iPhone X Mini Review: Are We There Yet?

Reviewers are right that iPhone X is a fork in road. It separates all iPhones up to this point and all that comes hereafter. Reviewers are being forked as well: the older grayer geek squad will continue to write long form reviews, but as Apple already knows the younger YouTube generation are getting their opinions elsewhere. Walt Mossberg knew it was the right time to retire.

Reviewers are also right that iPhone X is alluring, beguiling, delightful and feels new like the very first time you got your hands on iPhone but with insanely faster speed and snap. I have owned every iPhone since 3G but none of them went from teething to essential as fast as X.

Screen
The screen is the fork writ large, buttonless, rounded edge to rounded edge. As Horace Dediu astutely points out in his Critical Path podcast, the square corner screen is dead. From here on screens will be containers filling ever more mutable spaces. I can only agree this is the direction Apple will go. And just like Horace feels, watching a movie in full screen notch mode is not like watching a movie, it’s like holding a movie in your hands.

Size
Going from iPhone 7 Plus to X is weird. Things are bigger and smaller at the same time, my brain sizes the outline as smaller, my thumbs size the keyboard as bigger. The Japanese flick keyboard feels better than ever but the roman keyboard takes some thumb practice because my eye is still used to the wider iPhone 7 Plus black screen border area.

It will take a little more time for my brain and thumbs to completely connect but even now I would not go back to the larger iPhone 7 Plus size. X feels just right.

Shutter Sound
The infamous Japanese iPhone shutter sound is slightly louder to my ears on X than iPhone 7. The robust X speakers are the likely reason. I thought the sound was a bit too loud until I went on a weekend outing with an elderly co-worker who had just purchased a Docomo brand smartphone marketed for “Rojin,”The shutter sound was so soft that she repeatedly pressed the camera button thinking the camera was not working right. To her ears the iPhone X shutter sound was just right.

Suica and Face ID
Face ID-Apple Pay is also two colliding things at once. This is best encapsulated by the ‘what the heck?’ feel of activating Apple Pay via the side button double click. The new gesture is slightly disorienting at first but once you are in Face ID authorization is smoother and faster because it’s continuous. Continuous is the secret sauce that makes it magic.

My main Wallet card is a JCB Bic Camera View but occasionally I need to bring up my Express Transit Suica to deal with an uncooperative old reader that demands authorization. Touch ID was a pain for this kind of two step- bring up main card switch to Suica- operation but Face ID makes it fast and easy. One interesting thing I ran across is that when Face ID locks out and demands a passcode, Suica Express Transit is turned off until Face ID is up and running again.

The Suica NFC reader errors addressed in the JR East notice on November 8, and the timing, suggest it’s a iPhone X issue not an iPhone 8 one. As noted previously some older NFC readers, particularly UT1-Neo readers, have very tiny optimum hit areas due to small/poor antenna designs. I suspect the iPhone X NFC antenna design is different enough from iPhone 7/8 to cause occasional reader errors. To date only the UT1-Neo readers have caused problems for my iPhone X.

Suica Express Transit was already my favorite Apple Pay method with iPhone 7 Plus because it dispenses with Touch ID. Smartphone Journalist Tsutsumu Ishikawa already declared Suica the best card for Apple Pay in iPhone X but I think he and the Japanese users praising it on Twitter are simply rediscovering the convenience of Apple Pay Suica that was there all along. Double clicking the sleep-wake button will become as natural as double clicking the home button, eventually.

There is one legitimate Japanese complaint about Face ID: it doesn’t work when you wear a mask. Lots of Japanese wear masks during the flu and pollen seasons on train commutes and at work, and are mandatory wear for many students. For that reason alone Touch ID iPhones will remain the go to choice for many Japanese, at least until the TrueDepth camera evolves magic X-ray like scanning capability.

That future has yet to arrive but rest of the future is here, for the rest of us.

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The Apple Pay Suica Super Smart Shopping League Oath

I aspire to become an Apple Pay Suica Super Smart Shopping League (Apple Pay 4S) member and solemnly swear that the following items are true:

  • I possess a iPhone X, iPhone 8 or Apple Watch Series 3
  • I have a plastic Suica commuter pass
  • I like shopping at Bic Camera and posses a Bic Camera Point Cardfullsizeoutput_679b

I also solemnly swear to follow and uphold the Apple Pay 4S rules:

  • Add my Suica Commuter Pass to Apple Pay
  • Obtain a JCB Bic Camera View Card
  • Duly record my Bic Camera Point Card number in my JCB Bic Camera View Card application and the iPhone Bic Camera App.
  • Add my JCB Bic Camera View Card to Apple Pay Wallet and always use it for Suica Recharge and Suica Commuter Pass without fail.
  • Endeavor to conduct all purchases and public transit with Apple Pay Suica to earn regular Suica points and extra Suica Commuter Pass renewal points to attain massive Bic Camera Points.
  • Endeavor to assist all those who aspire to become Apple Pay 4S members

    Online application form for Bid Camera View Card
    You can apply for a JCB Bic Camera View Card online or get a paper application form from any Bic Camera – Kojima -Sofmap Store

Congratulations, you are now a member of the Apple Pay Suica Super Smart Shopping League. Happy Transit and Shopping!

