Good news for Yoshinoya fans, the popular gyudon chain announced they will complete their Suica/Japan IC Transit support rollout by December 2018. Apple Pay Suica users can whisk past the cash register faster than ever for a hot bowl of gyudon. The rollout started in August and has been picking up steam, 890 stores already have it.
Now that the standard iPhone X one year warranty is over (AppleCare+ still has a year to go) and important new product releases are out of the way, Apple has finally issued a replacement program for iPhone X, this one for touch issues:
- The display, or part of the display, does not respond or responds intermittently to touch
- The display reacts even though it was not touched
I had the “display reacts even though it was not touched” problem occasionally on my original NFC defective iPhone X device. What’s interesting to many online Japanese users is that no serial numbers are associated with the program which suggests the same display module component that causes the touch issue was used for the entire production run and that Apple isn’t managing production very well.
It smacks of “we don’t know good units from bad ones, but if you take the time to bring it to us, we might fix it.” This doesn’t sit well with Japanese customers who bought the top tier device from Apple. Unfortunately Apple has not issued a replacement program for defective NFC iPhone X Suica problem devices which also suggests iPhone X production was full of problems that Apple does not want to acknowledge or fix.
The Apple Wallet Ponta card launch at LAWSON presents another dilemma: just what exactly is Apple using for iOS 12/watchOS 5 Apple Wallet Passes and Student ID cards? Student ID cards and Apple Wallet Ponta have the same device eligibility specs: iOS 12/watch OS 5 running on iPhone 6 and later/Apple Watch Series 1 and later.
You might assume that Apple Wallet Ponta is FeliCa but the eligible device list tells a different story. You might also assume that everything in Japan is FeliCa but this is also not the case. Doutor Coffee shops sell a handy little Doutor pre-paid card that is MIFARE and it works flawlessly side by side with FeliCa flavored Apple Pay Suica on the same NFC reader.
Altogether we have an interesting spec list for Student ID and Mobile Ponta cards.
- The same eligible device specs that only support NFC A-B across all devices
- Stored value
- iOS 12 PassKIT NFC Certificates
- Local offline transactions
I’m calling it (again): the only technology that fits this profile along with Express Cards (for Student ID cards but not Ponta) is MIFARE
iOS 12 PassKIT Wallet passes are simply MIFARE. Only Apple could pull this kind of ‘under the hood thing’ off in iOS 12 without anybody suspecting and it neatly puts all the major NFC technology pieces on Apple Pay: EMV, FeliCa, MIFARE and PBOC China Transit.
Blackboard supplies the technology and backend services for Student ID cards on iOS 12. I contacted Blackboard PR to confirm if the card technology was FeliCa or MIFARE but did not receive an answer. However I did run across an interesting Blackboard press release from 2015 Blackboard and NXP Semiconductors Collaborate to Strengthen Campus Card Technology:
Blackboards’ push to adopt NFC in addition to their existing MIFARE-based solutions, back in 2012 showed incredible insight into the potential of this technology. The security, convenience and flexibility that NXPs NFC and MIFARE solutions bring truly reflect the student lifestyle. Now access to campus services can be simply enabled via a smart watch or smart phone.
Based on this and the fact that it came 2 years after a FeliCa demo of Blackboard Student ID cards with a rumored migration from FeliCa to MIFARE, plus the eligible device specs, my conclusion is that Student ID cards on iOS 12 are MIFARE card emulation which is NFC-A.
Wallet supports the value added service (VAS) protocol for transmitting data from supported passes to compatible NFC terminals. The VAS protocol can be implemented on contactless terminals and uses NFC to communicate with supported Apple devices.
This is also NFC-A. Contactless passes have been around for a while on iOS but adoption has been slow. With iOS 12 PASSKit, Apple is encouraging developers to migrate from QR Codes to NFC contactless passes and hopefully lowering the NFC Certificate requirement bar a little. Part of the reason for the slow uptake is poor NFC reader support. LAWSON has a new POS system built around Panasonic JT-R600CR readers which are Apple Pay savvy and Apple Wallet Ponta cards only work correctly when you tell the LAWSON cashier to use “Apple Pay”.
