The iOS 12.2 beta 3 developer release has some UI tweaks for Apple Pay Suica. It is a little less rough than previous beta versions but still has a curiously un-Apple and inelegant UI design feel. From what I have seen so far, iOS 12.2 is a step backwards from the iOS 12.1 design. Other observations: Suica notification shortcuts are still useless and the new notification font design is simply hideous. As usual I do not recommend using beta software, stick with the official releases.
If you were hoping for a streamlined cashless payment roadmap for Japan, forget it. Things are just going to get more complex as various reward point ecosystems (Rakuten point, d-Point, Ponta point, etc.) slug it out for dominance across smartphone apps (QR Codes) and digital wallet platforms (NFC). Mercari joined the fray with MerPay on Apple Pay, a virtual prepaid Mastercard provided via the Sumitomo Mitsui bank group and hosted on the iD contactless payment network.
Mercari was founded by a former Rakuten employee and follows their basic business model of hosting a virtual marketplace for buyers and sellers. The idea behind MerPay is that sellers can use money earned from sales or points via the virtual prepaid card for store purchases, Suica recharge, etc. Users can also recharge MerPay from a linked bank account.
Hachimaki san of Kanmu Ltd. has dug into MerPay details with a helpful flowchart.
JR East announced a special plastic Suica card for inbound tourists called “Welcome Suica” that will be available from September 1, 2019 at major Tokyo area stations and service centers. The main attraction according to the press release is that the Welcome Suica card does away with the ¥500 deposit, and the hassle of getting it back when leaving the country, but the card is only valid for 28 days from the issue date.
You can be sure that Welcome Suica cannot be added to Apple Pay or Google Pay and will strictly be plastic issue like Rinkai Suica and Monorail Suica. JR East also says that unused Welcome Suica balances will not be refundable but the unique card design makes a nice souvenir.
The whole thing sounds like it would have been a nice idea before Apple Pay Suica and Google Pay Suica, both of which let users to add virtual Suica cards without a deposit.
You might think that JR East has installed Suica gates in every station but this is not the case: as of 2018 Suica is installed in roughly half of JR East’s 1667 stations. The reason is cost. Unmanned stations have simple Suica gate readers but apparently the cost of these is an obstacle. Fast local processing is one of the advantages of Suica but I suspect the dedicated network backbone costs for linking and syncing with JR East servers doesn’t come cheap.
JR East is fixing the cost problem by developing a new cloud based Suica gate reader that can easily be installed anywhere. The trade off is slightly slower speeds, perhaps, with the benefit of lower installation and maintenance costs. JR East said they expect to reach 100% Suica deployment with the new model and hope to sell it internationally.
Now that PayPay has supposedly fixed all the security problems, and set some spending limits, they have have kicked off another 10 billion yen giveaway campaign that hopefully won’t melt down like the previous one. This time Reddit users are taking notice and have posted details in English. Happy shopping!