Pixel 3 FeliCa details: eSE, NFC switching, missing global FeliCa

This is a place marker for Pixel 3 FeliCa details that will be coming in over the next few weeks after the new devices ship in America and Japan. I’ll update here instead of separate posts. Those details will give us a good idea of Google’s NFC 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?

This sounds trivial but we’ll find out how Google leverages the Open Mobile API in Android 9 Pie and how it relates to the eSE. If it is the former then Google Pay might finally be freed of its current dependence on the Sony/Docomo Osaifu-Keitai software stack. If the latter then Google Pay will be same silly candy wrapper UI that currently runs on Japanese Android carrier locked smartphones and we can forget all about a global FeliCa Pixel 4.

  • 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 know why Pixel 3 is not global FeliCa.

  • Does Pixel 3 have express cards with power reserve?

If Pixel 3 has Sony FeliCa chips, then power reserve is a given. If Pixel 3 FeliCa is a Google custom implementation then I suspect not and Pixel 3 Google Pay Suica will suffer the same OS version performance problems that Apple Pay Suica has on non-A12 Bionic devices. At least until Google can build, or pay somebody to build, a A12 Bionic clone.

Hopefully we’ll find answers and more as Pixel 3 teardowns and other details start hitting the web.

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