Apple Pay Adds Docomo Prepaid d CARD

Docomo d Card PrepaidApple Pay Japan added NTT Docomo’s Prepaid d CARD issued by Sumitomo Mitsu Bank to the lineup today along with the obligatory launch campaign: ¥1,000 for signing up plus another ¥500 for using it. Not bad.

This joins KDDI’s au Wallet as the 2nd prepaid card on Apple Pay Japan. Both d Card and au Wallet prepaid cards are under the Mastercard network and should use the NFC switching feature of iOS 11 with iPhone X, iPhone 8 and Apple Watch 3 for domestic and international Apple Pay use. Prepaid cards have some limitations and cannot be used at gas stations, for monthly utility payments and the like, but are good for Apple Pay Suica Charge.

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Troubleshooting Apple Pay Suica

fullsizeoutput_6528There are some things to remember when adding Suica to Apple Pay. These are well documented on the Apple Support page Get help transferring Suica cards to your iPhone or Apple Watch in the “Try to add a Suica card” section.

  1. Your birthdate is required only if you’re trying to add a My Suica or Commuter Suica card to Apple Pay. Use the same date of birth that you entered when you purchased your plastic Suica card.

    The three basic Suica card varieties are: Unregistered, My Suica and Commuter. Suica App lets you create an Unregistered Suica without a Mobile Suica account but My Suica and Commuter require a Mobile Suica account to create in Suica App.

    If you lose a plastic Unregistered Suica created at a JR station kiosk, it’s lost for good. My Suica and Commuter plastic Suica are registered with the JR East system when issued and can be re-issued at the station if lost. The re-issue cost of a lost Suica at the station is ¥510.

    As noted in the Apple page when you add My Suica or Commuter plastic cards to Apple Pay you need to enter date of birth. Apple Pay and the Mobile Suica backend create a kind of “soft” Mobile Suica account when those kind of Suica are added so that they are easily matched to the JR East system and recovered when deleted from Wallet. But there are card naming restrictions to be aware of:

    My Suica and Commuter Suica cards that use romaji names or international phone numbers are not supported. Pasmo and other transit cards are not supported.

    The romaji name restriction is strange because your can use romaji for Suica card names in Suica App and you can enter romaji when purchasing Suica at the JR station kiosk. There could be some incompatibility between the systems.

    The best thing to do if your iPhone cannot transfer plastic Suica to Apple Pay is to take your plastic Suica the nearest JR station and tell the station attendant that you want to re-issue Suica (with a Japanese name). This is also the thing to do if your plastic Suica card is the very old variety that iPhone cannot read. Re-issue of a plastic Suica at the station is free.

    If you are trying to add a second Suica card to Apple Pay, make sure the name on the second card matches the first name on your My Suica and Commuter Suica card. If you have different names on multiple cards, download and register in the iOS Suica app, and call Suica Support at 050-2016-5077.

    When you add My Suica or Commuter Suica to Apple Pay you lose the ability to add an Unregistered Suica. Basically you can only have a single Unregistered Suica in Apple Pay. Anything after that has to be a My Suica or Commuter Suica.

    As noted above if you do not have Suica App and a Mobile Suica account the second Suica card name has to match the first. If you add Suica App and login to Mobile Suica you can edit card names.

    Last but not least please remember that the Suica Support number is Japanese Language only.

  2. Make sure that your plastic Suica card is resting on a flat non-metallic surface. Rest the top of your iPhone on the middle of the Suica card. Keep it there until the transfer completes, which can take up to a minute. It might also help to hold your Suica card and iPhone in your hand.
    Non-metallic is the keyword here.

  3. Make sure that the value on your Suica card doesn’t exceed 19500 Yen.
    The Suica card pre-paid (SF) balance limit is ¥20,000. The 24 hour Suica Auto Recharge limit is ¥20,000.
  4. You can add a credit card with a Suica balance by tapping Credit or Prepaid Card in Wallet. Only the credit card will be added to Apple Pay. The Suica card cannot be added, and the balance of the Suica card remains on the plastic credit card.
    JR East View Cards are combination credit card/Suica card. When adding a combination card to Apple Pay only the credit card portion is added.
  5. Certain Suica cards (like Student Commuter Suica cards) might need to be verified before you can add them to Apple Pay. For additional functionality of Suica cards in Apple Pay, download and register within the Suica app on your iPhone.
    Student Commuter cards are complicated because Apple Pay Commuter Suica purchase and renewal requires a credit card and 18 is legal age for credit cards. Student can work around this with using a JCB Line pre-paid card in Suica App. The student verification process is explained in Japanese here.

 

Why iPhone 7 Missed the Global FeliCa iPhone Party

Apple Pay Global FeliCa iPhone Chart

Many iPhone 7 users outside of Japan hoped that iOS 11 would enable NFC-F hardware functionality which all iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 have, so that overseas iPhone 7 models could join the iPhone 8/iPhone X global FeliCa party. iOS 11 arrived but iPhone 7 FeliCa remains a Japan model only feature. Why?

The silly reason is that overseas iPhone 7 models do not have the legally required Japanese MIC certification mark engraved on the case like the Japanese models. The real reasons are that Apple probably does not want to spend resources obtaining new global certification just for NFC-F in an older iPhone model. And of course Apple wants to give iPhone 7 users an excuse to upgrade.

