iOS 12.2 Update: Apple Card Flavored Suica

iOS 12.2 rearranges the familiar Wallet UI to make way for Apple Card with prepaid cards like Suica along for the ride. The changes on the Suica prepaid side include new ‘Add Money’ and commuter pass ‘Renew’ button designs, transaction icons and other layout tweaks that look more like the Samsung One UI than iOS. It’s a halfhearted attempt to make prepaid functions more accessible than the previous iOS 10.1~12.1 Wallet design, but not very a successful one because of UI changes dictated by the forthcoming Apple Card. The total is less than the sum of the sloppily rushed parts. Let’s take a look.

Wallet UI Changes
The main Wallet view for regular Suica cards now has the Add Money button for easy access next to the balance with the latest transaction listed with a huge icon in a separate area below. This ‘button up front’ tweak is easily the most successful and welcome design change for prepaid cards in iOS 12.2 Wallet:

The new Wallet design for Commuter Suica cards however fails to improve things from the previous design. The commuter pass information still resides on the same line with balance so you still have to tap to another screen to access Add Money and commuter pass renew buttons. There’s plenty of room without that huge useless transaction icon, why not just put it all on the main screen? Apple could have done a better design job here but again Apple Card was dictating the UI changes:

Tapping the new black “…” in the upper right corner brings up the Suica info/transactions view. The previous design had it in the lower right corner which I prefer as I find going down to tap feels more natural that reaching up to tap. Transaction history includes the new huge icons that indicate transaction type: transit-purchase-credit. These appear utter useless to me since the information is already listed in the text. Big icons in a list view are questionable at best, here they are just bad design because transit/e-money prepaid cards like Suica have a vastly different daily use profile than credit cards:

The Suica info window now has ‘Add Money’, ‘Renew’ placed near the top along with shortcut icons to Mobile Suica support. Look carefully and you can see the UI designers botched icon placement because some fool insisted the English word “Web” remain along with the Japanese even though English is completely unnecessary in Japanese localization. More Sloppy:

The ‘black instead of blue’ theme for the new Wallet card UI parts is a mystery and doesn’t mesh well with older Wallet UI parts such as adding cards which retain the older look. Why? Taken all altogether the Wallet UI changes feel lumpy and unpolished, Apple clearly didn’t sweat the details in the rush to get iOS 12.2 Wallet ready for Apple Card.

One last thing on iOS 12.2 Wallet changes, Japanese credit cards no longer list the latest transaction though I can only confirm this for JR East JCB View Card, Docomo Mastercard dCard and Tsutaya JCB T-Card. I suspect the change is part of the new transaction reporting feature unveiled with Apple Card. Perhaps Apple hopes to encourage card issuers to post transaction information dynamically and directly to Wallet instead of shunting it to separate apps. There are probably lots of Apple Pay Wallet changes under the hood that will be revealed at WWDC alluded to by Tim Cook today in the keynote that more Apple Transit like Ventra (iOS 12) and Octopus (iOS 13) would be ‘coming later this year’.

iOS 12.2 Suica Express Card Performance
Last but not least we have Apple Pay Suica performance on iOS 12 which has not been robust so far. The list of Apple Pay Suica performance issues as of iOS 12.1.4 follows, see the most recent post for iOS 12.2 Suica Express Card performance information.

  • Suica Express Card error flicker: occasional error flicker at transit gates with iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X (Rev. B) and Apple Watch 2~4. This is a completely different issue from the iPhone X NFC hardware defect. There is no workaround and no feedback on iOS 12.2 performance yet.
  • Dead Suica Notifications/No Suica Balance Update: Suica Notifications stop working and Suica Balance fails to update at transit gates, store readers and Suica recharges. This affects iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X (Rev. B) and Apple Watch 2~4 but is easy to fix by putting Suica in Service Mode for a few seconds. No iOS 12.2 feedback yet.
  • Slow or unresponsive Suica Recharge: a long term issue where Apple Pay Suica recharge fails half of the time especially when recharging from a Suica notification shortcut. The good news is this issue in my iOS 12.2 beta testing appears to be fixed.
  • Dead Suica UI/Express Card power reserve ‘lite’: This only affects iPhone XS and iPhone XR. A kind of ‘Express Card power reserve lite’ bug kicks in occasionally. Suica works flawlessly on readers but the entire Apple Pay Suica UI dies: no notifications, no balance update, no Apple Pay sound, no feedback whatsoever. Service Mode does not revive the Suica UI but restart iPhone and all is good again. Fortunately this issue seems rare. Unfortunately I have experienced on 2 separate iPhone XS devices and the bug was worse in the final iOS 12.2 beta that shipped as the official release: previous iOS 12 versions exhibited this problem every other day, iOS 12.2 (16E227) has it after a few hours.

