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.

Move Suica and other transit or e-Money cards to new iPhone (updated for iOS 17)

Apple Pay transit cards (Suica, PASMO, and ICOCA) and e-Money cards (WAON and nanaco) are different from Apple Pay payment cards in that a transit or e-Money card prepaid stored value, the card balance, is stored locally on the card itself and can only exist on a single device. Apple Pay credit/debit cards coexist simultaneously on multiple devices, not Suica, PASMO, ICOCA and other transit cards like Octopus, Clipper, SmarTrip, TAP, or e-Money cards like nanaco and WAON. There are 2 ways to transfer cards: automatic transfer with iOS 17 Setup Assistant and manual transfer in Wallet app.

Automatic card transfer with iOS 17 Quick Start Setup Assistant
Quick Start device to device data transfer is the best way to setup a new iPhone. iOS 17 Set Assistant automatically transfers all payment, transit, e-Money cards, and other Wallet items from the old iPhone to the new iPhone. It’s easy to do and highly recommended.

The Apple support page Add a Suica, PASMO, or ICOCA card to Apple Wallet is updated for iOS 17 and covers moving cards in the Transfer your transit Suica, PASMO, or ICOCA card between devices section. Place the previous iPhone near the new iPhone. The Setup Assistant Wallet section lets you select Wallet cards to transfer in the ‘Make This Your New iPhone’ prompt screen. Either select the Wallet items you want to transfer or leave it up to Set Assistant. Setup Assistant automatically transfers Wallet items to the new iPhone. As always, make sure all devices have a good internet connection.

Manual card transfer in Wallet app
Users can manually transfer cards from the previous iPhone Wallet app to the new iPhone simply by adding it from Previous Cards. The old pre-iOS 17 ‘Suica 2-step’ requirement of manually removing Suica from the old device before transfer is irrelevant and unnecessary.

Once transfer is complete, the previous card will remain visible in the Wallet app showing ‘This card cannot be used’. The card can be safely removed, you can also safely wipe the device.

Transfer Suica from previous Apple Watch to new Apple Watch
Apple Watch Suica users upgrading to a new Apple Watch is easy with watchOS 10. From the Set up your Apple WatchSet up as new or restore from a backup section: If you’ve set up another Apple Watch with your current iPhone, a screen appears that says Make This Your New Apple Watch. Tap Apps & Data and Settings to see how Express Setup will configure your new watch. Then tap Continue. If you want to choose how your new watch is set up, tap Customize Settings. Then choose a backup from another previous Apple Watch to restore.

  • You can also add cards manually in Wallet as outlined in the previous iPhone section via Previous Cards.

What about Suica App and other card apps?

If your Suica, PASMO, ICOCA or e-Money card is registered in the coressponding app, your account and password information will migrate to the new device like any regular iOS app when using device to device data transfer. The apps will automatically pick up the card information from Wallet but you will need to login to access the card app account. If you deleted the app before device to device data transfer, you will need to manually enter account and password information to login when re-adding the app. See the Suica App and PASMO App guide for account setup details.

e-Money card apps ask for the Japanese mobile number used for registering the card in the app and send a verification code via SMS.


Wiped old iPhone before setting up new iPhone
If you wiped the old iPhone before setting up a new one and cannot find your previous Suica Wallet card see: Recover Suica • PASMO and e-Money cards from a lost or wiped iPhone. Other topics can be found on the Apple Pay Suica • PASMO Guide.

Robust network connection is extremely important!
Make sure all devices have a good WiFi or mobile connection and confirm you are outside of the 2am~4am JST Mobile Suica • Mobile PASMO system maintenance window. Do not use free WiFi or carrier auto-connect WiFi, they are notoriously unreliable.

Suica, PASMO, ICOCA card ID number changes
The Suica or PASMO card ID number may change when transferred to a new iPhone or Apple Watch Wallet. Linked services like EX App (smartEX and Express Reservation), Touch and Go Shinkansen and JR East Ekinet Shinkansen eTickets stop working when the Suica, PASMO, ICOCA ID number changes and users must manually update information with each linked service account to re-link services with the new ID #. For Suica and PASMO getting full ID number requires a transit card issuer app such as Suica or PASMO app, ICOCA displays the full ID number in Wallet card details.

iOS 17 features not coming to Japan*

With every iOS release there are features that everybody gets, some features that other regions get later on, and some features that never make it out of the English language box. Now that iOS 17 has been released, Apple has posted feature details for each country. The USA is the mothership iOS 17 feature complete version, the official Japanese list is missing quite a few but there are a some new Japanese features too. Let’s start with the missing.

