iOS 12 Stocks still mostly broken for Japan

A word to the wise: do not rely on the iOS Stocks app for Japanese stocks. The iOS 11 Stocks version of the app was actually handy until Verizon took control of the old Yahoo Inc. backend service. 3 things happened: Japanese language support for stock tickers broke, stock prices updates were delayed 20 minutes or longer, and individual stock news feeds dried up.

iOS 12 Stocks fixed Japanese language support for stock tickers but they are not dynamic; if a company changes its name your registered stock ticker will never update until you delete and re-register it. Individual stock news feeds have returned but are mostly useless selection of bad AI.

The biggest problem remains: stock prices are still delayed anywhere from 20~30 minutes to 24 hours. If you follow Japanese stocks do yourself a favor and use Yahoo Japan Finance (web/app), or any of the stock apps on the App Store (JP).

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iWork update to add vertical CJK text support at Apple Special Event (U)

Screenshot of vertical text Pages update from Flick News site

The Japanese Flick News site reports that iWork/Pages/Keynote will finally gain vertical CJK text layout support with the major iWork update announced today with the new iPad Air and iPad Mini, that should drop at the March 25 Apple Special Event along with iOS 12.2. Mainland China and Korea have pretty much abandoned traditional vertical layout for books and newspapers over the years but vertical text layout is still very important for the Japanese market.

Microsoft Word is the only major word processing application that currently supports CJK vertical text layout across macOS and iOS. The late great egword Universal 2, the first top to bottom Core Text word processing app on the market, returned to macOS recently but has yet to appear on iOS. Robust vertical text layout support in iWork across macOS and iOS will be a great update but like all things, the devil will be in the details. As one eminent Japanese font engineer once told me regarding OpenType J fonts and the state of typography in most apps:

the only OpenType (Japanese) layout engine out there is InDesign (J)…(this) means you have to use InDesign to access OpenType advanced typography…no matter what kind of fancy fonts you have, they look bad with poor typography.


Apple’s advanced typography technology lineage goes back to QuickDraw GX

Apple has a long history of creating rich text layout and font technology that never makes it into their own apps. Case in point: the Core Text API that provides vertical text layout handling has been around since OS X 10.5 Leopard (2007), why has it taken Apple 12 years to add that support in their word processing app suite?

As Apple makes clear the current version of iWork does not support vertical text layout

Update
Major Japanese IT news sites and blogs are running the iWorks CJK vertical text support update story and screenshot without attribution. It smells like somebody leaked a press release in advance of next week’s event.

Update 2
A press source tells me that Apple sent out iWork update PR to select outlets with the iPad announcement. Why not just put it on the Apple web site where everybody can see it? It would create some positive buzz in the Japanese market where Apple needs it. This kind of boneheaded nonsense is sad commentary on how also-ran and unimaginative Apple PR and marketing have become.

Suica App Commuter Pass Limitations

A reader asked about Suica commuter passes and limitations. It’s a good question because there are Suica App limitations to be aware of when creating a virtual commuter Suica pass for Apple Pay use.

Japan Transit IC Mutual Use Association Map
The Japan Transit IC Mutual Use Association project started in 2007 and achieved transit and e-money interoperability in 2013. It continues to evolve and incorporate other transit smartcard systems into a single standard. Wikipedia

Let’s review the limitations of the current Japan Transit IC Mutual Use Association standard. The various JP transit cards (Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, etc.) are tightly bound to the physical rail network fare area of the card issuer (JR East, JR West, etc.). Transit IC cards are compatible and allow users to travel in any transit IC area with any card, but the system architecture is limited to a single fare area per trip. It does not allow continuous travel between 2 different fare areas (such as Suica and TOICA) on the same trip.

Unfortunately this results in ‘gotcha gaps’ when a user might start a trip from a Suica region station but exit in an area outside the Suica region or an area with no transit IC card coverage at all. Going from Tokyo to Minobu for example: Suica works fine up to JR East operated Kofu but the JR Central operated Minobu line that starts there is outside any transit IC card fare area. Good old paper tickets or cold hard cash only please. If you make the mistake of traveling from Tokyo to Minobu with Suica, the train conductor or a station attendant will issue a paper voucher that you have to use to get Suica reset for transit use when back in a Suica area station. This kind of nonsense should disappear with Super Suica in 2021.

Metropolitan areas like Tokyo (Suica & PASMO) are highly integrated fare areas that operate as one virtual region covering all possible commuter routes that transverse different rail company lines such as JR East, Metro, Seibu, etc. Buses are also part of the mix and covered by Suica or PASMO cards.

Apple Pay Suica supports Suica commuter passes of course but there are limitations when creating them with Suica App:

  • The start point must be a JR East station
  • No bus, Shinkansen commuter pass (FREX), or student commuter pass options are available

Suica FREX Shinkansen commuter passes that cover both Shinkansen and regular lines in the JR East Suica region can be purchased via a web link (virtual), or JR Station (plastic) then loaded into Apple Pay like any Suica card.

Suica bus commuter passes have to be purchased at a bus company window such as Seibu, Tokyo Metro, Odakyu, Tokyu, etc. depending on the bus line. Confirm with the bus company that a Mobile Suica commuter purchase is available for the commute route. Purchase the Mobile Suica commuter pass then show the attendant your iPhone so they can record the Suica ID card number.

Suica commuter students passes are available for university students is the Mobile Suica web site but are complicated by the credit card requirement for using Apple Pay to setup a virtual Suica. Not every university student has a credit card. Mobile Suica support recommends purchasing a plastic Suica commuter pass at a JR East station then transferring it to Apple Pay, but there are some potential glitches. Apple support:

Commuter Suica cards that use romaji names or international phone numbers are not supported.
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 050-2016-5005.

For complex Suica commuter route options not covered in Suica App, Mobile Suica support has a web link to apply for a virtual Suica commuter pass.

Apple Pay Suica English Support

JR East has not issued an English version of Suica App yet but at least their Apple Pay Suica support web site now has an English language option in addition to simple and traditional Chinese and Korean. It doesn’t have all of the information of the Japanese site but it covers basic trouble shooting topics that should resolve most cases. There is also a live chat option from the JR East Mobile Suica mascot ‘MOCA-chan’ but is only available in Japanese.

If JR East keeps this up I’ll have to retire my Apple Pay Suica guide.

Apple Pay Suica iOS 12.2 beta 4 (U)

iOS 12.2 beta 4 continues to tweak the Apple Pay Suica UI. Shortcuts from Suica notifications finally work and the main Suica screen now sports a ‘Charge’ (Add Money) button. The UI changes in 12.2 still feel lumpy and inconsistent however: in other system preferences blue indicates an operation or another screen, ever since iOS 12.2 beta 1 Wallet operations are indicated by black with a few blue text leftovers:

UPDATE
A reader asked for some clarification of the updated Apple Pay Suica UI in beta 4. The information display is slightly different for regular and commuter Suica in the details screen. The top row of icons includes a commuter pass renewal shortcut with route details and balance information displayed further down. I think the iOS 12.2 Suica UI will continue to be a moving target, witness the sloppy icon text pushing up the Safari icon and off line with other icons in the commuter Suica screen. Clearly Apple is not sweating the details.