Apple Pay Suica Inbound #6: Dead Battery FUD

Now that Apple Pay Suica Inbound is happening it’s interesting to see how people from abroad use and react to it. Some people worry a lot about iPhone dying on route before reaching the end station, a topic that Japanese users don’t mention much.

It is true that you do not want iPhone to die before reaching your Apple Pay Suica transit end point. Fortunately there are 2 easy things to do when your iPhone or Apple Watch battery runs low on route to get you through the final station gate.

1) Put iPhone in Airplane Mode, Apple Pay Suica works perfectly well without network access but few people realize this.

or

2) Power down iPhone until you reach your final station, when you get there power up and unlock iPhone just before going through the gate.

Some sites offer advice that could be misleading. Kevin Chen’s Creating a new Suica to use in Apple Pay is a decent explanation but suggests carrying a spare plastic Suica in case iPhone dies:

This could be inconvenient if your phone dies but you still need to take the subway home. To get the best of both worlds, keep your physical card active and generate a new Suica just for Apple Pay.

A backup plastic Suica for a complete start to finish trip is one thing, but some people will inevitably misinterpret that to mean either completing a transit with a backup plastic Suica or using it to pay whole fare if iPhone dies on route. You cannot do either one.

If the worst happens and iPhone really dies on route you must do 2 things:

1) Pay whole fare in cash, and only cash, at the end point.

and

2) Once your iPhone is charged take it to the nearest station and ask the station attendant  to reset Suica (clear the last transit information) so you can use it again.

With Suica coin lockers Suica acts as the electronic key in addition to payment so you must use the same Suica to unlock the coin locker. JR East says to call the help number listed above the Suica coin locker reader in case you run into any problems and need assistance.

Last but not least if the worst happens and iPhone dies, keep calm and be respectful with the station attendants. That way you’ll get the best help they can offer.

iPhone X and Apple Pay Suica Store Reader Errors

 

My iPhone X experience has been a very positive one that I hope to write about soon, but those finicky UT1-Neo NFC store readers are extremely finicky and error prone with iPhone X. Suddenly there are some irate Japanese tweets about Apple Pay Suica NFC reader errors, what’s going on?

JR East issued a notice via Suica App on November 8: “Issues to be careful of when using Apple Pay Suica for store purchases.” The notice points out 2 kinds of NFC reader errors:

  1. The NFC reader requests Touch ID/Face ID authentication even though your Apple Pay Suica is set for Express Transit. This happens most with vending machine purchases. Open Wallet, select Suica, authenticate and then purchase.
  2. Slow transaction-errors-repeat reads. Keep your iPhone position on the reader still until either the NFC reader beeps a completed transaction sound or the store clerk says the transaction is complete.

If JR East needs to issue a notice it means there are more than a few users experiencing problems. My own experience at Ueshima Coffee shops is that UT1-Neo readers take 2~3 attempts for a successful transaction. The iPhone 7 optimum position doesn’t work anymore.

As the JR East notice says keep iPhone in place until the transaction is done. UT1-Neo readers in other stores are behaving a little better.

It’s not clear what the issue is. iOS 11.1 Apple Pay Suica was a smooth ride on my iPhone 7 but on iPhone X it’s a problem with slower older NFC readers. Convenience stores and large store chains use the latest Panasonic and NEC NFC readers and work fine.

I suspect Apple needs to fine tune the NFC chipset performance on iPhone 8 and iPhone X to be a little more patient with older slower NFC readers along with adjustments on the store POS side as well.

 

Lost iPhone? Recover Your Apple Pay Suica

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The first thing to do if you lose an iPhone is put it in Lost Mode from iCloud.com or another iOS device. Lost Mode disables Apple Pay. If you find your iPhone, great; but how can you recover Suica if your iPhone is lost or stolen for good?

Apple Pay Suica Recovery E
Remove Apple Pay Suica from the lost device before you delete the device

Delete Apple Pay Suica from iCloud.com
Go to iCloud.com and sign in with the same Apple ID used for Apple Pay Suica. Go to Settings>My Devices and select the lost iPhone:

  1. First delete your Apple Pay cards. This should bring up a Wallet confirmation, confirm and delete your Apple Pay cards, it may take a few minutes to process completely.
  2. After Apple Pay Suica is successfully deleted, delete the lost iPhone from My Devices.

The same operation can be done on another iOS device or Mac, the process is the same: delete Apple Pay Suica from the lost device first, let it process, then delete the device.

Restore Apple Pay Suica
Restoring Suica is exactly the same as migrating to a new device. Once you successfully delete Suica on the lost iPhone, you simply add Suica in Wallet in the new iPhone. Make sure your iPhone Region is set to Japan.

The same process can also be used to restore Apple Pay Suica from a dead iPhone.