. These issues are due to be fixed in iOS 12.1/watchOS 5.1 updates.
Q: Now that Apple acknowledges the iPhone X NFC problem internally, will Apple issue an exchange program like they did for the iPhone 8 Logic Board Replacement Program?
A: It took Apple 7 months into iPhone X production to fix the NFC problem. That’s a lot of iPhone X units to replace. Apple should be proactive but will not 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 Apple device to work correctly and Apple to fix it when it does not. I do too. Users and the western centric tech press outside of Japan seem much more willing to give Apple a pass on the iPhone X NFC issue.
I suspect there are frustrated engineers within Apple who know what the problem is but are being controlled by the marketing spin machine. If iPhone X users and the tech media made a big stink like the battery throttling issue Apple would probably do something, but with new iPhone models getting all the attention now, I don’t see that happening.