Pixel FeliCa outside of Japan hiding in plain sight

After posting about the global NFC possibility of Pixel 5 and Fitbit, a reader forwarded some interesting Pixel 4 FeliCa information. We all know the official story that FeliCa only works in the Japanese Pixel 4 SKUs and no other models. However, there are indications that Google installed FeliCa capable hardware in all Pixel 4 models worldwide all this time but only enables the Japanese SKUs.

The reader asked me to post some information so that we can find out the truth with help from other readers of this blog. We are looking for non-JP Pixel 4/4a SKU users who can tag read their Pixel 4/4a device with another Android device loaded with the NXP NFC TagInfo app downloaded from Google Play. The steps to do this:

  1. Install the TagInfo app, turn off NFC-A and NFC-B reads as we only want to read NFC-F tags (screenshot directly below)
  2. Tag read the Pixel 4/4a with the TagInfo installed Android device
  3. Take a screenshot of the NFC scan results #1
  4. Tag read the Pixel 4/4a a second time, take a screenshot of scan results #2

Read #1 (Before Enablement): If FeliCa is present the Primary System Code in the Detailed protocol information section should be 0xFFFF. Additionally, Mobile FeliCa 4.1 will show a pre-enablement IDm starting with 05:FE.

Read #2 (After Enablement): On a JP Pixel 4 in the screenshot below, the Common Area (0xFE00) will be present, and the Primary System Code will have changed to 0xFE00, that of the Common Area. On non-JP models enablement doesn’t happen, read #2 will match read #1.

Enablement means running the Osaifu Keitai app. Let me know by Twitter @Kanjo or email the following: (1) the Pixel 4/4a model, (2) if the read #1 result indicates FeliCa with System Code OxFFFF, (3) if the first 4 digits of the IDm begin with 05:FE in read #1. Both reads should look identical so also let me know if anything changes in read #2.

The Premise
What does it mean if all Pixel 4/4a models have FeliCa, does it change anything? It simply means that Mobile FeliCa is loaded and present in all Pixel 4/4a devices but Google only turns it on, and pays for, full activations on Japanese models. This doesn’t change anything in the short term. The real value is that it helps us understand what Google is up to and possible changes that might be coming later on with Pixel 5: i.e. global NFC just like Apple.

The Results
Readers shared results that indicate Mobile FeliCa 4.1 present in every SKU regardless of country and match the Japanese model ‘before entitlement’ state. Mobile FeliCa is ready but the entitlement step does not occur as some system parameter prevents the Osaifu Keitai app from running.

This means Pixel 4/4a all have the same NFC hardware and Mobile FeliCa software installed, but non-JP models block Mobile FeliCa apps from running. This would explain reports of Pixel 4 users rooting a USA SKU device, changing some parameters and running Osaifu Keitai.

As this is the basic state of things since Pixel 3, we can assume the same for Pixel 5. It also suggests that with Pixel 4 and later, Google has a backdoor option if they want to hit the FeliCa on switch with an OTA update.