Suica App user reviews are relentlessly bad, rip after rip of ‘this software sucks’. Never a good thing to say. Here’s the thing however, when you dig into the reviews most of them have little to do Suica App. It’s also really weird that many reviewers/users seem to think they need Suica App for using Suica at the transit gate. They don’t.
Why are people even using Suica App anyway? You don’t need it to add Suica to iPhone, you don’t need it to recharge Suica. All these things can be done in Wallet app. And now that people are working remotely, there is much less demand for purchasing commuter passes, the biggest reason for using Suica App in the first place. But there is one good reason for using Suica App: setting up Auto-Charge. Set that and you’ll never have to use Suica App.
There’s an important difference to know about Auto-Charge vs. regular recharge in Suica app and Wallet app: auto-charge is locally processed via the transit gate Suica NFC reader. It’s instantaneous and doesn’t care about your iPhone network connection.
Wallet and Suica app recharge are processed via the iPhone (or Apple Watch) network connection. Apple Pay talks with iCloud and Mobile Suica, the transaction is processed online and relayed back to Apple Pay, the recharge amount is added to Suica card. Many network hoops.
There is a message the Mobile Suica twitter account puts out regularly: make sure your smartphone has a robust network connection and don’t use free WiFi when recharging Suica or using Suica App. A bad WiFi connection fools Suica App users into thinking their iPhone is connected to the internet when it is not. This is a particular problem with carrier Wi-Fi SIM auto-connect that bypasses a solid 4G/5G connection and automatically connects to an extremely unstable or overloaded carrier WiFi instead. WiFi on trains and in stations is never reliable and should be turned off when using recharging Suica in Wallet or using Suica App.
Which brings us to an interesting Suica App user review titled “It’s a real urban legend” which explains all the crap talk about Mobile Suica boils down to people trying to recharge at rush hour in transit gate areas with a crapped out carrier or free WiFi connection…the perfect Suica App killer situation. The reviewer recommends “recharge in a calm place at calm time,” to which I heartily agree. Or better yet, ditch network recharge altogether and use Suica NFC Auto-Charge. It will never fail you.
These Mobile Suica passes will not be available at the local station ticket window, they are purchased in a new version of Suica App due by the service launch date. Only regular Mobile Suica or Mobile Suica with expired commute plan can be used for day passes, Mobile Suica with valid a commuter plan attached cannot be used. JR East is promoting the passes offering bonus JRE POINT when purchased in Suica App with a VIEW credit card.
The very next day after the JR East announcement Apple released the first developer iOS 15.4 beta with many new features including Wallet app strings related to transit card commute plans and stored value, such as “Save money with time based or unlimited ride plans.”
The delicious timing is not coincidence: Apple Pay Suica will certainly put these new iOS 15.4 Wallet strings to good use when the new day passes launch. Wallet app currently indicates when a Suica card is a regular type or has a commute plan attached. The addition of Suica day passes require some sort of new Wallet UI indicator.
One interesting aspect of the Mobile Suica commuter pass limitation: the current card architecture only has one area for attachted commute plans, if there is a valid commute plan it must be removed before a day pass can be added. This storage limitation is addressed by Suica 2 in 1 which holds up to 2 different commute plans but even here there is the problem of conflicting commute plan + day pass plan that exist for the same transit region on the same card. There is no way for the transit gate to determine which one to use for fare calculation: commute plan or day pass. Hence the ‘no commute plan’ rule.
Mobile Suica student commuter passes (university or vocational schools) have been around for some time, but purchase and renewal required a trip to the local JR East ticket office to confirm the school issue student ID. From February 13 students purchase and renew Mobile Suica student commute plans in a new version of Suica App after pre-registration and uploading a picture of the student ID for verification via the Mobile Suica member site (that got a desperately needed refresh). Still somewhat of a pain but much better than before.
Imagine how easy it would be if a digital student ID card loaded in Wallet could be used for secure digital confirmation instead of uploading a picture and mailing a paper copy. In time digital ID will hopefully deliver this kind of time saving convenience.