In retrospect iPhone 7 was a transition to global NFC (A-B-F) model. The hardware was in place but iOS 10 Apple Pay did not have NFC switching ready. The iOS 10 Region setting assigned the NFC mode when adding cards to Wallet: NFC-F for Japan, NFC-A/B for other countries.

If you have your heart set on using Apple Pay Suica when you visit Japan but don’t want to upgrade to a global FeliCa iPhone, Apple Watch Series 3 is the less expensive option.

My Not Smart Shinkansen Trip with smartEX

I followed all the smartEX registration instructions, honest engine I did. I logged into EX with my smartEX generated ID and password and purchased my Shinkansen ticket to Nagoya without a hitch. All looked good. At the appointed day and time I went to the Tokyo station Tokaido Shinkansen gate. Everything went to hell.​

​The station attendant placed my iPhone on the reader to diagnose the problem. Despite doing all the right steps my smartEX e-ticket purchase was not linking to my Apple Pay Suica. He then took me to a ticket machine and said, “Enter your smartEX password.” I use Touch ID with EX App and did not know the password, The poor attendant waited while I dug around in Safari passwords to find it. With the password entered he printed out a paper ticket.

The attendant told me that I needed to call smartEX system support to solve the problem. I asked if there was one. He grabbed a smartEX pamphlet but there was no number. He said, “There’s a number listed in the app.” There was not but I said thank you anyway and offered some advice, “I feel sorry for the station attendants if JR Central doesn’t improve smartEX. When the English language version of this drops on October 30, it will be a mess.”

smartEX System Weak Points
I used my travel time to dig around in EX App preferences. It was time well spent. smartEX registration can only be done in the browser, but once completed you can edit account information in EX App. The app has a Touch ID log in option but there is a separate mandatory security layer for editing smartEX account information:

Generate a onetime password and receive it by email. After entering the onetime password you can edit all your registered information: name, email, credit card, Apple Pay Suica ID:

I re-entered my Apple Pay Suica ID and asked the Nagoya station attendant to confirm if my smartEX was correct. She placed my iPhone on the reader and confirmed that I was all set now. My return trip was a breeze, smartEX worked fine.

Apple Pay Suica ID Formatting Differnces and Errors
As I said previously smartEX registration is a work in progress and will certainly be a friction point for many inbound Apple Pay Suica users. The reasons are simple:

  1. Suica App only copies the entire 17 character Suica ID (screen shot below)
  2. smartEX only accepts a 15 character ID and automatically formats the pasted ID from Suica App deleting the final 2 characters
  3.  smartEX cannot automatically verify your Suica ID with Mobile Suica or Apple Pay. This can only happen if smartEX is linked with Mobile Suica, or better yet if JR East Mobile Suica hosts all the other IC transit cards on their cloud service like one big happy family.

Suggestion for Smooth smartEX
Here is a suggestion for a smooth maiden smartEX voyage. The system by itself cannot verify if everything is in working order but JR Central station attendants at Tokaido Shinkansen ticket gates can verify it for you. Verification requires the following:

  • Successful smartEX registration
  • Successful smartEX login and e-ticket purchase

Tell the Shinkansen gate attendant that you want to verify your smartEX ticket purchase and hand them your iPhone. A quick check on the reader is all that is needed. If all is in order you are assured of a smooth process every time. Have your smartEX ID and password on hand in case something goes wrong. The attendant will need it to print out paper tickets.

 

 

smartEX Beats Suica to the App Store with English

There is a small chance that Suica App could release an English language version  before smartEX App arrives on October 30 but I doubt it.

The reasons are varied but boil down to one single difference: smartEX is a simple streamlined app that pulls information off a simple streamlined ticket reservation system while Suica App is the front window of an entire ecosystem.

smartEx App does one thing: Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen e-ticket reservations/purchases. This includes timetable searches, seat availability/reservations and refunds. It uses your registered account information (name, credit card and IC transit card) but does not allow you to manage any of it. smartEX e-tickets are not downloaded or directly attached/stored on the IC transit card and do not interact with Apple Pay Suica.

Suica App does many things:

  • Mobile Suica account management (name, credit card, Suica card, etc.)
  • Suica card creation and registration (Apple Pay)
  • JR East Shinkansen e-ticket reservations/purchases
  • Green Seat purchases on regular trains
  • Suica Commuter Pass purchase, renewal and changes
  • Refunds
  • Suica Recharge
  • Suica Auto Recharge setup
  • Suica App e-tickets download directly and are stored on Apple Pay Suica

On top of all that Suica App is adding JR Central Tokaido and JR West Sanyo Shinkansen e-ticket purchase options starting October 23. That is a lot of services packed in a single app with many moving database parts on the backend. All of these parts have to be in English before Suica App can make its English language debut.

Suica App is like the tiny tip of a huge iceberg. There is a huge mass of Japanese information dating back to the i-mode era lurking underneath the surface that has to be localized and vetted. That alone takes time and resources. But if JR East doesn’t take the time to do it right, their limited support resources would be quickly overwhelmed: imagine if an English language users taps on an option in Suica App and is suddenly faced with a screen full of Japanese. English language support would be flooded with questions.

The easy thing to do would be pruning option menus down to a manageable quick delivery turn around for English localization but I don’t think JR East will take that path. I prefer to have the whole of Suica App in English, even if it takes time.