UPDATE March 2021
This post explains the iPhone X NFC problem tracked from the November 2017 launch through early 2019. Since mid 2020 I am seeing more iPhone X NFC problem search hits to his site and online references of complete iPhone X NFC failure. I suspect iPhone X is prone to complete Apple Pay and NFC failure over time. As the post explains, try to get an exchange if you can or upgrade to a newer iPhone model.
Q: What is the iPhone X NFC Problem?
A: It’s a iPhone X NFC hardware defect 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. Over time iPhone X NFC can fail completely. This is the NFC problem in action using Apple Pay Suica on transit gates:
Q: Can it be fixed?
A: The only way to fix it is to get a iPhone X exchange from Apple. The iPhone X production tally below points to a hardware defect in iPhone X units manufactured before April 2018. Apple apparently fixed iPhone X NFC hardware issues and units manufactured after 2018 production week 15 (April) appear to be free of the problem. I call these NFC defect free units Revision B iPhone X. Rev. B iPhone X units have superior 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 NFC 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 the iPhone X NFC problem only Japanese issue?
A: No, it’s a global problem regardless of the iPhone X SKU Model. Readers report iPhone X NFC problems with China Express Transit cards, iPhone X users in America report similar levels of errors, double reads and complete NFC failure.
Q: Why are iPhone X users outside of Japan unaware of the problem?
A: It’s easy to catch the problem in the high usage Express Transit environment. As Japan was the first country for Apple Pay Express Transit with a high volume of nationwide use, it is easier to spot. The iPhone X NFC problem harder to catch with occasional low performance store checkout Apple Pay use.
Q: How many defective iPhone X NFC devices are out there?
A: My rough estimate is that 40 million iPhone X units were manufactured up to the April 2018 defective free Revision B iPhone X change over. How many of those 40 million are defective? Only Apple knows. My take is that almost all of them are defective or fail over time but iPhone X owners are not aware of the defect until NFC fails completely.
Q: How do know if I have a problem iPhone X unit?
A: If your iPhone X has 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 NFC problem. Even with AppleCare coverage, getting an exchange takes time, patience and tenacity. Apple Support does acknowledge the iPhone X NFC problem internally however and has issued exchanges based on 2 conditions:
- A wipe and restore did not fix your iPhone X NFC problem
- You regularly encounter problems using iPhone X with Apple Pay Express Transit.
- From a reader who got an iPhone X exchange in the US in late 2018: “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 Express Transit use, Apple will not likely 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. In Japan the Apple Support specialist will give an exchange with a scripted tag line, “this is a special one time exception,” 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: Apple Support does not stock international iPhone X models. It’s recommended that you exchange iPhone X in the same country your device was purchased in.