Phone: Live Visual Voicemail and Voicemail button
These will probably never come to Japan. The big JP carriers, NTT docomo, KDDI au, SoftBank and Rakuten Mobile all, position voicemail as a pricey rip off option that doesn’t always work well. Voicemail would be much better off as basic service but carriers don’t think that way. Their corresponding budget sub-brands, ahamo, povo, Y-Mobile, etc., don’t offer voicemail as young people have grown up without the expensive option and don’t see any use for it in the smartphone app era. There is probably a lot more demand for the iOS 17 Leave a Message FaceTime feature because it come standard. Duh.

A lot missing here in the Japanese feature PDF: ‘improved autocorrect accuracy‘, ‘inline predictions‘, ‘enhanced sentence corrections‘ and ‘QuickPath‘. Some of these are just missing Japanese support, some of them don’t work in the language context (like QuickPath, the JP kana keyboard has neat flick/slide maneuvers too). On the plus side Japanese finally gets a handwriting keyboard:

Just say Siri‘, ‘Back to Back request‘, and ‘Siri in call‘ are not listed in the JP PDF, a sure sign Japan won’t be getting them soon. ‘Siri, read this‘ is not listed is the JP PDF but is supported nevertheless. On a related note, the Accessibility ‘Personal Voice‘ feature is not listed either.

ID Verifier‘ is missing of course (Tim Cook telling JP PM Kishida not to get hopes up with that silly My Number ID for Wallet request) along with the Apple Cash stuff. I had a chance to test ‘Multi-device provisioning‘ Wallet transfer and can say it’s a game changer that everybody everywhere can enjoy and use. It makes re-adding and transferring Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, WAON, nanaco, etc., easier than ever and foolproof. Now that iOS 17 Setup Assistant is multi-device provision powered it automatically and seamlessly moves everything from the old iPhone Wallet to the new iPhone Wallet. ‘I forgot to delete Suica from Wallet’ upgrade issues are a thing of the past.

TextKit 2 surprises
There are a few pleasant surprises in the iOS 17 mix. The biggest overall feature is vertical text functionality. We have ‘Vertical text recognition‘ for Live Text (finally, although it’s not as robust as Google’s version found in Google iOS apps), ‘Vertical text support‘ (Apple: “Chinese and Japanese text can be displayed vertically in supported apps and components like Contact Posters, Photos Memories, and Calendar widgets.”), ‘Punctuation white space‘ (“Reduced punctuation white space in Chinese and Japanese scripts improves overall readability and design.”). While not CJK specific Apple also lists ‘Text clipping and collision‘ (Character spacing dynamically adjusts to better accommodate non-Latin scripts) and ‘Improved line breaks‘ (Enhanced line breaking logic results in better readability of rendered text results.) It all reads exactly like TextKit 2 and UIKit dynamic text enhancements covered in the WWDC23 What’s new with text and text interactions presentation.

You can plow through the official iOS 17 new feature PDF list (E) and Japanese list that Apple has posted. Here are 15 screenshots of what I found missing comparing the USA/JP PDFs. Missing items are marked with a big red X. You can also check Apple’s iOS 17 Feature Availability page, be wary though as the list is not always accurate and up to date.

Recover Suica and other transit or e-Money cards from a lost or wiped iPhone

The first thing to do if you have lost your iPhone is put the device in Lost Mode from another device using the same Apple ID or Lost Mode disables Apple Pay on the device. If you find your iPhone, great, but how can you recover your Suica card when your old iPhone is either lost or wiped and you want to add Suica to a new iPhone?

No matter what the situation, Apple Pay iCloud keeps your transit card (Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, Octopus, Clipper, SmarTrip, TAP, HOP, China T-Union) or e-Money card (WAON and nanaco) stored value information safe on iCloud until you are ready to add the card again. The steps below use Suica but apply to all Apple Pay stored value cards.

Remove cards from the device
If iPhone is lost or wiped, remove the cards. If you have another device with the same Apple ID, go to settings > tap Apple ID > select device if is it showing, tap Remove Items in the Wallet & Apple Pay section. If you do not have another device go to Apple ID, and sign in with the same Apple ID used for the Apple Pay device, select Devices > select the lost or stolen iPhone > select Remove Items in the Wallet & Apple section.

