End of service announcements from KDDI and JR East were made a long time ago but today is the last service Mobile Suica service day for KDDI au 3G Keitai ‘flip phones’. It was a good 11 year run.
KDDI au is pushing holdout 3G users to upgrade to 4G smartphones and be done with CDMA support once and for all. Too bad that the rumored Global FeliCa capable iPhone SE 2 isn’t out yet. SE 2 would be the perfect upgrade for Mobile Suica KDDI au users looking for a small inexpensive replacement device.
Many iPhone 7 users outside of Japan hoped that iOS 11 would enable NFC-F hardware functionality which all iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 have, so that overseas iPhone 7 models could join the iPhone 8/iPhone X global FeliCa party. iOS 11 arrived but iPhone 7 FeliCa remains a Japan model only feature. Why?
The silly reason is that overseas iPhone 7 models do not have the legally required Japanese MIC certification mark engraved on the case like the Japanese models. The real reasons are that Apple probably does not want to spend resources obtaining new global certification just for NFC-F in an older iPhone model. And of course Apple wants to give iPhone 7 users an excuse to upgrade.
In retrospect iPhone 7 was a transition to global NFC (A-B-F) model. The hardware was in place but iOS 10 Apple Pay did not have NFC switching ready. The iOS 10 Region setting assigned the NFC mode when adding cards to Wallet: NFC-F for Japan, NFC-A/B for other countries.
If you have your heart set on using Apple Pay Suica when you visit Japan but don’t want to upgrade to a global FeliCa iPhone, Apple Watch Series 3 is the less expensive option.
Update 11/1 The kind folks at ePayments.jp went out of their way to conduct extensive field tests and contacted me that my post reported incorrect information, I am thankful they did so. I should have done a better research job before posting and apologize both for the error and any confusion resulting from it.
When Apple introduced Apple Pay Japan in October 2016, the official release stated:
When paying for goods and services on the go within apps or Safari, Apple Pay works with iPhone 6 and later, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 3 and later. You can also use Apple Pay in Safari on any Mac introduced in or after 2012 running macOS Sierra, and confirm the payment with iPhone 6 or later or Apple Watch.
This has not changed for older Japanese iPhones in iOS 11:
However some Japanese iPhone 6 and 6S users were confused when adding Apple Pay cards for the first time in iOS 11. Apple Pay Japan cards in Wallet display the iD or QUICPay store payment logo artwork regardless of the device, because of this and rumors that Japanese credit card companies are considering NFC Pay support, some people thought iPhone 6 and 6S running iOS 11 could be used with NFC Pay (EMV) store terminals. As Apple documentation and field tests make clear, they cannot.
In theory Apple could add NFC Pay support in iPhone 6 and 6S for Apple Pay Japan Region set credit cards that can use it. But just like FeliCa support for non-Japanese iPhone 7 models, Apple is not going to re-qualify and re-certify older devices.
With the NFC switching capabilities of iOS 11 Apple Pay, Apple quietly activated Apple Pay Japan for older non-FeliCa NFC capable iPhones such as iPhone 6S. Surprised users with Japan issue cards that support JCB J/Speedy and Mastercard Contactless can add them to Apple Pay and use them at stores with EMV NFC-Pay ready readers.
Japan issue American Express cards should be good too but I have not confirmed them in the field yet.
There are lots of people who have trouble believing that a locally purchased iPhone 8 really is global FeliCa compatible and can use Suica. But there is no MIC certification mark, the model numbers and LTE bands are different in Japan, and so on. Relax and go to Apple’s Set up Apple Pay in your country. What does it say in the first section?