Juggling domestic and international App Store accounts in iOS 12

iOS 12 App Store limitations
iOS 12 App Store can update Apps from a secondary account but only App titles that exist in the main account App Store

I can’t find the link right now (found it) but some blogs reported back in early summer that iOS 12 iOS 11.3 gained the ability to update App Store content from 2 different account IDs, USA and international.

I have juggled USA and Japan App Store content since App Store day 1 2008. Updating meant constant logging out and logging in to different accounts manually, a pain in the neck that I grew accustomed to over the years. Things have slowly improved but seamless savvy domestic~international App Store switching is still not there yet in iOS 12.

iOS 12 updates Apps from both USA and Japan accounts but only for content that is exists in both App Stores. Any attempt to update Japan only content from Yahoo Japan, Docomo, etc., and the USA App store coughs up a ‘This item is no longer available’ error. Back to the old tried and true ‘log out of US store log in to Japan store’ update maneuver.

This kind of ‘USA English version first, internationalization and optimization later when we can get to it’ attitude seems to be getting worse at Apple instead of better. On iOS 12 alone we have Apple Music Japan content that still does not Kana sort, half-assed Apple Maps Japan content, no Japanese TV content what-so-ever even though Netflix Japan and Amazon Prime Japan are going all out. On the just released macOS Mojave 10.14 iMessages is still missing Location settings. The list goes on.

Apple likes to pride itself on being, slightly, ahead of the curve on software internationalization. Sometimes it is, sometimes not. Smart, savvy internationalization of OS, cloud and content services that lead the industry may not sound sexy or produce big profits, but they have a huge impact on product quality around the world.

Making Apple products the best possible products out there was what Steve Jobs was all about. Apple may be stumbling of late, let’s hope they remember their founder by putting all into the job at hand.

 

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Decision of the day

OK, you are the manager of the Kaldi Coffee Farm in the JR East Asagaya station Beans mall. Your store offers JRE POINT and is taking part in 3 day free 500 JRE POINT present campaign that starts Friday.

Today, Tuesday, is double JRE POINT day at Asagaya Beans mall. It is also raining which means foot traffic is down. Do you

    Offer double Kaldi Coffee points and screw shoppers coming for the free 500 JRE POINT campaign on Friday?
    Offer double Kaldi Coffee points on Friday so that shoppers get the girl, the gold watch and everything?

The answer of course is #1 screw the shoppers. Kaldi management must have graduated from the ‘dangle the carrot don’t let them eat it’ school of business.

Update: Interested piqued, I asked a Kaldi clerk if coffee double points would be in effect during the 500 JRE POINT Campaign. “We only do it on the 25th of every month, but sometimes on other (unannounced) days, it changes each month.” Other unannounced days…hmm. I then asked a Japanese friend to confirm things, “Kaldi has been doing that a lot recently. They used to have ‘store anniversary sale’ days on actual anniversary days but those are all unannounced now. I guess food imports business is not so profitable these days with the exchange rate so all the sales campaigns are unannounced. Maybe they’ll start announcing them again when they get desperate.”

Bingo.

Yumi Matsutoya Arrives on Apple Music

Talk about finally. Yumi Matsutoya, one of the biggest Japanese artists and J-Pop stars of the last 50 years, and one of the longest holdouts, landed with her complete catalog on Apple Music Japan this Friday. Her profile is listed on the Apple Music US site (Yumi Matsutouya). The catalog isn’t up yet but looks like it should be coming soon.

Japanese metadata tags are the usual Apple mess: the artist name in English instead of Japanese on iTunes downloads but proper Japanese on Apple Music downloads. The once proud iTunes Music Store is such a vestigial appendage to Apple Music, Apple clearly wants to kill it off.

Nevertheless this is great news for longtime fans. I know exactly what’s going to be playing the rest of the day.

A12 Bionic Bulletproofed Apple Pay Suica

Anybody reading this blog is undoubtably confused by the endless discussion of Apple Pay Suica errors and problems. Here is some explanation to help you understand them and how A12 Bionic in iPhone XS and iPhone XR solves them.

Apple Pay Suica problems are not problems with FeliCa technology. The problems are caused by the way Apple implements FeliCa technology on their hardware. Instead of using a real FeliCa chip from Sony, Apple created a virtual FeliCa chip on the A-Series chip with per device unique keys licensed from FeliCa Networks.

Apple’s custom implementation of FeliCa on the Apple Pay platform is clever and cost-effective in many ways but there are downsides:

  • iOS/watch OS has to be running for Apple Pay Suica to work. Japanese Android devices with FeliCa chips can still use Suica when the battery runs down.
  • Different iOS/watchOS versions affect Apple Pay Suica performance in good ways, and bad ways.

Apple Pay Suica Express Card Software Problems
Wireless radio technology like NFC, WiFi, Bluetooth and cellular is a delicate balance of software and hardware that often seems like a black art. A small code tweak or tiniest hardware flaw can easily upset the balance and wreak havoc. Remember the ‘you’re holding it wrong’ iPhone 4 anntenagate crisis? Like that.

