Face ID One Month Mark

A useful and hilarious take on how well Face ID works at the one month mark:

Face mask face= no

Sleepy face = no

Toothbrushing face= yes

Suica in a hurry face = meh

Wake up face = no

Nose cleaning face= no

Summary opinion: “I liked Touch ID better.”

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JCB J/Speedy Apple Pay Lands in Taiwan

JCB Apple Pay in Taiwan

JCB announced J/Speedy Apple Pay service for Taiwan today. This means any Taiwanese customers with JCB cards can add them to Apple Pay. More importantly this means all those Japanese tourists that Taiwan has been advertising to can now spend money with Apple Pay JCB cards in Taiwan. In short iOS 11 NFC switching for FeliCa QUICPay at home and EMV J/Speedy in Taiwan.

Who says you can’t have it both ways?

iPhone X Suica Problem a Design Flaw?

I know, I know, John Gruber says question marks in titles are bullshit but Japanese iPhone X Suica users are asking: is the iPhone X Suica problem an Apple design flaw? Is this the iPhone X dirty little secret?

Since covering the issue since December 2017 only one thing is clear: there is nothing clear about the iPhone X Suica Problem. It looks like a software problem but also shows signs of being a hardware flaw. The one consistent aspect is that iPhone X NFC performance is unreliable compared to the rock solid NFC performance of iPhone 8/8 Plus and Apple Watch Series 3. It’s a problem in Japan because transit cards like Suica require much higher performance than low performance EMV contactless credit cards. Transit gates are not cash registers. EMV was developed for slow pokey credit card payments at your local supermarket, not whizzing through a transit gate at Tokyo rush crush hour. This is why EMV sucks at transit.

iPhone X Suica Problem Solved
yuya-310 is a happy iPhone X Suica user.

I did not give serious thought to the ‘iPhone X Suica Problem is due to an Apple design flaw’ theory until yuya-310 reported that exchanging iPhone X fixed his Suica problem and that Apple Pay Suica performance is suddenly and consistently as fast and responsive as iPhone 8 Apple Pay Suica performance.

In that post I wrote:

A few things to consider:

  • iPhone 8/8 Plus do not have the Suica problem
  • iPhone 8/8 Plus/iPhone X all use the same NXP NFC chip
  • The iPhone X OLED screen and battery are considerably different from iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus
  • There are separate iOS 11 builds, one for iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus and one for iPhone X

Because they all use the same NXP chip and because iPhone 8/8 Plus do not have the Suica problem, we can eliminate the NXP Chip, Mobile FeliCa stack and Suica stack from the iPhone X Suica problem matrix. This leaves us with the different screen, the different battery and the unique iOS 11 build of iPhone X. The screen or battery or something else might use slightly modified parts and revised drivers that are different from early iPhone X production units.

I asked an NFC expert for an opinion, his answer was very interesting:

I don’t have an iPhone X to test, but since it seems to affect Type A (China Express Transit Beijing and Shanghai) cards as well it sounds like an antenna specification problem, an interaction with other components in the device, or an RF routing issue on the phone’s motherboard, which is considerably more complex than the iPhone 8 models.

Another New Theory
Based on yuya-310’s exchanged iPhone X Suica experience and the above motherboard information, my new theory is that the iPhone X Suica problem is a motherboard design problem that is already fixed with a small but important revision tweak to the iPhone X motherboard. A ‘Revision B’ kind of thing that finally brings iPhone X NFC performance in line with iPhone 8.

I believe that Apple’s inability to fix the iPhone X Suica problem despite multiple iOS 11 updates is proof of a iPhone X NFC related hardware problem: if it was just software it would be fixed by now. I think events will play out in the following ways, in order of possibility:

  1. Short term scenario: Apple will not admit there is a iPhone X NFC hardware issue but will quietly swap out problem ‘Day 1’ iPhone X devices under warranty with a ‘Revision B’ iPhone X.
  2. Best long term scenario for Apple: iOS 12 has a workaround fix for pre Revision B ‘Day 1’ iPhone X devices. After iOS 12 ships the iPhone X Suica error problem is finally fixed for everybody. NFC performance on ‘Day 1’ iPhone X devices remains sluggish and less robust than Revision B iPhone X but is ‘good enough’.
  3. Worst long term scenario for Apple: iOS 12 does not fix the iPhone X Suica problem Apple admits the iPhone X NFC flaw and issues a replacement program. Every Day 1 iPhone X user gets a Revision B iPhone X replacement.
  4. Least likely scenario: iOS 12 or a iOS 11.4.x update fixes the iPhone X Suica problem, everything works great across the board on Day 1 iPhone X and Revision B iPhone X. I don’t see this happening.

