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.
Door locks…check, ID…check, transit…oops. The Information got 2 out of 3 right but the transit stuff was a bust. We won’t get the whole iOS 12 and watchOS 5 story until new products are announced this fall but it looks like open developer access to Apple Pay and NFC is coming via an enhanced Core NFC, or some other method to be revealed later this week at WWDC18. A lot of developer heads would turn if Apple completely opens the doors to full 3rd party access with all 3 NFC Modes: Card Emulation, Reader/Writer and Peer to Peer.
Contactless student ID cards are Stored Value (SV)
Because they are SV cards, they can be recharged
Since they will reside in Apple Pay Wallet this probably means contactless student ID cards can be ‘recharged’ with an Apple Pay credit card instead of running to the nearest ‘refill/recharge’ station. Anytime, Anywhere Recharge.
Sound familiar? My goodness it’s just like Apple Pay Suica that you can recharge on the go and use for JR East Suica coin lockers. The only real difference is that Apple Pay Student ID cards cannot be used for transit. At least not yet. The Apple Pay Developer page says, “discover how to create contactless passes for rewards cards, gift cards, tickets, and more.” Contactless passes for reward cards eh? Sounds like that JRE POINT card in Apple Pay Wallet will be possible after all.
UPDATE: Contactless Passes are made possible with NFC Certificates and appear to the method for some 3rd party access to NFC in iOS 12 and watchOS 5.
Transit cards have one job: get the user through the ticket gate quickly and reliably every time, no questions asked. Because they are bullet proof, fast, highly reliable and also used for e-money purchases, transit cards like Suica and Octopus have evolved beyond transit smartcard systems into transit platforms.
A transit platform becomes even more powerful, flexible, essential and transformative when it is deployed on smartphone digital wallet platforms like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay. When economies of scale and masses of moving people with transit card loaded smartphones come together all kinds of exciting new business possibilities and synergies open up: for transit companies, for local area economies, for merchants, for the digital wallet platforms and for customers.
But this can only happen if the basic transit card job and performance on the smartphone matches the plastic one. It has to be as fast and reliable as a plastic transit smartcard every time. It has to be bullet proof. This is essential. When the smartphone transit card performance is not up to the plastic one, people simply don’t use it and stay with plastic or reach for something else. Ask any daily commuter.
The iPhone X Suica Problem
This is exactly what is happening to iPhone X in the Japanese market, perfectly captured in the following tweet of which you can find plenty more. Apple has not fixed the long running iPhone X Suica problem, 7 months and counting, and for customers who depend on Suica iPhone X is a poorly designed piece of expensive junk. A spec problem. The risk of Apple doing nothing has damaged Apple’s brand value in the Japanese market. A small thing can have big implications and Japan is not the only market where this is happening.
Apple Pay≠Apple Pay Transit
The iOS 11.4 update was originally slated to expand Apple Pay Transit cards beyond Beijing and Shanghai to include Jiangsu, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Chongqing but didn’t make the cut. Why not? China Apple Pay Express Transit cards are all the same spec right? The answer is on the Apple Pay Transit page and in Chinese discussion forums: Apple Pay China transit cards are a glitchy unreliable beta product. Chinese smartphones from Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo don’t have these problems. Transit cards are different from credit cards because the spec is much higher with tight tolerances, they have to work perfectly every time. Apple Pay≠Apple Pay Transit.
Maybe the beefed up Core NFC changes rumored to be coming with iOS 12 will help Apple fix Apple Pay Transit card problems in the long run but fixing the current problems ASAP should be top priority if Apple wants to protect Apple brand value in the China and Japan markets.
This market risk applies not only to smartphone vendors, it applies to transit companies too. Especially those who are switching from fast, reliable ‘closed’ stored value (SV) systems to ‘open’ slow, glitchy EMV contactless.
People think contactless cards are all the same. They are not: a credit card is not a transit card, it’s not yours. Credit cards are subject to the whims and idiosyncrasies of the issuing bank who can deactivate any card at a moments notice without bothering to tell you. This is a problem when using a credit card as a transit card. Singapore transit users are complaining of fried plastic contactless credit cards and of card issuers deactivating cards mid-transit for being over limit. A stored value transit card is yours with your money stored on it. Locally ‘off line’ processed stored value transit cards will always be faster and safer than credit cards because the FeliCa, MIFARE and CEPAS technology behind them was tailored for transit needs.
The risk to transit companies going ‘open loop’ is that every glitch and problem gets blamed on the transit company, never the payment network or credit card company because people have zero expectations for credit card companies and banks. The transit company ‘brand value’ is damaged by the management whims of other companies.
The other downside it that all the exciting business possibilities and synergies of a transit platform + digital wallet are lost. In this case everybody loses: the transit company, transit area merchants, digital platform vendors and most of all, transit customers.
UPDATE: I incorrectly stated that China Express Transit Beijing and Shanghai cards use MIFARE technology. They used to be MIFARE but migrated to something similar to PBOC 2.0 ED/EP and T-Union cards are a further development but the Apple Pay Express Transit flavor is different.
Carefully crafted audio feedback is a helpful and important part of any user experience. The lovely Apple Pay ‘ka-ching’ sound is an excellent example. Japanese FeliCa networks incorporate sound feedback as a basic part of their customer experience. This is important because visual feedback from the NFC payment terminal is minimal at best and often missing altogether.
JR East Suica: the classic Suica beep is simple but effective. Simple is hard to do well and the petite, svelte Suica beep carries amazing well in extremely noisy, echoey stations without being annoying or blaring. For some reason it blends well with the Apple Pay sound.
Suica at the cash register is the 2 beep sound which means the transaction has been deducted from the Suica stored fare (SF) as heard in this Suica TV ad, yet another happy catchy singing jingle ad that Japanese seem to prefer.
The other FeliCa payment networks each have their own transaction sound as heard in the following clip. In order: iD, nanaco, QUICPay, Edy and WAON.
The NFC-Pay sound is flat and blah:
Suica, iD and QUICPay sounds are easy to hear in a noisy environment like a cafe register area. Edy, nanaco, WAON and NFC-Pay are easily lost in the shuffle. Japanese payment networks have the right idea: make those ‘all done’ feedback sounds distinctive, and fun.
In America I have yet to hear any NFC payment terminal feedback at all. At a noisy Starbucks it’s hard to even hear the Apple Pay sound. Payment networks and equipment vendors like Verifone should pay attention and put more effort into creating a better user experience with distinctive, carefully crafted feedback sounds.
WWDC18 will likely have the new native transit card focused ‘Apple Pay Transit’ as part of expanded NFC functionality for iOS 12. Hopefully the new iOS 12 NFC functions will make it much easier to support native transit smartcards in Apple Pay Transit and let transit agencies and developers add new features on mobile platforms.
Native Apple Pay Transit Cards are few, the majority are much slower EMV contactless credit card used for transit
UPDATE 1: the iOS 11.4 Update did not add Apple Pay Transit cards for China