Waiting for iOS 13 Apple Pay Octopus

With the rollout of Apple Pay Octopus approaching the contents of this post has been consolidated into More Apple Pay Octopus Details. Instead of separate posts new information and developments will updated there.

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Apple Pay Octopus Details and Launch

With the Apple Pay Octopus rollout getting close I am consolidating new information and developments here, launch update at the bottom

A Hong Kong reader steered me to the source used in the previous screenshot post, there is quite a lot of detail from this September 2 post on the Lihkg.com site. Apple Pay Octopus device specs listed there are in line with expectations, an exact match with Apple Pay Suica:

A machine translation of the Chinese suggests:

  • Plastic card transfer and direct virtual Octopus card creation in Wallet supported, but unlike Suica Octopus plastic card deposits are not added to the balance when transferred to iPhone. The initial required balance for creating a virtual Octopus card is HK $100 with $50 as a deposit, shown in the screenshot. The Octopus deposit serves as emergency transit fare in case the Octopus balance is zero.
  • Service fees for Apple Pay Wallet Recharge are unclear. There are service fees on Samsung Smart Octopus for Samsung Pay Wallet recharge with Mastercard and Visa cards.

I get the feeling that some of these details might be different for the official Apple Pay Octopus rollout, we shall see. The current OCL schedule will almost certainly be updated with the Apple Pay Octopus release.

The post also says that, ‘most of the original’ transferable services of plastic Octopus are supported on the virtual version such as Automatic Add Value Service (AAVS), using Octopus for building access, etc., the same as Samsung Smart Octopus where some services are not transferred automatically from plastic Octopus, such as MTR Park and Ride, and need to be registered manually to virtual cards.

Other screenshots from the same site show Wallet Recharge apparently limited to China UnionPay (CUP) branded cards for the beta test period but should open up with the official release. A new beta test version of the iOS Octopus app (v6) and creation of Adult and Elder Apple Pay Octopus cards is also shown.

All in all it is clear that testing is far along, remember that this all started back in December. Apple Pay Octopus is ready for the iOS 13 rollout. Official service details from Octopus Cards Limited and Apple should be coming on, or shortly after the September 10 Apple Event. iOS 13 will be released on September 19.



UPDATE: Apple Pay Octopus Launch Day

The iPhone 11 Apple Event did not mention iOS 13 at all. Perhaps the simultaneous iOS 13 and iOS 13.1 beta release was unprecedented and too awkward to fit in the keynote. There was more riding on iOS 13.1 than people realized: highly anticipated items like Apple Tag were not mentioned even though there is plenty of evidence of it all over iOS 13.

The same is true for Apple Pay Octopus. The Apple Pay Wallet blurb has this transit card reference when the Region setting is Hong Kong: “Add credit, debit and travel cards to Apple Pay to make secure purchases and to use public transport”, both in the latest iOS 13.1 beta 3 and the iOS 13 golden master. This means everything is a go from iOS 13. Octopus Cards Limited (OCL) already announced “Octopus coming soon to iPhone and Apple Watch”on July 11 promising it “later this year.” We have some dates to consider:

  • September 19 iOS 13 release
  • September 25 Apple Pay Octopus release

There’s a small chance of an Apple Pay Octopus start announcement from OCL on September 19 iOS 13 release day, which is September 20 in Hong Kong. The actual start date will likely be offset a few days because there is huge pent up demand for Apple Pay Octopus. Apple and OCL would be wise giving their online system and support teams enough breathing space after the iOS 13 release weekend to avoid an Apple Pay Suica launch like meltdown.

In this scenario September 25 local Hong Kong time looks like the best target launch date for Apple Pay Octopus.

A press release from Apple would be nice but I’m not holding my breath. The days of announcements for transit additions to Apple Pay may be over. If the Apple Pay HOP service launch earlier this year is any indication, OCL should be lining up local Hong Kong media beforehand to cover startup day.

