Pixel 3 FeliCa details and Google Pay roadmap

Note: I’m updating and consolidating Pixel 3 information here instead of separate posts

Pixel 3 FeliCa related information is trickling in as devices get ready to ship. Pixel 3 details will give us a good idea of the Google Pay roadmap and answer some lingering questions:

  • Do Pixel 3 JP models have a Google custom FeliCa embedded Secure Element (eSE) implementation or use Sony FeliCa chips, and is the hardware the same across all SKUs?

The Pixel 3 JP models have a different hardware configuration. Google did the quickie solution of sticking a FeliCa chip in it, i.e. one Pixel 3 hardware configuration for Japan, another Pixel 3 hardware configuration for everywhere else. Not exactly the elegant long term vision thing that does not bode well for a global FeliCa Pixel 4: if Google is not creating its own custom Embedded Secure Element (eSE), the prospects of a global FeliCa Pixel next year are dim.

On the plus side Express cards with power reserve are a given as this feature already exists on Android Osaifu-Keitai smartphones with FeliCa chips. The down side is that this means Google Pay on Pixel 3 is exactly what it is on Android Osaifu-Keitai: a candy colored UI wrapper around the Osaifu-Keitai stack, an alternative front end. All icing, no cake. You get what Google Pay Japan supports but you have to add missing pieces like iD on your own. Even worse Pixel 3 apparently locks users into SIM free MVNO Osaifu-Keitai apps and their limitations, i.e. full Docomo iD support cannot be added.

  • Does Google Pay in Pixel 3 Japanese SKUs implement NFC switching?

iOS 10 didn’t have NFC switching support and was a big reason that Apple only activated FeliCa Apple Pay in the Japanese iPhone 7 and Apple Watch 2 models. NFC switching was necessary to support Global FeliCa iPhone 8 and later/Apple Watch 3 and later so that users could mix different card types (EMV, FeliCa, China Transit) in Wallet and have it all ‘just work’. If Google Pay does not support NFC switching then we have another reason why Pixel 3 is not global FeliCa.

  • Does Pixel 3 have express cards with power reserve?

As noted above Pixel 3 JP SKUs have a dedicated FeliCa chip like any other Japanese Android Osaifu-Keitai smartphone out there, the answer is yes.

Update: iFixit posted a Pixel 3 teardown, content and title updated

Update 2: the hardware for Pixel 3 JP SKUs has a dedicated FeliCa chip, major rewrite.

Update 3: Google Pay Japan on Pixel 3 is ‘pure’ Google Pay with the current limitations like no iD support and only allows installation of the ‘SIM Free MVNO’ version even on Pixel 3 devices from Docomo.

Update 4: None JP Google Pixel 3 models have the global NFC ready NXP PN81 but have not used it for FeliCa support, going with a separate hardware model for Japan. FeliCa Dude has posted some great information regarding the Pixel 3 NXP PN81 chip and Hong Kong Octopus card support