When iOS 12 ships the new iPhone models will have been announced and everybody will have moved on from iPhone X. Whatever the outcome, Apple’s complete silence and non-action regarding the iPhone X Suica problem has left iPhone X Japanese customers saddled with an inferior product that does not work with Apple Pay in Japan.

Apple has yet to do right by Japanese iPhone X customers. This is sad, and inexcusable.

UPDATE: I have a manufacture date benchmark to test the Revision B iPhone X theory: iPhone X units manufactured on or after production week 18 (April) 2018 appear to be free of the iPhone X Suica problem. Details here.

Thoughts on Google Pay Suica

Investor-writer Ichiro Yamamoto shares his Thoughts on Google Pay Suica on Yahoo Japan. If you ever need proof that Keio University Business School grads can be idiots look no further. Instead of getting his facts straight, Yamamoto san feels Google’s pain and blames the Google Pay Suica debacle not on Google, but on the FeliCa / Osaifu-Keitai standard because it is “Japanese” and not “Global”. Yes folks another ‘FeliCa must die because it’s proprietary’ rant. How 1990s can you get? I guess Yamamoto san is invested in Alphabet.

Yamamoto san then goes completely off the rail saying that Japanese iPhone Apple Pay cannot be used abroad and that QR Codes are shaping up to be the future of a cashless economy.

Ichiro Yamamoto Yahoo Japan
Yamamoto san says Apple Pay Japan can only be used by ‘Japanese iPhones’.

What a load of crap. I guess Yamamoto san never heard the news about Global FeliCa iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch 3. I guess he never heard of NFC Switching or used a Japanese iPhone X Apple Pay d CARD to buy things in America. Yes Yamamoto san, it does work:

A lot of “experts” make the mistake of mixing up the open global NFC hardware standard (NFC A and NFC-F are required) with the proprietary software stacks that run digital wallets: EMV, FeliCa, MIFARE, etc. Smartphone manufacturers will always have to license  software stacks and keys to make digital wallets work. There is no free ride.

What it comes down to is that Apple can create and sell a smartphone that is truly ‘Global’ and Apple Pay just works everywhere because Apple owns the software and hardware.

Android smartphone makers have yet to take up the challenge to make a global Android phone and actually sell it globally. Google isn’t going to help them.

The iPhone X Suica Golden Boy

The ongoing iPhone X Suica Problem is, well, a continuing problem for many. But not all! Twitter user yuya-310 has been a loyal reader sharing his iPhone X Suica problems and thoughts. He alerted me to the XPERIA Z5 Suica problem which suspiciously resembles the iPhone X problem, he thought it might be related to the OLED power saving function part of iOS 11 for iPhone X unique to X hardware.

An iPhone X exchange at the Omotesando Genius Bar did not fix my Suica problem, 4 other readers told me their iPhone X exchange didn’t work for them either. Despite the negative reports yuya-310 bit the bullet and exchanged his iPhone X on May 14. He has not experienced a single Apple Pay Suica error since.

Do we have a winner? Time will tell but 3 weeks of daily problem free iPhone X Suica use, with an iOS upgrade to boot, is good enough for me. Congratualtions yuya! But why did his iPhone X exchange fix the Suica problem while everybody else lost out?

iPhone X Apple Pay Suica Problem Hardware or Software?

A few things to consider:

  • iPhone 8/8 Plus do not have the Suica problem
  • iPhone 8/8 Plus/iPhone X all use the same NXP NFC chip
  • The iPhone X OLED screen and battery are considerably different from iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus
  • There are separate iOS 11 builds, one for iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus and one for iPhone X

Because they all use the same NXP chip and because iPhone 8/8 Plus do not have the Suica problem, we can eliminate the NXP Chip, Mobile FeliCa stack and Suica stack from the iPhone X Suica problem matrix. This leaves us with the different screen, the different battery and the unique iOS 11 build of iPhone X. The screen or battery or something else might use slightly modified parts and revised drivers that are different from early iPhone X production units.

There is also the possibility that iPhone X production quality is uneven with good and bad NFC iPhone X models rolling off the assembly line with Apple Q&A unable to spot the difference. This kind of scenario is a whole different kettle of fish and I think highly unlikely.

Only Apple engineers know the answer. Let’s hope they find the answer and solution for all iPhone X Suica users sooner than later. We deserve to be golden boy winners too.