Why iPhone 7 Missed the Global FeliCa iPhone Party

Apple Pay Global FeliCa iPhone Chart

Many iPhone 7 users outside of Japan hoped that iOS 11 would enable NFC-F hardware functionality which all iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 have, so that overseas iPhone 7 models could join the iPhone 8/iPhone X global FeliCa party. iOS 11 arrived but iPhone 7 FeliCa remains a Japan model only feature. Why?

The silly reason is that overseas iPhone 7 models do not have the legally required Japanese MIC certification mark engraved on the case like the Japanese models. The real reasons are that Apple probably does not want to spend resources obtaining new global certification just for NFC-F in an older iPhone model. And of course Apple wants to give iPhone 7 users an excuse to upgrade.

In retrospect iPhone 7 was a transition to global NFC (A-B-F) model. The hardware was in place but iOS 10 Apple Pay did not have NFC switching ready. The iOS 10 Region setting assigned the NFC mode when adding cards to Wallet: NFC-F for Japan, NFC-A/B for other countries.

If you have your heart set on using Apple Pay Suica when you visit Japan but don’t want to upgrade to a global FeliCa iPhone, Apple Watch Series 3 is the less expensive option.

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iOS 11 Activates Apple Pay for Older Japanese iPhones – Updated with Correction

Update 11/1
The kind folks at ePayments.jp went out of their way to conduct extensive field tests and contacted me that my post reported incorrect information, I am thankful they did so. I should have done a better research job before posting and apologize both for the error and any confusion resulting from it.

When Apple introduced Apple Pay Japan in October 2016, the official release stated:

When paying for goods and services on the go within apps or Safari, Apple Pay works with iPhone 6 and later, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 3 and later. You can also use Apple Pay in Safari on any Mac introduced in or after 2012 running macOS Sierra, and confirm the payment with iPhone 6 or later or Apple Watch.

This has not changed for older Japanese iPhones in iOS 11:

Apple Pay Japan Page

However some Japanese iPhone 6 and 6S users were confused when adding Apple Pay cards for the first time in iOS 11. Apple Pay Japan cards in Wallet display the iD or QUICPay store payment logo artwork regardless of the device, because of this and rumors that Japanese credit card companies are considering NFC Pay support, some people thought iPhone 6 and 6S running iOS 11 could be used with NFC Pay (EMV) store terminals. As Apple documentation and field tests make clear, they cannot.

In theory Apple could add NFC Pay support in iPhone 6 and 6S for Apple Pay Japan Region set credit cards that can use it. But just like FeliCa support for non-Japanese iPhone 7 models, Apple is not going to re-qualify and re-certify older devices.

Users who want global FeliCa, NFC switching and all the other goodies of iOS 11 Apple Pay need to upgrade to iPhone 8, iPhone X or Apple Watch 3.

With the NFC switching capabilities of iOS 11 Apple Pay, Apple quietly activated Apple Pay Japan for older non-FeliCa NFC capable iPhones such as iPhone 6S. Surprised users with Japan issue cards that support JCB J/Speedy and Mastercard Contactless can add them to Apple Pay and use them at stores with EMV NFC-Pay ready readers.

Japan issue American Express cards should be good too but I have not confirmed them in the field yet.

iOS 11 Apple Pay Diagram 2
Store readers that support NFC Pay are still few and far between but slowly expanding as backend support is added and POS systems are updated.

All the Proof You Need that Your iPhone 8 Really Can Use Suica



There are lots of people who have trouble believing that a locally purchased iPhone 8 really is global FeliCa compatible and can use Suica. But there is no MIC certification mark, the model numbers and LTE bands are different in Japan, and so on. Relax and go to Apple’s Set up Apple Pay in your country. What does it say in the first section?

In Japan, you can also add Suica cards to Apple Pay.

Follow that link to Set up a Suica card in Apple Pay. This page is also in your local country Apple site. Read the bullet points:

  • An iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus purchased in Japan (model A1779 and A1785)
  • An iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus
  • The latest version of iOS
  • Device region set to Japan
  • A plastic Suica, My Suica, or Commuter Suica Card

Have fun using Suica when you visit Japan.

Travel Back to 2007 with SmartEX (U)

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SmartEX a new e-ticket reservation/purchase service from JR Central and JR West for Shinkansen travel between Fukuoka and Tokyo. The service starts September 30. Here is a quick summary.

The Good
-Use all 10 major transit IC cards for ticketless Shinkansen boarding
-Use Apple Pay Suica for ticketless Shinkansen boarding
Use the updated EX App to reserve and purchase SmartEX Shinkansen e-tickets
-Ticketless transfers from Shinkansen to regular train lines with Apple Pay Suica or transit IC card
-Discount for purchasing Shinkansen e-tickets with SmartEX
-E-ticket purchases with credit cards
-SmartEX membership is free

The Bad
-All other major transit cards outside of Suica don’t work with Apple Pay or any smartphone
-Discount for purchasing Shinkansen e-tickets with SmartEX is only ¥200
-No SmartEX or EX App Apple Pay support

The Ugly
-Registration can only be done with a web browser, just like 2007 era iPhone before the App Store.

Summary
TheSmartEX is JR Central/JR West’s first step into IC transit based card e-ticket purchase and ticketless Shinkansen boarding. The web browser based registration process is old fashioned, ugly and definitely not smartphone friendly but gets the job done. You register a email address, a credit card and the number of your Apple Pay Suica or plastic IC Transit card. You can then log in and purchase Shinkansen e-tickets with the EX App which are automatically linked to your Apple Pay Suica or IC Transit card.

Ticketless Shinkansen travel is convenient but you can get better Shinkansen discounts purchasing regular old paper tickets at a discount ticket store, or joining EX-PRESS Reserve if you travel regularly. Screen shots and links to the SmartEX site are included below.

Update: 9/30: Added EX App information, more details with video here.

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Sign up for SmartEX the old fashioned way with a web  browser, you register a mail address, a credit card and the number of your transit card. This can be Apple Pay Suica or a plastic IC transit card.
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After SmartEX registration on a web browser, you can log into the updated EX App to reserve and purchase Shinkansen tickets.