Rakuten Mini and me

I love shaggy dog stories, let me rephrase that, I love shaggy dog contactless payment user stories. Sutapa Saito’s Rakuten Mini saga is a fun read that covers the short 2 year life of his Rakuten Mini smart device. Rakuten called it a smartphone but as Saito san points out, it’s a lousy phone. It’s a great little Osaifu Keitai device however, that’s the size of Suica card with a little more thickness.

Saito originally got the device because he wanted a cheap backup Osaifu Keitai to dump all his FeliCa ePayments card onto (Suica, nanaco, WAON, Rakuten Edy) to use during the Cashless Tax Rebate program that kicked off just before COVID hit. It was fortuitous choice and he found that he used it a lot, much more than anticipated as contactless payments really took off during the double whammy of cashless tax rebates and COVID.

Since little devices mean little shitty batteries, by December 2021 Saito’s Rakuten Mini was living from plug to plug. He wanted to buy new one but Rakuten wasn’t selling them anymore. He ended up buying 4 used ones, you can pick up a used Mini these days for about ¥5,000. That’s a disposable price point.

He uses the Mini without a case and it fits in wallet, his real wallet, without the power on and simply taps the wallet to pay. No power, no mobile connection, all his eMoney cards in one ‘express mode’ device, in wallet. Saito’s piece illustrates some unique Japanese mobile user characteristics of juggling more than one device. This is because Osaifu Keitai is the world’s oldest mobile payment platform, since 2004. Mini is his eMoney wallet, iPhone is his phone and Apple Pay credit card Wallet.

The express mode payment Mini stays in his wallet, the Face/Touch ID authorization payment iPhone is standalone. It’s the kind of thing I can’t imagine westerners doing. It also illustrates some differences between using eMoney on Osaifu Keitai vs Apple Pay. All Osaifu Keitai eMoney works in Power Reserve Express Mode, Apple Pay only does that for Suica and PASMO.

With a growing selection of cheap Osaifu Keitai devices coming from China, Rakuten would do well to offer an updated super cheap Mini that fits in a wallet. A real wallet.

Rakuten Mini fits in Saito’s wallet, now that’s what I call mobile.