Kintetsu Railway To Roll Out New Express Train for Tokyo Olympics

Kintetsu announced a new “Meihan Express” train to debut in the spring of 2020, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics. Wait a minute, won’t this luxury train run between Nagoya and Osaka? Indeed but what a great excuse for traveling down to Nagoya just to ride it.

Who knows, by then we might be able to purchase Meihan Express tickets in an app and use them in Apple Pay. Tokyo Olympic fever is in the air. This could be fun.

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iOS 11.2.5 Arriving January 18?

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Apple Pay Suica performance tweaks in iOS 11.2.5 are holding steady in the beta 3 release. JR East also released a special Mobile Suica system maintenance downtime notice today. Major maintenance will be done January 30 from midnight to 4 am. There is also special iPhone only Mobile Suica maintenance scheduled for the early morning hours on January 18.

Maybe it’s nothing but the timing feels like a perfect fit for the official iOS 11.2.5 release: January 18 Japan/January 17 USA

Apple Pay Suica 2017

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John Gruber wrote a great re-review of iPhone X with a related post on the Face ID – Double Click to Confirm Apple Pay gesture. It took some time to adjust but like Gruber the iPhone X side button double click to confirm Apple Pay works better for me than Touch ID did on iPhone 7.

But I don’t use it all that much because my main Apple Pay card is Suica set to Express Transit. Apple Pay Suica Express Transit on iPhone X is a winning combination. Here are some thoughts of using Apple Pay Suica for a year.

Suica Before Apple Pay
Plastic Suica was always more convenient and much faster than credit cards or pre-paid cards like au Wallet for store purchases. Regardless of the technology: chip and pin, EMV, FeliCa, or the card type: credit, debit, pre-paid; any card that uses the credit card processing system for transactions is always slower than Suica.

I don’t think there is anything out there that matches or beats Suica or any IC transit card for transaction speed. But speed is not everything. Despite the promise and convenience of plastic Suica, recharging it was a pain.

Not the actual recharge procedure mind you, Suica cash recharge is very simple but I always forgot to recharge plastic Suica at the station when the balance got low. Either that or I was cash short for a “decent” recharge of ¥3,000 or more. Suica was convenient, but not convenient enough for constant use outside of using it as a commuter pass.

The Apple Pay Difference
Suica and Apple Pay is a perfect martini of fast cash and slow credit with the secret dash of always online mobile technology. Apple Pay Suica recharge completely removes the cash recharge docking requirement transforming Suica into a super slick card for transit and store purchases that uses the pokey credit card for occasional financial backing.

This mobile difference that removes the Suica cash recharge docking requirement makes all the difference. Purchasing or riding anything, anywhere, anytime is simply pulling iPhone out and holding it to the reader. It quickly becomes second nature.

Japanese Android users enjoy Mobile Suica via the Mobile Suica app but iPhone users enjoy out of the box built-in Apple Pay Suica support which offers more flexibility along with the ultimate flexibility of using Apple Pay Suica with Apple Watch.

Hong Kong Octopus card users with Galaxy 8 enjoy a similar built-in service that removes the physical docking cash recharge requirement with the recently launched Smart Octopus on Samsung Pay. It will be interesting to see if the new service enjoys a similar Apple Pay Suica like uptake in the new year.fullsizeoutput_87ca

iOS 11.2.5 Beta 2 Update and Apple Pay Suica Maintenance Downtime (U)

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iOS 11.2.5 beta 2 (15D5046b) is out and Apple Pay Suica performance is as solid if not better than beta 1. Everything feels snappy now and 11.2.5 is shaping up to be a solid performance update that I think will be the first iOS 11 “gold standard” release.

Also today JR East issued an Apple Pay maintenance downtime notice via Suica App, Apple Pay Suica Recharge might timeout or be unresponsive during the  December 21 7 am~8 am local time maintenance window. If so, JR East says try again.

Recharge with Suica App credit card or JR East Smart Recharge machine is unaffected.

Update: All done and no complaints on a Twitter.

Suica App v2 Update Quick Look (U)

JR East released Suica App v2 early December 18 Tokyo time. In addition to a refreshed UI design the iOS update adds iPhone X support and longer Mobile Suica account passwords. The Suica backend system has also been updated to support Suica use for online purchases. JR East released a new Suica PDF Guide covering the new changes.

The new v2 home screen replaces the old green purchase/manage bar at the bottom with a green recharge menu bar and direct menu icons below for Green Seat reservations, transaction history and ticket purchase/manage Suica.

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The v2 ticket purchase-manage menu adds a new online transaction history menu

The only new submenu in ticket purchase/manage Suica is online transaction history.  The Add Suica menu card screens have also been updated to provide more information on Unregistered Suica, My Suica and Suica Commuter Pass options.

A new net shopping with Suica page lists sites that support online purchase with Suica. Major sites include Amazon, Yahoo Shopping and Rakuten.

English language support is still missing in this version. As said before English language support for Suica App is not localizing an app UI, it involves localizing the entire JR East online ecosystem.

If I had to guess I would say that English language will come in April 2019 with the launch of JR East’s version of smartEX, Touch and Go Shinkansen Suica v2 that will cover all JR East Shinkansen lines, and of course Suica with the ¥20,000 daily limit removed. All in time for the Tokyo Olympics.