Restore Suica
Restoring Suica, PASMO, and ICOCA is exactly the same as transferring Suica to a new iPhone. Once you successfully delete the card on the lost iPhone, or if you have wiped iPhone and want to restore the card to a new iPhone, simply re-add the card: tap Add Card “+” > tap Previous Cards, select the card you want to add and tap Continue.


Card Already Exists in Wallet error
If for some reason you are having difficulty re-adding Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, WAON, nanaco to iPhone and see and a Wallet error message, “this card already exists in Wallet,” in the last step of the adding process: sign out of iCloud, restart the device and sign back into iCloud with the same Apple ID. This will clear any problems.

Card Unavailable error
If you see ‘Card Unavailable’ it means the card is fine but there are some issues that the Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, WAON, nanaco systems need to clear during the offline nightly maintenance window. Simply wait for the end of the next maintenance window: 2am~4am Japan Standard Time, or 24 hours, then re-add the card.

Linked Services
Suica, PASMO, ICOCA card ID numbers can change when removed and re-added to Wallet. Linked services like EX App (smartEX and Express Reservation), Eki-net Shinkansen eTickets and Touch and Go Shinkansen stop working when the ID number changes and you need to update the linked IC card registration information to re-link the services.

Wanted: a JR East Apple Pay Suica support campaign in English

Wanted Dead of Alive…If you see this poster…send me a picture (this one from Inoue san)

Now that plastic Suica cards are mostly unavailable unless you tearfully plead with a kind hearted JR East station staffer that you lost it and need a replacement Suica, inbound tourists are stuck with lining up at Narita or Haneda station kiosks for the not so welcome Welcome Suica. Unless of course you have iPhone. In that case any inbound visitor can add Suica and use in Wallet without any app, as long as they don’t try it with a VISA credit card.

JR East has a multilingual Train Reservation site for visitors, they even have a multilingual Suica page, but there is no mention of Mobile Suica. There is a multilingual Mobile Suica support FAQ but it is buried away and has not been updated since 2018. The only Mobile Suica English language effort to date was the temporary and long dead SuicaEng app that was a one trick pony for adding a single Suica card to Apple Pay Wallet. When Wallet added native add card Suica support in iOS 13 JR East killed the app and focused on rolling out the multilingual Train Reservation site which they did in June 2021.

But now more than ever, it’s time for JR East to get serious about English language Mobile Suica support and marketing campaign. The problem facing JR East though is where to invest precious resources that grow the Mobile Suica user base while keeping costs down. Spending multilingual money on us ungrateful, ever complaining ‘I want it now’ gaijins isn’t always cost effective ROI. Take the current version of Suica App for instance, localizing now it is a waste because Suica App will be completely replaced with a new Suica 2.0 compliant app and feature set in the near future.

There is also the problem of Mobile Suica Stored Fare (SF) balance refunds. Mobile Suica refunds can only be done via the app and sent to a Japanese bank account for a ¥220 processing fee. This is because Suica is JPY currency and originally created for domestic use only. Smartphones didn’t exist when Mobile Suica launched on Docomo in 2006, international visitor use was not possible back then.

Mobile Suica could conceivably do what Hong Kong Octopus does with forced Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) in their Octopus for Tourists app, but that is a high price, and a credit card compliance violation to boot, for the convenience of refunding a mobile transit card balance chump change in foreign currency. Better to do what JR East already recommends in English: forget the refund nonsense and run the Mobile Suica balance to zero.

Let’s keep things simple. Here are some cheap, easy things JR East can do to promote Mobile Suica for inbound use:

  • An English Mobile Suica marketing campaign that educates iPhone users how easy it is to add and use Suica without any apps.
  • An updated and easily accessible multilingual FAQ/Support page.
  • A slightly tweaked Suica App that allows users to delete a zero balance Suica card from Apple Pay without the hassle of registering a Mobile Suica account.
  • Last but not least, do whatever you can to convince the VISA payment network in Japan to remove their credit card block of Mobile Suica (and PASMO, and ICOCA). Not an easy task with all the moving VISA network pieces to be sure.

A little bit here, a little bit there can pay big dividends in the short term without reinventing anything for inbound visitors. Just make what’s already there and already great, easily accessible.