Global Apple Pay arrives with iOS 11 Apple Pay NFC switching and iPhone 8

スクリーンショット 2017-09-13 4.44.26In addition to the J/Speedy and Mastercard Contactless announcement from T-Cubic, other Apple Pay benefits for Japanese users were announced by American Express. With iOS 11 Apple Pay AMEX users can now use Apple Pay Japan abroad.

7-Eleven also announced support for J/Speedy cards from JCB. Translation: 7-Eleven is rollout out support for NFC Pay with the new POS system installation starting next month. A lot of Japanese users think VISA will announce official Apple Pay Japan support soon now that NFC Pay is in place.

Apple’s support of global NFC (A-B-F) in iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3  with the NFC switching improvements in iOS 11 is a game changer. It makes Apple Pay truly global and removes the FeliCa barrier. Inbound visitors can use Suica, Japanese going abroad can use Apple Pay.

It’s unfortunate that people outside of Japan cannot fully appreciate the amazing changes that Apple is bringing to the contactless payments market with iPhone 8 and iOS 11 Apple Pay.


Using Suica with iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3

Inbound Suica officially starts September 22 with the release of iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3. Anybody visiting Japan with these devices can add and use Suica. To mark the official rollout of Apple’s global FeliCa support, here is a basic guide.

Plastic or Virtual Suica?
The choice of plastic or virtual Suica depends on what device you have: with iPhone 8 you can add a plastic Suica card to Apple Pay; the easiest way. With Apple Watch Series 3  you have to add a virtual Suica with the Suica App; a little more work.

iPhone 8
1) Buy Suica at any Tokyo area JR station as shown in the JR East video above (the one minute mark). Set your iPhone region setting to Japan. The iPhone Language setting does not need to be changed. Region can be restored after successfully adding Suica.

2) Add Suica following the instructions on Apple’s Set up a Suica card in Apple Pay: Transfer a Suica card to Apple Pay on your iPhone.

3) Use Suica as explained on Apple’s Using Suica page. Not that you really need an explanation.

4) Recharge Suica: In Wallet, tap the Suica card.  tap , tap Add Money, then choose the amount, and tap “Add”. Select the card you want to pay from and place your finger on Touch ID to complete the transaction.

Suica Express Transit mode is automatically turned on when you first add a Suica card to Apple Pay. With Express Transit you do not use Touch ID:

Simply hold the top of your iPhone 8 or the display of your Apple Watch Series 3 within a few centimeters of the contactless reader until you see Done and a checkmark on the display. You don’t need to wake or unlock your device or open an app to make the purchase.

Suica Express Transit is convenient and secure. Suica is a pre-paid card, it only holds the amount of money that you add to it with Apple Pay, or with cash.

Apple Watch Series 3
Suica setup on Apple Watch is complicated by Suica App, it’s only in Japanese and only available in the Japan App Store and USA App Store.

Preflight check list

  • An iPhone 6 or above running the latest iOS version paired with Apple Watch Series 3 also running the latest WatchOS.
  • Download and install the JR East Suica app.
  • A credit card already loaded into your iPhone Apple Pay Wallet. The card can be any Apple Pay compatible card issued from your home country.

Requirements when adding Suica

  1. Network access when adding Suica to Apple Pay, recharging Suica with Apple Pay or using the Suica App. Suica can used in Airplane mode for transit and store purchases.
  2. Mobile data app use turned on for Suica, Wallet and Watch apps.
  3. Passcode set for both iPhone and Apple Watch.
  4. Apple Watch wrist detection turned on.
  5. Region setting for both devices is set to Japan. The Language setting can be any language you prefer. Region can be restored after successfully adding Suica.
  6. Launch the Suica app. Note that Suica app will only launch with a successfully paired Apple Watch Series 3.

Adding Suica
Now comes the tricky part if you cannot read Japanese. Follow the screenshots and captions to create a new Suica card and add it to your Apple Pay Wallet.

Touch the “Add Suica”button at the bottom right of the screen highlighted in the screenshot.
In the next screen select the top “Suica Unregistered” option highlighted in the screenshot. This is the simplest option to create a Suica card on iPhone.
Ignore the notices and touch the “Next” button in the upper right as highlighted in the screenshot.
In the next two screens add the initial money amount to your Suica card account (SF) from your Apple Pay card.
In the next two screens: first select Apple Pay as your Stored Fare (SF) payment method, then confirm that you want to add this Suica card to your Apple Pay Wallet.
Last but not least you have to comply with the JR East Terms and Conditions by touching the “Agree” button highlighted in the left hand screenshot, if all is successful Wallet will notify you that Suica has been added to you Apple Pay Wallet as shown in the right hand screenshot.