Keep an eye out for updates to the Hong Kong Apple Pay web page, it will certainly get the same Apple Pay Octopus artwork featured on the Octopus Cards Limited site at some point, and a graphic similar to the Japanese Apple Pay page outlining the different device support configurations for transit (Octopus: iPhone 8 and later) and payments (Octopus: iPhone 8 and later, or credit/debit bank cards: iPhone 6 and later). The Hong Kong Apple Pay NFC use device profile is very unique, there is nothing quite like it anywhere else.

UPDATE 2: Some readers have wondered if a later, as in iOS 13.1 later, launch date makes more sense in connection with a rumored October event. Anybody’s guess is as good as mine but there is no technical reason to wait. From the software side Apple Pay Octopus is ready to fly with iOS 13. It’s all up to OCL to push it out of the nest.

UPDATE 3: BTW Mobile Suica has a ‘special maintenance’ scheduled for early September 25 0:00~ 4:00, all recharge functions and credit card registration will be offline. Of course this means that most Apple Pay Suica functions will be offline too. Does Apple need to take some Apple Pay functions in Asia offline for bit? It’s probably nothing, but the midweek special maintenance date is odd and…..interesting.

Multifunction cards and iOS 13 Apple Pay Wallet

Leaks continue as Apple Event Day (September 10) and the iOS 13 release date (September 19) approach. The latest screenshot shows an Octopus Card Limited (OCL) co-brand multifunction credit card.

Octopus multifunction cards are similar to JR East View + Suica cards that combine credit and transit card functions with auto-recharge in one plastic package. When loading multifunction cards into Apple Pay only the credit portion is added. The functionality of the transit card is preserved instead of killing the plastic card altogether, which is the case when regular Octopus or Suica plastic transit cards are added to Apple Pay, a one way trip.

This ‘only adding the credit card to Apple Pay’ feature allows users to migrate back to the plastic combo transit card at any time. These cards are expensive to make and maintain, and card issuers want the full functionality of the card to be preserved. For this reason I doubt the ability to read multifunction cards into Apple Pay will ever happen. It’s far easier to only add the credit card portion and leave the plastic card untouched. The user can easily create a virtual transit card directly in iOS 13 Wallet and link it to the credit card for auto-recharge with the Octopus App or Suica App.

It’s only natural that Octopus multifunction cards join the parent Octopus transit card on iOS 13 Wallet to make one big happy Hong Kong Apple Pay family with multiple Express Transit Card (FeliCa and EMV) goodness. I sincerely hope the EMV Express Transit support shown in the screenshot does not mean that super slow EMV Contactless will be bolted onto MTR transit gates any time soon.

At any rate there should be some other Apple Pay goodies along with the official Apple mention of Apple Pay Octopus on September 10. Enjoy the show.

Update: a Hong Kong reader reached out to inform me that Octopus co-branded credit cards have been available on Apple Pay since the service started in Hong Kong. It’s nothing new. However, the multifunction angle is a new wrinkle when adding the Octopus co-branded cards to iOS 13 Apple Pay Wallet. Hong Kong iPhone users with multifunction Octopus cards will have to create a new Octopus transit card for Wallet use. OCL will undoubtedly update Octopus App with more auto-recharge options that relink the cards in Apple Pay Wallet.

Update 2: more Apple Pay Octopus service details, screenshots and new in development version of Octopus app

Apple Pay on Event Day

Apple Pay is sure to have a segment during the September 10 Apple Event. Here is my roundup of what to expect based on previous coverage.

Apple Card
Apple Card did not get its own press event rollout in August, this will be the closest thing. We will certainly get a feature review and some launch statistics. Long shot call: if lucky we may also get mention of a few more Wallet card feature goodies with the iOS 13 golden master.

Apple Pay for NFC Tags
This was previewed by Jennifer Bailey at her Transact keynote just before WWDC19. There has been no coverage since. NFC Tag Apple Pay works hand in glove with the Background NFC tag reading feature on iPhone XR/XS and later, and the Sign in with Apple feature of iOS 13. The Apple Pay segment makes the most sense for Apple to mention any other products or services that use the enhanced NFC Tag functionality of iOS 13.

The level of global NFC functionality integration across iPhone and Apple Watch is unique. There is nothing on the Android side that matches the seamless combination of Apple Pay Suica + iPhone + Apple Watch, a hardware combination also coming to Hong Kong transit with iOS 13 Apple Pay Octopus. An Apple Watch Series 5 that delivers background NFC tag reading ability integrated with Apple Pay along with Express Transit power reserve would be a very unique feature set indeed.

