WWDC19 iOS 13 Apple Pay Wallet Wish List (U)

Now that full 3rd party NFC access is reportedly coming with iOS 13 tag support for ISO7816, FeliCa and MIFARE, does this mean developers get supercharged Core NFC and PassKit NFC Certificates generously handed out like condoms at a gay sex party? Probably not, the only new things in the rumors are ‘full access’ and ‘ISO7816’, but let’s take a look at some possibilities based on the 3 NFC Forum defined NFC Modes: Card Emulation, Reader/Writer and Peer to Peer.

A12 Bionic NFC powers Express Cards with power reserve and Background Tag Reading on iOS 12 iPhone XS/XR

It’s useful to remember that A12 Bionic powered iPhone is one of the most compelling ‘Global NFC’ devices on the market, with all the important technologies in one package sold everywhere: NFC A-B-F hardware and EMV, FeliCa, MIFARE, PBOC and VAS (value added service protocol) software. Android is fragmented, especially when it comes to FeliCa support.

Apple has invested a lot of time and money to guarantee everything is there and ‘just works’. A12 Bionic added Express Cards with power reserve that support certain NFC transactions without iOS up and running. A12 Bionic also added Background Tag Reading and the ability to read NFC tags ‘out of the box’ without a separate app.

The big frustration for developers has been that iPhone NFC is all dressed up with no place to go. iOS 12 NFC supports Card Emulation and Reader/Writer but severely limits the Secure Element access necessary for Card Emulation with NDA covered PassKit NFC Certificates, while Core NFC is a limited Reader/Writer Mode sub-set.

Card Emulation

New Apple Card Wallet UI (U): After using Apple Card UI flavored Apple Pay Suica in iOS 12.2 with even more tweaks in iOS 12.3, I’m pretty sure that new PassKit controls for Apple Pay Wallet card customization: detailed transactions, summaries, balance payments, new card options and other UI goodies of the recently announced Apple Card, will be made available for all iOS 13 Wallet cards, and possibly some iOS 12.3 Wallet transit and EMV cards as well.

The Apple Card UI and Wallet UI design language in iOS 12.2 and later, is so different from the rest of iOS 12 that I’m surprised nobody in the Apple tech blog space has picked up on it yet. There are lots of useful card options and information, like EMV Transit Card option in iOS 12.3 for Portland TriMet, that can be piped into Wallet cards from the card provider cloud, instead of sitting in a separate app. Customized dynamic card artwork, such as individual Suica card names and commute plan routes displayed on Suica cards in Suica App for example, would be great to have in Wallet.

I do have one request for the iOS 13 Wallet UI: please integrate the separate iPhone and Apple Watch Wallets into a single Wallet. It’s incredibly convenient to control all card options on iPhone instead of fiddling with the tiny Apple Watch screen to recharge a Suica card for example. Suica App manages separate Suica cards on iPhone and Apple Watch incredibly well in one place. It is a super convenient design.

Easy Card Emulation: I am less sure how Apple plans to make card emulation easier for developers:

  • New functions in PassKit that do more
  • Less stringent and easier to obtain PassKit NFC Certificates
  • A combination of the two or
  • Something new altogether

I hope for a combination approach that keeps everything secure while making it easy for developers to add all kinds of non-EMV cards to Wallet, the major categories include…

  • Transit Cards: Transit cards have been tricky because up to now each one has been a kind of custom in-house job by Apple in cooperation with the transit company. HOP and Ventra were already announced to drop in iOS 12 this summer. Hong Kong Smart Octopus (FeliCa) and LA tap (EMV only?) should arrive with the iOS 13 launch in September. It would be great if iOS 13 PassKit makes it easy to add all kinds of native transit cards like Taiwan EasyCARD and Melbourne Myki (both MIFARE) and more to the mix, with Apple having to do less, and have a real transit card coming out party. Unfortunately I don’t see Singapore’s EZ-Link card ever joining the party unless iOS 13 PassKit makes it very easy to support customized technology like the Singapore only CEPAS.
  • Prepaid Reward Cards: There are lots of these everywhere. In Japan we have: Edy, nanaco, WAON (all FeliCa), Dotour (MIFARE), Ueshima (Mag strip) and Starbucks (FeliCa and Mag strip). Some of these have apps that let users attach credit cards to the backend for online recharge. None of them are on Apple Pay but need to be, urgently, to combat manufactured QR code mania stealth marketing. The challenge for Apple here is the same as transit cards: make it easy for developers to do more, with open API access and easy to obtain PassKit NFC Certificates. I suspect one hold up has been that every single one of these prepaid reward cards wants to have an Express Card option to bypass authentication at the reader and iOS 12 Wallet only supports a single Express card at a time. Hopefully iOS 13 Wallet solves the problem.
  • Regular Reward Cards: There are tons of these everywhere. My real wallet has JRE POINT, WAON POINT, Tomod’s, plus a crazy collection of stamp/point cards. How nice it would be if it was super easy for developers to add these to Wallet.
  • ID Cards: This is where ISO7816 tag support fits in. Contactless Student ID cards in iOS 12 were a MIFARE only custom in-house job, transit cards without transit, by Apple in cooperation with Blackboard. Hopefully Apple will greatly extend ID card support in all NFC flavors for many companies and institutions, for all manner of ‘company only’ Wallet ID cards.