If all went well you should now have a Suica card in your iPhone Wallet app setup for Express Transit. The last step is transferring the Suica card from iPhone to Apple Watch. Read the “Move your Suica from your iPhone to your Apple Watch” section of the Set up a Suica card in Apple Pay support page for details.

iOS 11 moves Japanese MIC FeliCa certification mark to the screen

fullsizeoutput_6480iPhone 7 phones sold in Japan carry the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications regulatory mark engraved on the back due to the iPhone 7 FeliCa Apple Pay support. It was a bit of a brouhaha a year ago even though there was a new MIC guideline in the works to display the certification mark on the screen instead of the case.

Nice to know that is all settled and the MIC certification mark for FeliCa is on the screen now. Global FeliCa inbound iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 devices are covered for use in Japan without having the mark engraved on the case. 

Japanese iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 models likely dispense with the case mark as well. We’ll all find out on September 22.

Suica Inbound and credit cards

Now that global FeliCa is supported in iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3, anybody coming to Japan with the new devices can add and use Apple Pay Suica. Suica will be the main reason visitors from abroad will use Apple Pay in Japan. Charging Suica is very simple, you simply use an Apple Pay credit card.

The Apple Pay support site is short on details but the general rules are:

  • Any Apple Pay loaded credit card is good for charging Suica.
  • Credit cards issued from your home county loaded into Apple Pay are good. I have VISA cards issued from Wells Fargo and Marriott/Chase Bank that work fine for Suica charging. Other users from abroad have reported success as well.

There is one exception: Japanese issue VISA cards cannot be used for charging Suica with Apple Pay. This is because VISA KK has not signed an agreement with Apple directly but is obligated to support all iD and QUICPay store payment network licensees which includes Apple and the card issuers.

I suspect the reason is that VISA still wants to market Visa payWave in Japan which uses the NFC A-B flavor instead of FeliCa/NFC-F. Now that Apple has gone in for Global FeliCa and NFC A-B-F in every new iPhone, who cares? And with Apple doing it all the top smartphone vendors are sure to follow so why bother. Now might be the time for Visa to get out of the payments infrastructure business and focus on making their credit card ‘just work’ everywhere.

Mobile Suica
The other credit card option for charging Suica is the iPhone Suica App. This requires signing up for a Mobile Suica account but you get bonus features such as Shinkansen e-ticket purchase and ticketless Shinkansen boarding. The Suica App/Mobile Suica registered credit card is completely separate from Apple Pay.

Enter credit card information in the Suica App for more payment flexibility.
Mobile Suica lists seven eligible credit card brands: View Card, VISA, JCB, Master Card, American Express, Diners Club, JR Central EXPress Card. I have not tested Suica App credit card charging but have read posts that foreign issue credit cards work with the Mobile Suica payment system. JR East support of foreign issue credit cards is likely hit and miss so be aware and use Apple Pay as a fallback.

There are also some limitations to be aware of:

  • Suica App auto-charge only works with JR East issue View cards
  • Suica auto-charge only works within the JR East rail network region. It won’t work for example when you are using transit in Nagoya or Osaka
  • Suica auto-charge does not work with store or vending machine purchases 

With Suica ‘Inbound’ starting with the September 22 release date of iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3 things are going to be very interesting, and a little messy.

Don’t forget that you can charge Apple Pay Suica with cash at train station kiosks and covenience stores.

iPhone Global FeliCa is just NFC for Apple

apple pay support USA
The Apple Pay USA setup page says users can add Suica in Japan

A Japanese reader gently pointed out my sloppy use of NFC-F, Type F and FeliCa. To experts in Japan they mean different things: A full-blown FeliCa chip with secure element, or just the NFC-F portion of FeliCa technology. Rest assured that whatever my sloppy writing says I always mean the same thing: the NFC-F interface portion of FeliCa.

Now that NFC A-B-F is just one simple Global Certification Forum (GCF) requirement for global NFC device certification, Apple doesn’t bother mentioning global FeliCa at all except in the iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 Japanese page tech specs.


スクリーンショット 2017-09-13 4.00.49

スクリーンショット 2017-09-13 3.59.52
Only the Japanese iPhone 8 and X tech spec pages list FeliCa

Instead Apple simply lists all iPhone 8/X and Watch 3 devices for Apple Pay Japan support and Suica support on the Apple Pay USA setup page.

I think this is the right approach. Using the FeliCa name in Japan makes sense because it has lots of brand marketing value behind it.  For the rest of the world nobody cares about FeliCa, they just want Apple Pay to work wherever they go.

With iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3, it does now.