Dear Apple Pay UI Team

Dear Apple Pay UI Team Members,

You seem to be having some trouble redesigning Apple Pay Suica transit cards in iOS 12.2 and iOS 12.3. As a daily Apple Pay Suica user since day 1, here’s some helpful criticism and feedback, just like Steve used to do back in the day. Here we go.

1) Basic Layout: why is the card art so large when it serves no real purpose other than identification? It can be smaller and still do a good job while freeing up lots of space for more important functions and actions, and less round trips to other card preference settings.

2) Latest Transactions: the basic UI for this section is OK, but icon sizes are too large and waste valuable screen space. Make them smaller so that more transactions fit in the same area. This allows the entire transaction list area to move down and make display room for more important information when needed. More on that in #2. Icon colors need to differentiate between the 3 basic Suica function types: transit, purchase and recharge. ‘Credit’ is not a good English term to use for recharge here, it’s too easy to confuse with credit card. And why is the transaction location so important that it needs to be listed first in bold? It’s secondary information taking up precious screen space. Primary information such as store names and transit routes make more sense here.

3) Commute Plan: The 2 most important UI functions of Suica card are recharging Suica balance and renewing commute plan. These 2 critical functions must be front and center in the Suica card UI. The regular Suica card UI gets this right while the commute plan Suica UI gets it wrong: the layout hides both recharge and renew functions down a level. People cannot find them. This is a design failure that needs to be fixed…like this:

This is what the Commute Plan Suica UI needs to look like, Latest Transactions need to move out of the way because they are secondary information.

4) Card Info is another mess. First of all why is a pull down refresh there? All Suica info is local to the card and Service Mode is the only way to force a refresh when necessary. Right? If it’s not serving any purpose, delete it. Important user settings are not prioritized or grouped intelligently, and hard to find. They need to be easy to find. And lose the duplicated recharge and renew functions. Putting those in 4 different places, each with a confusingly different UI design, isn’t helpful at all, it’s confusing the hell out of Suica users, young and old, newbies and old hands.

Condense all of the important items users need to find quickly onto the top half of a well organized screen…like this:

Remember that Suica is a prepaid transit card, not a credit card. It has very different functions, uses and feedback requirements. Focus on what Suica users need, anticipate what they want, eliminate everything else, and it will turn out well.

Love and Kisses,
Ata Distance

Advertisements

Reiwa Era Support in iOS 12.3

It’s nice to know that Apple is going to provide Japanese users with Reiwa Era support in iOS 12.3. It would have been extra nice if that support could have been in place for the actual start of Reiwa on May 1, but iOS 12.3 should be arriving in a few weeks. If this had been the China market instead of Japan, I’m sure Apple would rushed out a special update beforehand, but I’ll settle for a nice stable iOS 12.3 update. I have not tested macOS Mojave 10.14.5 beta for Reiwa era support, but assume that it’s there as well.

UPDATE
iOS 12.3 is out and recommended for Japanese iPhone users and Apple Pay Suica users, macOS 10.14.5 also supports Reiwa era

More Apple Pay Suica Wallet UI Tweaks for iOS 12.3

I wrote in my iOS 12.2 review that the new Wallet changes felt unfinished, and I was right. The constant Wallet UI tweaking of iOS 12.2 continues unabated in iOS 12.3 beta 4 Apple Pay Suica. The biggest changes are the elimination of separate info and transaction screens. All transaction are now on the main screen, and good old blue highlights are back on the card itself, but Wallet still retains the black theme. It still feels unfinished with more tweaks to come. Here are comparison screenshots.

Transaction details now show location details again, as they did up until iOS 12.2 beta 3, but 3D Touch is missing for ‘pop-up’ transaction details, and transactions cannot be swipe deleted like they can in iOS 12.2 (though they can still be swipe deleted in the Suica transaction list in Settings> Wallet> Suica, what gives?). Icon colors are less garish but only come in 2 varieties: transit and everything else. It would make more sense, and be much more helpful, to have at least one more color to distinguish between transit, purchase and recharge.

This constant hit and miss tweaking is very weird for Apple, almost as if the iOS 13 beta process started with Wallet in iOS 12.2. But I think it has more to do with the unfinished state of Apple Card and the new Wallet UI card design that Apple will probably announce for iOS 13. If nothing else it certainly suggests that the Apple Card UI is a rush job for a product that was pre-announced too soon.

Hurry up Apple, Zenrin still talking with Google Maps to supply Japan data

After Google dropped premier Japanese map data supplier Zenrin in March, Google Maps Japan quality took a nose dive as steep as Zenrin’s stock price. Nikkei reports a comment from Zenrin CEO Zenshi Takayama made at the shareholders meeting that the companies are still in discussions but had no specific details to share. It sounds like Google is discovering how much their Japanese map service needs quality Zenrin data to be a viable product.

Apple had better hurry to Zenrin HQ with a pile of cash if they want a chance to beat Google Maps quality is Japan. Apple Image Collection Vans are combing Japan but will never be enough. Google is learning that lesson the hard way.

UPDATE
Related coverage on the WWDC19 Apple Maps Wish List

SuicaEng vs Suica App Reviews and UI Design

App Store user reviews are not always about the app. They also reveal problems users are dealing with that might not have anything to do with the app itself. The differences between the SuicaEng and Suica app reviews on the US App store are interesting.

The reviews are less about the apps and more about using Apple Pay Suica, and for some any issues they have with it. In retrospect it would have been better if JR East had released SuicaEng app first on App stores outside of Japan for people who just wanted to add Suica to Apple Pay. Why didn’t Apple and JR East just put a Suica add button in Wallet and be done with it?

As the negative Suica App reviews make clear, more choices and functionality confuses users. Good UI design should only show what the user needs to see at any given moment. It’s a design issue covered extensively by Ken Kocienda in his excellent book Creative Selection when he was creating the iPad software keyboard.

In this case it comes back to Apple Pay Region settings, filtering out unnecessary choices and eliminating potential problems. If you live in America and want to add a Hop card on Apple Pay after it becomes available this summer, which Add > Card Type screen is less confusing? A bunch of choices that have nothing to do with the country a user lives in might look cool but are an invitation to trouble, like the negative Suica App reviewer who deleted $150 worth of prepaid balance but doesn’t know how to retrieve it. Clutter means user confusion and potential problems.

China transit cards can created in Wallet without using an app, so why does Suica require one? JR East played it safe by keeping virtual card creation on a separate app the user has to download, even though the feature could have implemented in Wallet. Doing it in an app also has the bonus of less complication by doing away with Region settings. Until Apple Pay Wallet comes up with a better way to add virtual cards from different regions without a Region setting, I think one time use apps like SuicaEng make sense, and keep support issues at a minimum.

I also like weird ‘SuicaEng’ app name. Most people assume that it’s just Japanese using weird English, but it’s a very conscious choice that has nothing to do with English ability. Japanese language loves to condense things and Suica + English = SuicaEng immediately sets the app apart from the full featured Suica app, while playing on the odd similarity: you can guess what the app is about without knowing anything about it. Most of all the strange name keeps it memorable.