Reader/Writer (U)

Android has a huge advantage over iOS because Android apps have the NFC access to do what they want. From RFID Insider:

Below are all the abilities/formats available for writing to a tag:

Business Card
Link/URL
Wi-Fi
Bluetooth
Email
Telephone Number
Geo Location
Launch an Application
Plain Text
SMS

How to Write an NFC Tag RFID Insider

A fully functional Core NFC could do all this, but the important question is how would Apple want to do all this. NFC tags are great technology but they remain deeply geeky for the majority of users. The key is making NFC tags as friendly, easy and secure to use as Apple Pay. This is exactly what Apple plans to do.

At the TRANSACT 2019 conference Jennifer Bailey announced NFC tag Apple Pay. NFC tag Apple Pay works with or without apps. All the user does is tap a NFC tag and Apple Pay takes care of the rest as shown in the demo video using a SmartPlate NFC tag.

The easiest way to think of it is that instead of tapping a reader to pay with Apple Pay, NFC tag Apple Pay turns your iPhone into the reader. An NFC tag and iPhone is all that you need to Apple Pay at a store.

What does this sound like to you? Yep, this is exactly what QR Codes do and NFC tag Apple Pay is aimed right at the ‘but the store doesn’t need an expensive NFC reader to use QR’ sweet spot that QR Codes have occupied up to now. NFC tag Apple Pay levels the play field, neatly eliminating the QR advantage while offering security that QR Codes cannot match.

However don’t assume that the QR players are chained to QR Codes, it’s an inexpensive and convenient technology for building payment system app services, not particularly sacred. NFC tag Apple Pay also works in an app and this offers Japanese QR Code payment systems such as Line, PayPay, etc., a way to incorporate Apple Pay NFC support in their app, if they choose to do so.

A12 Bionic iPhone XR/XS are the only devices that support background NCF tag reading and the native ability to read tags without an app. The big question in my mind is how Apple plans to implement NFC tag Apple Pay on older devices

Peer to Peer

iOS 12 does not support NFC Peer to Peer. I don’t see that changing in iOS 13 if it can’t be part of a new Apple Pay service. AirDrop already works well across devices that do not have NFC capability. That’s probably enough real world peer to peer for most people.

Summary

The Apple Pay theme for WWDC18 was ‘move Passes into Wallet, get rid of the QR Codes and replace them NFC.’ The new Apple Card UI improvements in Wallet and NFC tag support suggest the Apple Pay theme for WWDC19 will be: ‘move card functionality out of apps and into Wallet cards with new iOS 13 PASSKit controls, or get rid of apps altogether and replace them will all kinds of NFC enabled cards and NFC tags.’

It certainly makes sense. Apple Pay is NFC for the majority of iPhone users, the NFC thing that people use. Apple devoting iOS resources into making card emulation easier and better for 3rd party developers to add all kinds of cards to Wallet, and migrate functions out of separate apps to the Wallet card itself, will give the most bang for the development buck. NFC tag Apple Pay will finally bring NFC tags into the mainstream while eliminating the remaining advantages of QR Codes. It’s going to be a very interesting WWDC for all things Apple Pay.

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Dear Jennifer Bailey

Dear Jennifer,

Congratulations on the success of Apple Pay in Japan! The success is all Suica of course, but it was a very smart move and Apple Pay has transformed the Japanese payments market like the arrival of Commodore Perry’s Black Ships. The market is a hot fun mess with plenty of opportunities. Here is another one.

I love coffee. So do Japanese. In Suginami City Tokyo, coffee shops, cafes and kissaten are always packed with people spending money who don’t like Starbucks. No doubt you know that Starbucks continues to stonewall Apple Pay here, but there is a nice end-around play to win that game. Did you see today’s news announcements from Docomo and Doutor that starting June 3 Docomo d POINT rewards will be given and accepted at all Doutor Coffee shops? That looks boring but believe me, it’s huge.

It’s very simple: cut a deal with Docomo and put a contactless version of the d POINT rewards card on Apple Wallet, just like PONTA. Don’t stop there. Put the Doutor prepaid card on Wallet too. After all it’s just MIFARE like the Student ID cards, and since Doutor is putting out a Dotour App for card online recharging on April 22, the backend system is in place for a Wallet version.

With those cards in Wallet, lots people who have not used Apple Pay in Japan would start using Apple Pay. Kind of like Apple Pay Suica for coffee lovers who don’t use Suica. It would be cool and cutting edge for customers to earn d POINT rewards at Dotour Coffee Shops just by paying with Apple Pay, again just like earning PONTA rewards at Lawson. But reward points for drinking coffee is the real incentive, and the payoff. I guarantee it would strengthen your hand with Starbucks in a big way, and help Docomo sell more iPhones. That would make both Docomo and Tim very happy.

