iOS 11.2.5 Release Due This Week

With iOS 11.2.5 reaching the end of the beta cycle, the official release should come this week as predicted. Beta testing has been a very smooth experience with improved Apple Pay Suica performance on iPhone X that eliminates transit gate error flicker and Suica mis-reads at store readers, and also fixes the Suica Notification bug introduced in iOS 11.2.

If you have experienced either problem I recommend updating to iOS 11.2.5 with the official release.


iOS 11 Apple Pay NFC Switching in Action

fullsizeoutput_882cThe Apple Pay NFC switching feature in iOS 11 along with global NFC A-B-F support in every iPhone X and iPhone 8 gives Japanese Apple Pay users the unique ability to use the same Apple Pay credit card with FeliCa contactless payment networks in Japan and EMV contactless payment networks abroad.

There is just one catch. Credit card issuers have to support it. American Express announced NFC switching support for Apple Pay Japan customers shortly after the Apple Event last September, the same time that J/Speedy and Mastercard Contactless Apple Pay Japan support was announced. KDDI au and Mastercard said they were also working on NFC switching support but nothing has appeared so far.

Twitter user Riikun shared his American Express Apple Pay Japan purchase experience in Hawaii. The FeliCa QUICPay mark in Wallet is visible on the left, the EMV contactless receipt is on the right. It looks boring but it all just works. That’s neat. It would be great if Mastercard and Visa joined the party.


Apple Pay Adds Docomo Prepaid d CARD (U)

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 there are unconfirmed reports that au Wallet uses the NFC switching feature of iOS 11 and Mastercard Contactless with iPhone X, iPhone 8 and Apple Watch 3 for domestic and international Apple Pay use.

Sumitomo Mitsubishi Bank support states that d Card Prepaid can only be used by Apple Pay in Japan and Docomo has not yet added iPhone support to their iD/NFC overseas service. Prepaid cards have other limitations and cannot be used at gas stations, for monthly utility payments and the like, but are good for Apple Pay Suica Recharge.

au Wallet uses the QUICPay+ network which clearly lists the stores that accept it. d Card Prepaid uses the Docomo iD network which is less clear: you will not find a iD Prepaid logo at the checkout NFC reader. Sumitomo Mitsui d Card support lists limitations in Japanese.

11-28-2017 : added more limitation details based on reader feedback

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.