iOS 13 b4 Apple Pay Suica: the wheel that refreshes

The Apple Pay Suica iOS 12.2 UI had one head scratching feature: the pull down refresh in the Suica details window. It didn’t update the balance or transaction information, or appear to do anything at all except twirl. It was a useless mystery wheel that iOS 13 b4 finally solves: it’s for updating the new Shinkansen and Green Car ticket information sections added in the latest beta from Mobile Suica.

These previously existed but only appeared when a user purchased Shinkansen or Green Car eTickets in Suica App. Purchased eTickets are downloaded to the Wallet Suica card for use on JR East Shinkansen lines or Green Car seats for regular trains on JR East and JR Central. It makes sense to add a permanent Tickets section so that users will know where to find and download them before going through the Shinkansen transit gate. I hope we’ll get better notifications too. I think this is also JR East and Apple getting things ready for the new Shinkansen eTicket system and refreshed Suica App due to arrive on April 2020.

There are no other Suica changes in iOS 13 b4. Suica Notification 3D/Haptic Touch shortcuts are still missing and that big useless Suica in-transit notification is still there, useless as ever. Maybe we’ll find the answer to that mystery in the next beta

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Reminder: JR East Suica System Downtime July 6 9pm~5am

Just a friendly reminder that the first of JR East’s major Suica system maintenance downtimes starts Saturday July 6 at 9pm and runs to 5am. Mobile Suica and JR East station Suica ticket machine services are going offline.

During the offline period you can still use plastic Suica and Apple Pay Suica for transit and purchases as usual, but Apple Pay Suica Recharge will be limited to cash only from 1am~4am. Remember that you can always cash recharge Apple Pay Suica at any convenience store cash register or 7-Eleven ATM machine. 

All other operations such as adding Suica to Wallet and all Suica App functions, and corresponding services at JR East station Suica ticket machines, will be offline for the entire maintenance window.

Be prepared and check your Suica balance and recharge before 9pm. The next major maintenance downtime is scheduled for Saturday July 20 9pm~5am.

JR East Mobile Suica Shinkansen eTicket Outage and Refunds

JR East already announced the end of Mobile Suica Shinkansen eTicket Service in March 2020 and is busy building a new eTicket system that will start April 1, 2020. This is a huge change, glitches are sure to happen along the way.

A big glitch happened yesterday evening May 24 at 18:00: the Mobile Suica Shinkansen eTicket service went down. Some Apple Pay Suica users experienced performance issues with Suica Recharge in Wallet and adding new Suica cards to Wallet during the outage, Mobile Suica users on Android were affected as well. All services were restored as of May 25 5:30 am local Tokyo time.

During the service outage Mobile Suica users on iPhone (Suica App) and Android (Mobile Suica App) who purchased Shinkansen eTickets could not download purchased eTickets to their device, make any online changes to purchased eTickets, or purchase new eTickets.

JR East will refund any Mobile Suica Shinkansen eTickets that were purchased or could not be used during the service outage. JR East also stresses that any unsuccessful Suica Recharge attempts are not charged to bank cards. See the JR East Support page (Japanese language only) for details and use the link to apply online for a eTicket refund (Japanese language only).

Reader Questions: Remove Suica from Apple Pay Wallet but not lose Suica

What’s the process if I want to remove Suica card from Apple Pay Wallet but not lose the card? I plan to sell my phone but have a commuter pass that’s still valid.

This one is super easy. Go to Wallet, tap Suica, tap “˙˙˙” in the upper right corner, scroll to the bottom of the Suica card options, tap “Remove This Card”.

Poof, Suica card is gone from Wallet, but don’t worry.

This is where the fun begins. Suica is automatically migrated from Wallet and stored on the Apple Pay iCloud & Mobile Suica Cloud where it is safe and ready to be re-added to the same iPhone, another iPhone or Apple Watch at any time with Suica Balance and Commute Plan intact.

The user does not need a Mobile Suica account to do this, for example, if you add a plastic Commuter Suica card to Apple Pay. It all works seamlessly because of an arrangement between Apple and JR East that links Apple Pay and Mobile Suica together in a special way.

If you take the time to install Suica App and look at your Suica card info, you see something like this:

Let’s say you add a 2nd plastic Suica card to Apple Pay. Look at the Suica App info for the 2nd card and you’ll see something like this:

What’s happening on the system level is that even though you do not have a Mobile Suica account, Apple Pay automatically registers your Apple ID on Mobile Suica Cloud the first time you add Suica card to Wallet, so that you never lose it. If you add a 2nd card it is also registered as Apple ID_1, a 3rd card as Apple ID_2, etc. Each and every Suica card is safe and secure no matter how many times you remove it from Wallet. The important thing to remember is that removing Suica from Wallet never deletes Suica from Apple Pay iCloud or Mobile Suica.

This is the reason why Apple Pay Suica cards cannot be migrated to Android Osaifu Keitai or Google Pay. Migrators leaving iPhone for good need to delete all of their Apple Pay Suica cards and get a refund in Suica App. This is the only way to completely delete a Suica card from Apple Pay iCloud and Mobile Suica.

Apple Pay Suica on Apple Watch: First Impressions

Now that iOS 12.3 is out with great Apple Pay Suica performance and no more bugs, I have a new side project: Apple Pay Suica on Apple Watch. I moved my daily Commuter Suica to Apple Watch and it’s an interesting experience. Some first impressions.

  • Apple Pay Suica performance on watchOS 5.2.1 on Apple Watch Series 4 is great, but not as great as iOS 12.3 on iPhone XS. Because A12 Bionic removes the iOS overhead for Express Cards with power reserve, Apple Pay Suica on iPhone XS/XR feels light and snappy like a plastic Suica card. I can’t wait for Express Cards with power reserve on Apple Watch.
  • Suica Recharge on Apple Watch sucks and I have discovered how wonderfully useful Suica App really is. I have a Commuter Suica on Apple Watch and a My Suica on iPhone. Both of these can be recharged and managed (with different credit cards attached to each Suica!) in Suica App. It’s super convenient and has opened my eyes to a major Apple Pay Wallet design weakness: iPhone Wallet and Watch App Wallet should just be one thing that manages all of my Wallets cards on both devices in one place. Apple Watch Wallet is great, in a pinch, but it’s a lousy UI experience for managing transit card options and Suica Recharge. Apple Pay transit prepaid card users access those card options far more than credit cards. I added a unified Wallet request for iOS 13 to the Apple Pay WWDC19 wish list.
  • Suica Reminders for low balance and commuter plan renewals are another Apple Watch weak point. They don’t exist. Suica App to the rescue again with Notification Sounds. The 3 beep Suica low balance reminder (¥1,000 or less) works everywhere and is a life saver. It’s far more attention grabbing than Apple Pay Suica Notification Center reminders on iPhone.

A true story: I was buying lunch at a family owned Daily Yamazaki convenience store. You might know the kind, a Showa style convenience store stocked with Yamazaki breads, homemade sandwiches and bento, usually run by an older couple, a store from a different era that will unfortunately disappear.

I bought a bento and paid with Apple Pay Suica on Apple Watch. The Suica 3 beep low balance reminder sound from the reader caught the attention of the owner who looked to be in his late 70s. “Suica works on that? It’s so small.” I assured him Suica worked on Apple Watch.

He smiled and said, “That’s really convenient. You’ll never lose it or have to find it when it’s on your wrist.”

It is indeed.