Think about it. Seriously.

Love and Kisses,
Ata Distance

Golden Week Golden JRE POINT

Golden Week 2019 is going to be an extraordinarily long one, 10 days in all. It would not be Golden Week without a few marketing gimmicks and JR East has not disappointed: 15X bonus JRE POINT running May 2~6 with any JRE POINT registered Suica purchases at yellow sticker Suica JRE POINT stores (NewDays, Becks Coffee Shop, Kiosk, etc.) .

To be sure setting up Apple Pay Suica with JRE POINT is a pain, but once done it’s nice to rack up the points. Until May 6, goodbye Starbucks and hello Becks.

When you purchase things with Apple Pay Suica at Suica JRE POINT stores you earn JRE POINT automatically

Mobile Suica Shinkansen eTicket Service Ends March 2020

When you purchase Shinkansen eTickets in Suica App, you’ll see a small notice at the bottom of the menu screen: Mobile Suica Shinkansen eTicket Service ends March 2020. Does this mean we’ll have to go back to paper tickets? Not at all.

JR East has been coy about the new cloud based eTicket service they are working on to replace the current Mobile Suica one. Originally the plan was to release a product similar to JR Central’s smartEX in April 2019.

Oops, that didn’t happen and I think we are better off for it. smartEx for all of it’s backend system hocus-pocus, isn’t that smart. The basic system is designed with manually input Transit IC card numbers (Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, and all) as the center. The result is a fragile and static system that doesn’t port well. Sign up for the Express Reserve (EX Reserve) service option in Suica App and you too can experience JR Central’s oh so fugly EX system.

I don’t think JR East wants that kind of system. There are probably 2 aims: replacing the old but reliable iMode backend with a modern dynamic one that can comfortably process the full variety of regular train and Shinkansen eTickets while plugging into many different UI front-ends: Suica App, web, other transit company apps, etc. It will be properly internationalized too. The iMode backend has served us very well since 2006 but needs to go, take a look at the eTicket purchase screenshots on the Suica App page and you’ll see.

We’ll get a new eTicket service with a new name in a new version of Suica App, in English and Japanese probably, and lots more. I look forward to seeing what JR East comes up with for the big Tokyo Olympic 2020 rollout.


iOS 12.2 Apple Pay Suica Performance (U)

2 weeks after the release of iOS 12.2, Japanese social media has been very quiet about Apple Pay Suica Express Card problems. It’s a good sign that the majority of users are happy enough with iOS 12.2 Suica performance to care much about discussing it. Based on that and my own testing, I think it’s safe to say that iOS 12.2 is the first stable iOS 12 release for Apple Pay Suica, but Apple has been slower addressing Suica Express Card performance issues than earlier release cycles for iOS 10 and iOS 11. I’m not a fan of the iOS 12.2 Apple Card flavored Suica Wallet UI design but most people seem okay with it.

Here’s a rundown of previously reported iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica Express Card performance issues with iOS 12.2 feedback:

  • Suica Express Card error flicker: occasional error flicker at transit gates with iOS 12.0~12.1.4 on pre-A12 Bionic devices: iPhone 7 (JP model), iPhone 8, iPhone X (Rev. B) and Apple Watch 2~4. This is a completely different issue from the iPhone X NFC hardware defect.
    >>Feedback from users report this iOS 12 issue is fixed
  • Slow or unresponsive Suica Recharge: a long term performance issue where Suica Recharge is slow or fails half of the time especially when recharging from a Suica notification shortcut.
    >> This issue is fixed in iOS 12.2, Suica Recharge is robust and snappy
  • Dead Suica Express Card UI on n0n-A12 Bionic devices: a case of the hardware works but the software doesn’t, Suica works flawlessly on readers but Express Card UI notifications stops working and Suica balance fails to update after transactions at transit gates, store readers and Suica Recharge. This affects non-A12 Bionic devices iPhone 7 (JP model), 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.
    >> Feedback from users report this issue is fixed
  • Dead Suica Express Card UI on A12 Bionic devices: another case of the hardware works but the software doesn’t that only affects iPhone XS and iPhone XR. Suica works flawlessly on readers but the entire Apple Pay Suica Express Card UI dies: no notifications, no balance update, no Apple Pay sound, no feedback whatsoever. Service Mode does not revive the Suica UI but a restart fixes it.
    >>Fortunately this issue seems rare. Unfortunately I have experienced it on 2 separate iPhone XS devices and the bug is worse in iOS 12.2: previous iOS 12 versions exhibited this problem every 24~48 hours, iOS 12.2 (16E227) has is every 12 hours or less.

I will update this post with new performance feedback or observations.

UPDATE
iOS 12.3 improves Suica Express Transit performance even more and is highly recommended