Until now large scale Apple Pay Express Card use has been limited to Tokyo (Suica) and Beijing/Shanghai (China Transit). Apple Pay Suica is by far Apple’s largest Express Card market since Suica has been in use for transit and store purchases nationwide for over a decade and on mobile phones since 2006. Because of the larger Apple Pay Suica user base and higher use rate, it was possible to identify the iPhone X Suica problem even though it was a NFC problem affecting all NFC modes, A-B-F, and related technologies (FeliCa, PBOC, EMV). Though Apple never publicly acknowledged the hardware problem (sadly, far too common these days), Apple quietly exchanged bad iPhone X devices for Revision B iPhone X devices for pesky, persistent users who had Apple Pay Express Card problems in Japan or China.
In Japan, iPhone purchases were traditionally subsidized, bundled with carrier contracts. Today, local regulations have significantly restricted those subsidies as well as related competition. We estimate less than half of iPhones sold in Japan in Q1 this year were sold via subsidy.
That and the battery replacement program were the official reasons. The unmentioned unresolved iPhone X Suica problem was another.
UPDATE Tim told Reuters that, ‘Apple is rethinking how it prices the iPhone outside the United States after largely setting the price in U.S. dollars, which made the phones more expensive in local currencies as the dollar strengthened.’ Hopefully Japan is one of the markets that could see iPhone price adjustments. There are also other things Apple can do in Japan to help offset the iPhone sales decline.
How about doing a nice little marketing campaign with the Japanese carriers offering a nice trade in price for those old Osaifu-Keitai with a discount on a iPhone XR or iPhone 8? I know, I know, you only want to sell iPhone XR but until the Face ID camera has magic x-ray ability at an affordable price, all those face mask users in Japan will really appreciate a Touch ID iPhone 8 choice. Offer trade in customers free assistance moving and setting up their Mobile Suica accounts in Apple Pay Suica at local Apple Stores. I’m sure it would be a success.
Go for it Tim! It will undoubtedly help Apple sell more global FeliCa iPhones because Octopus on Apple Pay is a great marketing angle for the iPhone XR/XS models with Express Card power reserve and bulletproofed FeliCa performance. I have yet to experience a single Apple Pay Suica gate error from my iPhone XS with daily use since the launch date.
UPDATE It occurred to me after posting the above that Apple has introduced transit cards and the technology behind them with larger point releases: iOS 10.1 for Suica (FeliCa) and iOS 11.3 for Beijing and Shanghai Transit cards (Apple flavored PBOC 2.0 ED/EP). In this scenario iOS 12.2 is the logical starting point for Octopus on Apple Pay. However, Octopus is FeliCa which has been part of Apple Pay for over 2 years, Apple has ample engineering and testing experience with the technology to add Octopus with a smaller point release, or none at all which was the case with contactless student ID cards.
UPDATE 2 The original source reports pointed to an end of January rollout, now that iOS 12.1.3 is released we will see how it plays out between now and iOS 12.2. Considering the Apple Pay Suica launch meltdown on iOS 10.1 update day, Apple would be wise to launch on a quiet network day as Apple Pay Octopus day 1 user additions will far outstrip any regular credit card Apple Pay rollout, the use profile for prepaid transit cards is very different.