A highly trusted NFC engineering source contacted me that I got it partly wrong. The correction edit above explains that Wallet Ponta cards are Apple’s implementation of the VAS protocol and not MIFARE. Student ID cards are PASSKit NFC Certificate MIFARE card emulation, Apple has not publicly announced MIFARE support but it is the only technology compatible with Blackboard IC card formats that could power the express card features of iOS 12 student ID cards across all eligible devices.
Apple has announced support for Portland’s HOP transit card and Chicago’s Ventra transit card, both of which are MIFARE
The Ponta rewards card for Apple Wallet launched at LAWSON Japan right on schedule and without a hitch. iOS 12/watch OS 5 users with any Apple Pay capable device: iPhone 6 and later, Apple Watch Series 1 and later can add the Ponta rewards card operated by the Recruit Group to Apple Wallet and automatically earn Ponta points with Apple Pay purchases at LAWSON without having to use an app or show a bar code. Apple Pay purchases earn 4X Ponta points during the launch campaign running through March 6, 2019. You can also make purchases with Apple Wallet Ponta points.
NFC Apple Wallet passes are a new feature of iOS 12/watchOS 5. Apple is encouraging developers to use NFC instead of QR or bar codes for Apple Wallet passes, and has been showcasing contactless NFC passes at recent Apple Events. Ponta Apple Wallet hopefully marks the beginning of other NFC enabled reward cards such as JRE POINT joining Apple Wallet.
Create a digital Ponta card with iOS Ponta Card App then add it to Apple Wallet as shown here and in the above screenshots. Say “Apple Pay” to the LAWSON cashier and use Face ID/Touch ID with the card you want to use. Ponta automatic points don’t register with Suica Express Cards, iD or QUICPay, be sure to say “Apple Pay”. The reader does a double read, first for Ponta then for Apple Pay, so hold iPhone to the reader until it gives you a transaction complete sound, the linked Tweet video below gives you the idea. It’s slower than a regular FeliCa transaction because of the double read and the poky Ponta NCF-A protocol.
With a successful Apple Pay transaction the Ponta logo flashes briefly confirming purchase reward points, shown in the GIF Tweet, followed by a Ponta Wallet point summary notification. If you pay close attention to the GIF you’ll notice that LAWSON accepts NFC Pay in addition to FeliCa, iOS NFC switching in action again as Apple Wallet Ponta uses NFC-A. Whatever the NFC flavor is Apple Pay takes care of it, just as it should be.
— mas.a.shit (@UltimateEz) November 8, 2018
本日から開始でApple Pay宣言で決済と同時読み取りの「Apple Wallet Pontaカード」
— りーくん (*∂ｖ∂) (@r1kn1) November 6, 2018
Update: the LAWSON POS is built around Panasonic JT-R600CR readers which are Apple Pay savvy and Apple Wallet Ponta cards only work correctly when you tell the LAWSON cashier to use “Apple Pay”. Apple Wallet Ponta is Apple’s implementation of the VAS protocal for contactless NFC passes, reward cards, etc. and is NFC A. The Panasonic reader reads Ponta then selects the correct FeliCa payment method (Suica, iD, QUICPay). Users are complaining that LAWSON did not train store staff well but are getting up to speed quickly.
It’s rather unusual that a company would hold a press conference for a payment terminal but Daiwa House Group subsidiary Royal Gate Inc did just that last week for their new PAYGATE Station smart reader. Japanese IT journalist Satoshi Tanaka covered the rollout for IT Media.
The ‘thin client’ mobile Android based smart reader handles every payment protocol there is.
Contactless: EMV, FeliCa, MIFARE
Hardware: EMV IC, Magnetic stripe
QR Codes: D-Harai, Pay Pay, Line Pay, Ali Pay, WeChat Pay, Origami Pay, Rakuten Pay
Reward Cards: D-Point, Ponta, Rakuten
GMO Payment Gateway provides the payments processing backend for Royal Gate and Daiwa House Financial handles the business client support side. The product video shows the business target: small cafes, restaurants, boutiques. With the ever-widening rollout of EMV contactless and QR Code payments, Japan is turning into a very interesting and unique intersection point of Western EMV payments, home-grown FeliCa and China market driven QR Code payment schemes.
I don’t think having home grown QR Code payment systems around is a bad thing even though most Japanese don’t use them. The value is that it gives Japanese banks and companies a bargaining tool to use with Apple, Google, Amazon, Alibaba Group and WeChat. Never get in a sword fight without a sword.