JR East has been planning this for years and report that in 2019 only 30% of JR East ticketing was purchased at a JR East Ticket Window (Midori-guchi). In 2020 that number declined to 20%. Could it be people were so tired of waiting in long slow ticket office lines they bought tickets elsewhere? Let’s be real though, the COVID pandemic has hit transit so hard all expenses that can be cut will be cut. You will going ticketless whether you like it or not.
So yes, we have Mobile Suica and Eki-Net Ticketless for regular express trains, Touch and Go Shinkansen, Mobile Suica and Shinkansen eTickets. By 2025 I suspect QR tickets will have replaced mag strip tickets. The Cloud Suica system coming in 2023 is said to power QR ticketing as well. All is good, I guess. Except for when you need help at the transit gate for some weird ticket problem, a smartphone that died before you got to the last station because you were too wrapped up playing games on it. What do you do? Press a button for an online station agent:
JR East says real station agents will be available to offer real assistance for disabled customers and such. We shall see. If JRE wants people to use Suica as much as possible they need to get Suica disability discount fares in order and working on mobile. Right now they are only working in the 2 in 1 totra Suica region. They need to work everywhere.
The new features that make up 2 in 1 Suica are called many things. JR East calls it ‘Next Generation Suica’ and ‘2 in 1 Region Affiliate Card’. Yanik Mangan came up with a great ‘All-in-one Suica’ moniker in his limitless possibilities podcast. I call it, and will continue to call it, Super Suica because I see wider Suica platform initiatives built off the new FeliCa OS features used for 2 in 1 • next generation Suica. It’s a looser, fuzzier platform evolution definition compared to Yanik’s tighter all-in-one card solution focused one.
That doesn’t mean that Super Suica or all-in-one Suica will ever happen they way we envision it, but at least we have some convenient handles to discuss and categorize ongoing developments until something official comes along.
This is a list of announcements, launches and posts related to Super Suica as a platform with links to JR Group PR releases, color classifications as follows:
🟩= Suica cards • Suica region extensions 🟧= Mobile FeliCa, Mobile Suica + derivations (Mobile PASMO, Mobile ICOCA) 🟥= FeliCa Standard SD2• New FeliCa OS 🟦= Cloud Suica (transit fare) • JESCA-Cloud (e-Money payments) 🟪= ID-PORT Services
🟩🟥Next Generation Suica 2 in 1 cards A new card for integrating Transit IC and region cards in new ways focusing on Suica 2 in 1 Region Affiliate transit cards and FeliCa Standard SD2 • FeliCa OS as the core development. JR Cross Region Commuter Passes included as I suspect they also use SD2 Extended Overlap and represent a step towards cross region through transit for Transit IC.
🟧Mobile FeliCa • Mobile Suica The evolution of Mobile FeliCa to include UWB touchless and multiple secure element domains for digital ID, Mobile Suica service expansion and hosting Mobile PASMO and Mobile ICOCA.
March 13 New Cross Region Commuter Passes (plastic Suica/TOICA/ICOCA only): JR Group companies extend transit region commute pass region boundaries inside their respective regions for easier cross region Shinkansen commuting.
March 20~21 Special Mobile Suica service maintenance and update: Mobile Suica gets an upgrade on the backend to support new versions of Android Mobile Suica/iOS Suica. Most of the new features are for Android but iOS Suica App will get improvements too. Mobile Suica users will be required to enter account ID and password with the app update. Make sure you have that information ready or update/reset passwords before the Mobile Suica 20 hour service maintenance downtime 11 am March 20 to 7 am March 21.
March 21 Almost last but not least we have the first ‘Super’ Suica 2 in 1 region transit card launch: totra for Tochigi prefecture.
March 27 The last item is Suica 2 in 1 region transit card launch #2: Iwate Green Pass that covers Iwate Kotsu bus lines.