Multi-device provisioning iOS 17 Wallet kills off Suica 2-step for good

The Apple support pages for adding transit cards and e-Money cards has a completely new updated section for transferring cards to a new iPhone: iOS 17 Setup Assistant automatically transfers the cards for you, there is also a completely new section to transfer cards manually in Wallet app.

The pre-iOS 17 way to transfer cards is very different. Transfer is manual only, Setup Assistant does not move transit cards automatically, and in Wallet app you have to remove the transit (or e-Money card) from the old device first, before it will appear in Previous Cards ready to be added to the new device.

In iOS 17 Wallet the first thing you see is all the cards on your other devices, a paired Apple Watch or the old iPhone if you are setting up new iPhone Wallet:

This is multi-device provisioning, a new iOS 17 Wallet feature that Apple isn’t promoting very much because all the action happens behind the scenes. Make no mistake though, this is a game changer because it eliminates a whole mountain range of confusion when transferring stored value cards. Stored value cards keep the balance on the card itself so they can only exist on a single device. The truth is in the card, not the cloud.

This has caused a lot of confusion and frustration over the years for Apple Pay Suica users who assumed that Suica cards work like credit cards, then panicked when they upgraded to a new iPhone with Quick Start Setup Assistant only to find that Suica was not on the new iPhone. This is gone now because iOS 17 Wallet multi-device provisioning makes everything automatic and easy: it transfers the card you want to transfer and “removes” it from the other device, except that it “leaves” an empty place holder card on the old device. No deletion necessary. The old Suica 2-step is officially dead. From the Apple support page fine print: “Once transfer is complete, the previous card will remain visible in the Wallet app with an indication that the card can’t be used.”

Let’s take a look as I move a PASMO card from Apple Watch to iPhone:

As you can see the transfer is completed with PASMO now in iPhone Wallet but the PASMO card is also on the Apple Watch Wallet listed as ‘Unavailable’. If you look in Apple Watch Wallet you see this:

This is where it really gets interesting. Don’t remove the unavailable card. Leave it there and transfer it back from iPhone, voila PASMO is back on Apple Watch. The same PASMO card on iPhone is still there as ‘This card cannot be used’. Remove or leave it. Either way is fine. Think of it as a decorative place holder that can be re-filled with the real card contents at any time.

If you hanker for the old way of removing a card when transferring to or from Apple Watch, Watch app still offers it in Wallet and Apple Pay settings, tap ‘Add’ in the ‘Other Cards On Your iPhone’ section.

So there you have it. Multi-device provision powered iOS 17 Wallet changes a lot of things: Setup Assistant automatically takes care of transferring Suica, PASMO, Octopus, China T-Union, Clipper, etc. to a new iPhone. This is likely another benefit of Apple dropping support for non older power reserve embedded secure element (eSE) iPhone models in iOS 17. It’s what power reserve eSE v2 iPhone XS and later can do that older models can’t. Wallet is far more flexible and seamless dealing with multiple devices. Users probably won’t see much difference but tech support folks have had a huge load taken off their hands. This is Apple making the Wallet user experience, already the best out there, a far better one.