UPDATE
Right on cue Japanese iPhone users are complaining about the UI changes in iOS 12.2 Wallet:

UPDATE 2
The iOS 12.3 update has greatly improved Suica performance, more Suica card UI changes and is highly recommended

Someday We’ll Be Together

UPDATE: Apple Pay Octopus is coming with iOS 13

Note: For simplicity and convenience I have migrated and merged older Octopus related posts here. All new Octopus related developments will be posted separately.

iOS 12.2 beta 6 has dropped with no sign of Octopus support in Apple Pay from beta code spelunkers like Guilherme Rambo. A source close to the Cupertino mothership also indicated the situation in Hong Kong is “complex.” Live by the rumor and pay the price, it looks like the story sources and my judgement were wrong: Octopus won’t be on Apple Pay when the OS 12.2 update is released at the March 25 Apple Special Event. Nevertheless, I stand by what I wrote back in December:


Digital Wallets like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are the most tightly integrated NFC software and hardware digital wallet platforms out there with integrated FeliCa, but Apple is the only one to implement the necessary Secure Element on their own A Series/S Series hardware with FeliCa Networks keys, and sell the package globally.

Octopus on Google Pay might look nice on paper but it can’t achieve anything of scale yet because of the highly fragmented nature of Android: to date hardware manufacturers have yet to produce an answer to Apple’s global FeliCa iPhone and Apple Watch, even though everybody’s smartphone has a NFC A-B-F chip. Not even Google has pulled it off.

Octopus on Apple Pay isn’t just adding a card to a digital wallet platform, it is also a statement of who ultimately controls, operates and benefits from the public transit gates. It’s more about market politics than technology, in other words another battle in the contactless payment turf wars. The outcome will be fascinating to watch but determines whether Octopus will remain a great transit payment platform for Hong Kong with a future, or not.

I also have a new prediction that we’ll see Apple Pay Octopus after the next major iOS release iOS 13 this fall. Take it for what it’s worth, but I feel confident that we can celebrate some good news in September.

iOS 12 Stocks still mostly broken for Japan

A word to the wise: do not rely on the iOS Stocks app for Japanese stocks. The iOS 11 Stocks version of the app was actually handy until Verizon took control of the old Yahoo Inc. backend service. 3 things happened: Japanese language support for stock tickers broke, stock prices updates were delayed 20 minutes or longer, and individual stock news feeds dried up.

iOS 12 Stocks fixed Japanese language support for stock tickers but they are not dynamic; if a company changes its name your registered stock ticker will never update until you delete and re-register it. Individual stock news feeds have returned but are mostly useless selection of bad AI.

The biggest problem remains: stock prices are still delayed anywhere from 20~30 minutes to 24 hours. If you follow Japanese stocks do yourself a favor and use Yahoo Japan Finance (web/app), or any of the stock apps on the App Store (JP).

Apple Pay Suica iOS 12.2 beta 4

iOS 12.2 beta 4 continues to tweak the Apple Pay Suica UI. Shortcuts from Suica notifications finally work and the main Suica screen now sports a ‘Charge’ (Add Money) button. The UI changes in 12.2 still feel lumpy and inconsistent however: in other system preferences blue indicates an operation or another screen, ever since iOS 12.2 beta 1 Wallet operations are indicated by black with a few blue text leftovers:

UPDATE
A reader asked for some clarification of the updated Apple Pay Suica UI in beta 4. The information display is slightly different for regular and commuter Suica in the details screen. The top row of icons includes a commuter pass renewal shortcut with route details and balance information displayed further down. I think the iOS 12.2 Suica UI will continue to be a moving target, witness the sloppy icon text pushing up the Safari icon and off line with other icons in the commuter Suica screen. Clearly Apple is not sweating the details.

Apple Pay Suica iOS 12.2 beta 3

The iOS 12.2 beta 3 developer release has some UI tweaks for Apple Pay Suica. It is a little less rough than previous beta versions but still has a curiously un-Apple and inelegant UI design feel. From what I have seen so far, iOS 12.2 is a step backwards from the iOS 12.1 design. Other observations: Suica notification shortcuts are still useless and the new notification font design is simply hideous. As usual I do not recommend using beta software, stick with the official releases.