It’s that time of year again to look into the WWDC crystal ball and see what changes might be in store for iOS 14 Apple Pay. 2019 was an exciting year with the important Core NFC Read-Write additions for ISO 7816, ISO 15693, FeliCa, and MIFARE tags. Since then we’ve seen iOS apps add support for contactless passports, drivers licenses, retail and manufacturer vicinity NFC tags, transit ticketing, badging, and more. Some expectations ended up on the cutting room floor. The NFC tag Apple Pay feature that Jennifer Bailey showed back in May 2019 has yet to appear. Apple Pay Ventra and Octopus transit services slated for 2019 and iOS 13 failed to launch, as of this writing, still delayed.
Predicting anything in 2020 is a dangerous business because of the COVID-19 crisis. iPhone 12 might be delayed, iOS 14 might be delayed…all plans are up in the air. Some developments are clear, but timing is opaque. What follows is based on: 1) NTT Docomo announcement of Ultra Wideband (UWB) ‘Touchless’ Mobile FeliCa additions and JR East developing UWB Touchless transit gates, 2) CarKey and the Car Connectivity Consortium Digital Key 3.0 spec, 3) Mac 9to5 reports of AliPay coming to iOS 14 Apple Pay,
Going the distance
The NFC standard has been around a long time, long before smartphones, conceived when everything was built around close proximity read write physical IC cards. The standards have served us very well. So why are NTT Docomo and Sony (Mobile FeliCa) and NXP (MIFARE) adding Ultra Wide Band into the mix?
Ultra Wide Band delivers touchless: a hands free keep smartphone in pocket experience for unlocking a car door, walking through a transit gate or paying for takeout while sitting in the drive thru. Ultra Wide Band delivers distance with accuracy, doing away with “you’re holding it wrong” close proximity target hit areas necessary when using NFC. Hands free door access and transit gate access works just by walking up to it. As Junya Suzuki pointed out recently, UWB is passive compared to the active NFC ‘touch to the reader’ gesture and will live on smartphones, not on plastic cards. Those will remain limited to NFC.
Secure Element evolution and digital key sharing
The addition of UWB however means that the secure element, where transaction keys are kept and perform their magic, has to change. Up until now the secure element worked hand in glove with the NFC controller to make sure communications between the reader are secure and encrypted. For this reason embedded secure elements (eSE) usually reside on the NFC controller chip.
Apple chose to put the Apple Pay eSE in their own A/S series chips. The result gives Apple more control and flexibility, such as the ability to update secure element applets and implement features like global NFC. The addition of UWB in FeliCa and MIFARE means both smartphone and readers need the new hardware and software. Apple already has UWB U1 chip on iPhone 11, Mobile FeliCa software support could be coming with the next generation ‘Super Suica’ release in the spring of 2021.
The arrival of UWB signals another change in the Secure Element as shown in middle CarKey screen image: digital key sharing via the cloud. Mobile FeliCa Digital key sharing with FeliCa cards and devices was demonstrated at the Docomo Open House in January, also explained in the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCR) Digital Key White Paper. An interesting aspect of the CCR Digital Key architecture is the platform neutrality, any Secure Element provider (FeliCa, MIFARE, etc.) can plug into it. Calypso could join the party but I don’t see EMV moving to add UWB.
The QR Code Equation
There is another possible eSE change for Apple Pay. A few weeks ago a reader asked for some thoughts regarding the AliPay on iOS 14 Apple Pay rumor with a link to some screen/mockup images on the LIHKG site. Before getting to that it’s helpful to review the key Apple Pay Wallet features for payment cards: 1) Direct Face/Touch ID authentication and payment at the reader, 2) Device contained transactions without a network connection, 3) Ability to set a main card for Apple Pay
The images suggest a possible scenario for implementing AliPay in iOS 14 Apple Pay:
- AliPay has a PassKit API method to add a ‘QR Card’ to Wallet.
- Wallet QR Card set as the main card is directly invoked with a side button double-click for Face/Touch ID authentication and dynamic QR Code payment generation in Apple Pay.
- Direct static QR Code reads with Apple Pay payment.
If Apple is adding AliPay to the ranks of top tier Wallet payment cards, they have to provide a way in. The new “PKSecureElementPass” PassKit framework addition in iOS 13.4 could be just that. Instead of PassKit NFC Certificates, the addition suggests a Secure Element Pass/certificate. The burning question here: does AliPay have a Secure Element Java Card applet to perform transactions without a network connection? If so, we have QR Wallet payment cards. Direct Apple Pay Wallet QR integration would open up things for 3rd party (non bank) payment players. QR integration might also help Apple skirt NFC monopoly allegations that got Apple Pay in trouble the Swiss government.
Dual Mode and flexible front ends
The addition of QR and UWB with NFC for payments opens up a long term possibility suggested by Toyota Wallet. The current app lets the user attach a QR code app payment method and/or a NFC Wallet payment method to an account. It’s intriguing but clunky. Wallet QR Payment support would allow Toyota Wallet to move the entire payment front end to Wallet and let the user choose add either one or both.
It’s the latter that interests me most. Instead of having separate NFC and QR payment cards from the same issuer for the same account, I’d much rather have one adaptive Wallet card that smartly uses the appropriate protocol, QR, NFC, UWB for the payment at hand. This is what smart wallets should do. Let’s hope Apple Pay Wallet makes it there someday.