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 this only a problem in Japan?
A: 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. The iPhone X NFC problem is an issue with all iPhone X SKUs regardless of region.
Q: Why are iPhone X users outside of Japan unaware of the problem?
A: It boils down to the higher use rate of Apple Pay Express Transit. It’s easy to catch the problem in the high performance, high usage Express Transit environment. It’s much harder to catch the problem 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 NFC defect until NFC fails completely.
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 NFC problem. Getting an exchange takes time, patience and tenacity. Apple Support does acknowledge the iPhone X NFC problem internally however, and will issue an exchange 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.