iOS 13 b4 Hong Kong Wallet now mentions ‘Travel Cards’

Apple has not yet officially announced Apple Pay Octopus but the latest iOS 13 beta (developer beta 4/public beta 3) now mentions ‘travel cards’ and ‘public transport’ in the Wallet initial add card screen blurb when the iOS region is set to Hong Kong. You cannot add Octopus yet as that won’t happen until the official release.

No word yet on iPhone 7 and Apple Pay Octopus support, we won’t find out until Apple and OCL announce the officially supported device list, it should be coming soon. Meanwhile FeliCa Dude wrote a very informative Reddit post that definitively covers every facet of iPhone 7 FeliCa support, from Octopus to iOS 13 Core NFC. It’s amazing stuff.

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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

The ‘g’ Difference

If you are thinking about trying iOS 13 Public Beta 2 (17A5522g), don’t. Developer beta 3/public beta 2 is usually a point when things settle down and come into focus. Not this time. The first iOS 13 developer beta 3 build (17A5522f) was almost solid enough to recommend. After installing yesterday’s seemingly minor ‘g’ build release, my iPhone XS mini-reboots itself more than 10 times a day: whatever I am in the middle of, the screen goes dark, the refresh icons twirls, 5~10 seconds later I’m looking at the lock screen.

Unless you are really horny, don’t screw around with the iOS 13 betas, all of them. Wait for the official release, or better yet the first point release.

While the screen is on: Background Tags and Apple NFC Evolution

Background NFC tags work when the iPhone screen is on

NFC background tag support that allows users to scan NFC tags without an app arrived with A12 Bionic iPhone XS/XR and iOS 12, but the feature is only becoming truly useful with the enhanced NFC tag support in iOS 13 Core NFC. The Japanese and UK governments have already announced ID card NFC tag support for iOS 13, Jennifer Bailey previewed a new NFC tag Apple Pay feature in May, and the iOS 13 Shortcuts app lets users deploy NFC tags to create their own HomeKit automations. These are exciting developments that are just the start of new powerful and innovative NFC services on the Apple platform.

Apple’s strong point is the tight integration of software services across different devices that no other platform can match. Apple Pay Suica works on iPhone and Apple Watch, but the latter combination of technology, function and size makes it a completely different and beguiling experience. Apple Pay on Apple Watch is its own special thing.

A Temporary Split in the NFC Evolution Line?
The evolution of Apple NFC on both iPhone and Apple Watch was in lockstep up until the arrival of A12 Bionic in 2018. The A12 Bionic NFC powered background tag and Express Transit power reserve features only work on iPhone XS/XR. Apple Watch Series 4 does not support these NFC features, nor does watchOS support the Core NFC framework, this means that NFC tag Apple Pay on Apple Watch is out of the question.

Is the feature split temporary or does it represent a different line of NFC evolution for Apple Watch? The absence of Core NFC makes sense because watchOS does not support 3rd party apps, at least not yet. Express Transit power reserve however, would be a great feature to have on Apple Watch as iOS 13/watchOS 6 Apple Pay Express Transit rolls out to Chicago Ventra, Brisbane myki and Hong Kong Octopus.

Getting that feature on Apple Watch depends on how quickly Johny Srouji’s A team can implement the A12 Bionic Secure Enclave design that handles basic Apple Pay transactions directly and bypasses the OS, on the S Series chip. I cannot believe they are not pushing hard to deliver the goods as soon as possible, perhaps even with Apple Watch Series 5 featuring a S5 Bionic chip.

Delivering a S5 Bionic would get Express Transit power reserve on Apple Watch with NFC performance gains as well. It would also give Apple the option to add NFC background tag reading later on as watchOS becomes more powerful and independent.

The iPhone 7 FeliCa Question
There is one fuzzy area of iOS 13 Core NFC and it is iPhone 7 FeliCa support. At WWDC19 Apple announced that all devices, iPhone 7 and above, would support the enhanced NFC tag lineup: NDEF, FeliCa, MIFARE, ISO 7816, ISO 15693, VAS. But this does not match up with Apple’s own device specs for adding a FeliCa Suica card to Apple Pay:

Apple is telling developers that all iPhone 7 models are good for FeliCa but telling customers that only iPhone 7 JP models are good for FeliCa. This means we get one of two scenarios:

  • iOS 13 retroactively adds FeliCa support to all non-JP iPhone 7 models. Apple can do this by adding device specific FeliCa keys as iPhone 7 NFC hardware is the same for all models worldwide.
  • iOS 13 Core NFC FeliCa tags work but non-JP iPhone 7 models (without FeliCa keys) do not work for FeliCa transactions at the terminal.

The latter ‘FeliCa keys vs. No FeliCa keys’ scenario is illustrated in a comment post by Reddit user FelicaDude, if I understand correctly, that without device specific FeliCa keys iPhone 7 only works in basic Read/Write mode without encryption, with FeliCa keys iPhone 7 works in Read/Write encryption mode necessary for local offline processing with payment terminals (i.e. Suica):

The international iPhone 7s can do basic FeliCa read/write without encryption, because they embed a FeliCa-capable CLF <contactless frontend>. Apple has chosen not to provision them with Osaifu-Keitai keys, probably to avoid paying royalties to FeliCa Networks for each device.

FelicaDude Reddit

The initial iOS 13 beta 3 release build (17A5522f) did not support iPhone 7 but the revised build (17A5522g) released yesterday does. I am intrigued that something is going on with iOS 13 and iPhone 7. It’s probably a vain hope that it could be connected with the upcoming Apple Pay Octopus transit card launch which requires a FeliCa capable device, though it does makes sense for Apple to launch the Apple Pay Octopus with a wide footprint of supported devices. Let’s keep fingers crossed that iOS 13 adds full FeliCa support to all iPhone 7 models and transforms them to the global FeliCa iPhone devices they deserve to be.

iOS 13 Apple Pay Suica: Move along folks there’s nothing to see here…

As I wrote previously, “if you are using iOS 12.3, you are already using iOS 13 Apple Pay Wallet.” The major under the hood Wallet changes of iOS 12.3~4 were completed ahead of iOS 13 for the Apple Card rollout that is coming very soon. For Apple Pay Suica users, and Express Transit users everywhere, the solid Express Transit performance of iOS 12.3~ iOS 12.4 and the UI, are exactly what you get in iOS 13. There is nothing new, a good thing.

The only changes are Suica Notifications which have lost 3D Touch shortcuts for Recharge and Commute Plan Renewal. Since 3D Touch is on the chopping block in iOS 13, this is not unexpected, but it is unfortunate: the recharge shortcut was handy and finally useful with the robust iOS 12.3 Suica Recharge performance. Suica Notifications are still a work in progress however, witness the useless ‘In Transit’ Suica notification, hopefully shortcuts will reappear in some form before the final release.

The Apple Card rollout remains a real head scratcher. There are lots of things Apple Card will be able to do in iOS 12.4 Wallet that other cards, as yet, cannot do. And Apple has not offered anything in iOS 13 PassKit or Wallet for developers to do those dynamic card UI things that Apple Card does. I wonder how well that will go down with developers after Apple Card finally ships.