Occasional iOS versions have caused Apple Pay Suica Express Card performance problems:

  • The iOS 10.1 Apple Pay Suica debut release worked pretty well but occasionally tripped up at transit gates, slamming them shut and forcing a re-read. By iOS 10.3 Apple Pay Suica performance was great.
  • The Apple Pay Cash iOS 11.2 release made life miserable for all Apple Pay Suica users. Apple fixed it with the iOS 11.2.5 update.
iOS Suica Express Performance Timeline
iOS Suica Express Performance Timeline 2

It’s happening again with the iOS 12.0/iOS 5.0 debut release. iPhone 8, Revision B iPhone X, Apple Watch 3/4 users are experiencing unresponsive Express Cards or just good old error flicker (Suica error correction algorithms on JR East transit gates are truly amazing BTW). Apple iOS engineers are on it and Apple Pay Suica performance bug fixes are due in the iOS 12.1 update.

Express Card Power Reserve Mode
Express Card power reserve mode on iPhone XS and iPhone XR lasts up to 5 hours. You can use it for transit, recharge and purchase.

The A12 Bionic Difference
This kind of Suica, “iOS loves me, iOS loves me not” version by version game is a consequence of Apple requiring iOS to operate Suica on pre-A12 Bionic devices. iPhone XR/XS users do not have Suica problems on iOS 12 thanks to the new A12 Bionic architecture and Secure Enclave that powers Express Cards with power reserve. Here is what we know so far:

The superior performance of Apple Pay Suica on iPhone XR/XS suggests that the A12 Secure Enclave and Secure Element layer loads FeliCa keys and code and uses them not only in power reserve mode but also for regular mode Express card operation completely removing all the iOS overhead and interaction for basic Suica operations. It is much closer to how a Suica smartcard works. This makes iPhone XS Apple Pay Suica ‘bulletproof’ to any given iOS version. It just works, even when the battery runs down.

Apple Watch Series 4 still uses the ‘OS has to be running scheme’ as the Apple S4 does not support Express Cards with power reserve. I think the Apple Chip design team must be working on a S-Series chip that will have the same features of the A12 Bionic Secure Enclave and Secure Element architecture. Express Cards with power reserve and bulletproof Suica will be a great selling points for Apple Watch in Japan when it arrives.

Most of this explanation is about FeliCa and Apple Pay Suica but the same methods can be used for all other middleware stacks: Express Cards with power reserve work with Apple Pay Transit in China.

The iPhone X Suica Problem
Last but not least there is the iPhone X Suica problem which I have covered extensively over the past year and is causing new headaches and confusion as iPhone X users run into new problems after updating to iOS 12.0. This is a completely different beast from all of the above, a unique and rare Apple failure unrelated to iOS or A-Series Secure Enclave architecture. The iPhone X Suica problem is a NFC hardware problem with iPhone X units manufactured before April 2018 and is fixed in Revision B iPhone X units manufactured after that date. Exchanging a problem iPhone X unit is the only way to resolve the problem. Unfortunately Apple is making exchanges very difficult for iPhone X customers with problem devices who need help. I hope Apple will come its senses and issue a repair program for iPhone X customers who really need Apple’s help.

UPDATE
iOS 12.2 improves Apple Pay Suica Express Card performance and fixes issues on non-A12 Bionic devices.

Choosing the right WiFi router for Japan

My father had WiFi problems in his apartment, too many dead spots for a decent FaceTime conversation unless he stayed tethered around the Comcast Xfinity WiFi box. Like most people my father likes to walk around and talk at the same time resulting in broken connections and conversations.

I picked up a Linksys Velop mesh WiFi router set for him while in the USA, turned bridge mode on his Xfinity box and plugged in the Velop router. It could not have worked out better. All the WiFi dead spots were gone, my father can FaceTime wherever he wanders. Velop truly ‘just works’ out of the box.

Linksys has been absent from Japan for some time but seems to be using Velop to dip a toe back into the Japanese market. Velop is a good product but I do not recommend it for WiFi use in Japan: it’s a poor match for the IPv6 protocols used by Japanese internet providers and the NTT backbone.

Goodbye PPPoE (IPv4) Hello IPoE (IPv6)
The problem with Velop is the same one I had with Apple AirPort Extreme (part 1, part 2): no support for DS-Lite and Map-E IPv6 protocols. IPv4 in Japan is like an old studio backlot, a bunch of false fronts with nothing but IPv6 behind them.

Unless EVERYTHING IPv4 is encapsulated inside IPv6, it doesn’t get priority routing at crucial exchange points between local area lines, the internet provider, or the NTT backbone. IPv4 in Japan is ‘tapped out’ and sits in a traffic jam on the local internet highway while IPv6 whizzes by on the IPv6 super highway.

All of the Japanese internet providers offer free ‘v6 Plus’ or ‘IPoE’ service options for connecting your home internet directly with IPv6. I highly recommend adding a free IPv6 option and either renting the WiFi router from the internet provider, or purchasing one. Don’t buy any WiFi router that does not support the IPv6 DS-Lite and Map-E protocols. The major Japanese WiFi home router manufacturers all support those protocols and maintain IPv6/IPoE lists of internet providers and services qualified with their WiFi equipment:

Always make sure your WiFi router is updated with the latest firmware.

If you are not a DIY networking guru, you can save time by renting a pre-configured WiFi router from your Japanese internet service provider. Rental prices vary, So-Net for example charges ¥400 a month. If you are in Japan for the long-term and futzing with internet configurations is not a problem, a good WiFi router investment from the list above can save you money.