A Hong Kong reader steered me to the source used in the previous screenshot post, there is quite a lot of detail from this September 2 post on the Lihkg.com site. Apple Pay Octopus device specs listed there are in line with expectations, an exact match with Apple Pay Suica:
- iPhone 7/Apple Watch Series 2 (Japan models only, other iPhone 7 models missed out on FeliCa card emulation though they do work for iOS 13 FeliCa Read/Write)
- Global NFC models: iPhone 8/iPhone X/Apple Watch Series 3, or later
A machine translation of the Chinese suggests:
- Plastic card transfer and direct virtual Octopus card creation in Wallet supported, but unlike Suica Octopus plastic card deposits are not added to the balance when transferred to iPhone. The initial required balance for creating a virtual Octopus card is HK $100 with $50 as a deposit, shown in the screenshot. The Octopus deposit serves as emergency transit fare in case the Octopus balance is zero.
- Service fees for Apple Pay Wallet Recharge are unclear. There are service fees on Samsung Smart Octopus for Samsung Pay Wallet recharge with Mastercard and Visa cards.
I get the feeling that some of these details might be different for the official Apple Pay Octopus rollout, we shall see. The current OCL schedule will almost certainly be updated with the Apple Pay Octopus release.
The post also says that, ‘most of the original’ transferable services of plastic Octopus are supported on the virtual version such as Automatic Add Value Service (AAVS), using Octopus for building access, etc., the same as Samsung Smart Octopus where some services are not transferred automatically from plastic Octopus, such as MTR Park and Ride, and need to be registered manually to virtual cards.
Other screenshots from the same site show Wallet Recharge apparently limited to China UnionPay (CUP) branded cards for the beta test period but should open up with the official release. A new beta test version of the iOS Octopus app (v6) and creation of Adult and Elder Apple Pay Octopus cards is also shown.
All in all it is clear that testing is far along, remember that this all started back in December. Apple Pay Octopus is ready for the iOS 13 rollout.
Official service details from Octopus Cards Limited and Apple should be coming on, or shortly after the September 10 Apple Event. iOS 13 will be released on September 19.
Apple Pay Octopus Launch Day
The iPhone 11 Apple Event did not mention iOS 13 at all. Perhaps the simultaneous iOS 13 and iOS 13.1 beta release was unprecedented and too awkward to fit in the keynote. There was more riding on iOS 13.1 than people realized: highly anticipated items like Apple Tag were not mentioned even though there is plenty of evidence of it all over iOS 13.
The same is true for Apple Pay Octopus. The Apple Pay Wallet blurb has this transit card reference when the Region setting is Hong Kong: “Add credit, debit and travel cards to Apple Pay to make secure purchases and to use public transport”, both in the latest iOS 13.1 beta 3 and the iOS 13 golden master. This means everything is a go from iOS 13. Octopus Cards Limited (OCL) already announced “Octopus coming soon to iPhone and Apple Watch”on July 11 promising it “later this year.” We have some dates to consider:
- September 19 iOS 13 release
- September 25 Apple Pay Octopus release
There’s a small chance of an Apple Pay Octopus start announcement from OCL on September 19 iOS 13 release day, which is September 20 in Hong Kong. The actual start date will likely be offset a few days because there is huge pent up demand for Apple Pay Octopus. Apple and OCL would be wise giving their online system and support teams enough breathing space after the iOS 13 release weekend to avoid an Apple Pay Suica launch like meltdown.
In this scenario September 25 local Hong Kong time looks like the best target launch date for Apple Pay Octopus.
A press release from Apple would be nice but I’m not holding my breath. The days of announcements for transit additions to Apple Pay may be over. If the Apple Pay HOP service launch earlier this year is any indication, OCL should be lining up local Hong Kong media beforehand to cover startup day.
Keep an eye out for updates to the Hong Kong Apple Pay web page, it will certainly get the same Apple Pay Octopus artwork featured on the Octopus Cards Limited site at some point, and a graphic similar to the Japanese Apple Pay page outlining the different device support configurations for transit (Octopus: iPhone 8 and later) and payments (Octopus: iPhone 8 and later, or credit/debit bank cards: iPhone 6 and later). The Hong Kong Apple Pay NFC use device profile is very unique, there is nothing quite like it anywhere else.
9/15 UPDATE: Some readers have wondered if a later, as in iOS 13.1 later, launch date makes more sense in connection with a rumored October event. Anybody’s guess is as good as mine but there is no technical reason to wait. From the software side Apple Pay Octopus is ready to fly with iOS 13. It’s all up to OCL to push it out of the nest.
9/19 UPDATE: Octopus Cards Limited CEO Sunny Cheung said that Apple Pay Octopus would not launch in tandem with the iOS 13 launch on September 20, but would “start as soon as possible within the year.”
10/14 UPDATE: the October 14 update to Conditions of Issue of Octopus Mobile Device section added ‘wearable’, which means Apple Watch.
10/15 UPDATE: with no reference to Apple Pay in the updated Schedule of Fees and Guidelines, and only a hint of Apple Watch in the updated Conditions of Issue of Octopus, nor any sign of a launch announcement from OCL, yet another miss. Given the current situation in Hong Kong and long rocky road of OCL delivering Octopus on Apple Pay, time for me to get out of the Apple Pay Octopus prediction business. It will come when it comes. Until then stay safe and happy transit wherever you may be.