Apple Pay Transit
Apple Pay Octopus for Hong Kong is on tap for iOS 13, already announced by Octopus Cards Limited. We should get service start updates and details for Octopus, Apple Pay Ventra, EMV Express Transit for TfL. Mentions of Apple Pay myki, EMV Express Transit for LA TAP and more are possible but iffy.

May the NFC be with you.


Bonus iOS 13 Update
Apple’s Where you can ride transit with Apple Pay lists 2 kinds of Apple Pay Transit. Here is a brief explanation of what they mean.

iOS 13 Apple Pay Transit, entries such as Melbourne and Los Angeles will arrive later in the iOS 13 life cycle
  • Where you can use Apple Pay for transit with Express Transit Mode
    ‘A List’ transit that supports both native transit cards (faster than EMV except for China) and EMV style bank cards (slower) for Express Transit.
  • Where you can use Apple Pay for transit without Express Transit mode
    ‘B List’ EMV style bank card transit that requires Face ID, Touch ID or passcode at the transit gate. One benefit of this mode over regular plastic bank cards is that all Apple Pay loaded cards (China again is the one exception, UnionPay all the way) are certified by Apple for the listed transit agencies. This means Apple Pay cards will always work, while plastic versions of the same card sometimes do not.

New Functions for iOS 13 Apple Pay Suica

For some time now I have been scratching my head over the dynamic card feature of Apple Card. I thought that Apple might announce new Apple Pay Wallet features for developers at WWDC19. They did not. Apple Card has been released but there are no details about the special Wallet UI features, or if they are available to other Apple Pay Wallet card developers. NFC card emulation in Apple Pay Wallet requires PassKIT NFC Certificates and an NDA. The only answer we’ll get is when new card designs arrive in Wallet like the refreshed Apple Pay Suica transit card in iOS 12.2.

A reader sent me a link with an updated Apple Pay server JSON file entry for Suica that indicates iOS 13 as the minimum version for installing the card. This is unusual: Apple Pay Suica has been around since iOS 10, other transit card minimum versions listed in the JSON file are iOS 12.x. We already know that direct Suica card creation in Wallet is a new Suica feature for iOS 13. This JSON file entry could be that, but I don’t think so. iOS 12 already supports direct transit card creation for Shanghai and Beijing transit cards, we don’t need iOS 13 for that.

The JSON file entry for Suica indicates a new Suica feature that requires iOS 13. What could it be? I’ve been scratching my head over the low resolution Suica ‘in transit’ notification card art over the course of iOS 13 beta releases. It’s still unfinished and very late for dovetailing that kind of detail.

Could it be a placeholder for something else? I’m going out on a limb here, but I think we will get some form of dynamic Wallet card functionality for Suica and other cards. It’s a long shot, but Apple has held back iOS features from beta releases occasionally to announce them in connection with new products for the Apple Event golden master.

We will undoubtedly have an Apple Pay update segment in the September 10 Apple Event. There is Apple Card of course, but there is also NFC Tag Apple Pay that Jennifer Bailey previewed back in May. It will fit nicely with the new iPhones, possibly even Apple Watch Series 5 if NFC background tag reading makes the cut.

There are also a number of Apple Pay Transit items on tap for iOS 13: Apple Pay Octopus, Apple Pay Ventra, EMV Express Transit for TfL, and (maybe) EMV Express Transit for LA TAP. Of all of these I hope Tim Cook or Jennifer Bailey goes out of the way to reach out to Hong Kong, even just a little. In these troubled times, the people of Hong Kong desperately need kind words of support. At the very least we will finally get an official Apple Pay Octopus launch window.

Update: iOS 13 developer beta 8 also has the same low resolution Suica ‘in transit’ notification card image of previous beta releases. Taken together with the JSON Apple Pay Suica iOS 13 minimum version reference, more than ever I feel the two are connected. I definitely smell a post Apple Event golden master feature.

iOS 13 beta 8 Suica In Transit notification