Yes, You Can Talk And Recharge Apple Pay Suica at the Same Time

Nobu Ringo (Nobu Apple) is my kind of Apple Pay Suica guy. His YouTube channel is filled with fun imaginative slightly dopey Apple Pay Suica exploits. Apple Pay Suica at McDonalds, KFC, Esso, parking meters and the extra, extra, extra spicy curry take home plate from Coco Curry House (complete with eating timer).

His latest exploit: recharging Apple Pay Suica while having a phone conversation. Tricky but it does work in case you are really on the run. And if you are wondering, he does it all on what appears to be iPhone 8 Plus not iPhone X. Good choice.


iPhone X Suica Problem: Quick Conclusions (U)

The Short Story
If you are thinking about purchasing iPhone X and want reliable NFC performance you should not buy an iPhone X, it’s a flawed product. Buy iPhone 8/8 Plus or Apple Watch Series 3 instead.

The Long Story
If you are coming to the iPhone X Suica Problem for the first time back up and read:

The iPhone X Suica Problem
iPhone X Suica Problem a Design Flaw?
Testing the Revision B iPhone X Theory

What follows is based on those posts.

There are only a few data points to test the Revision B iPhone X theory but it looks like my theory is a bust. That’s OK, theories are made to be tested, often fail, move on to the next theory. Or not.

I do have some observations based on the data points, especially the production week 15 2018 revelation, along with shared reader experiences and my own from these past few months. They are not good.

  • Apple has a Big QA Problem: iPhone X production week 15 2018 says it all. Apple cannot manufacture good iPhone X units consistently and QA has no way of knowing what units are good or which are bad. This is, really bad. Nothing about the iPhone X Suica problem has been easy, from discovering it to troubleshooting it, but this is hard to take. For me this kind of QA failure of a fundamental feature so far into production is like Steve Jobs dying all over again.
  • iPhone X users with Suica problem units have no reliable way to obtain a good unit because Apple Support has no method to identify bad units or supply good units for exchange
  • Good iPhone X units perform reliably regardless of the iOS version
  • Bad iPhone X units perform unreliably regardless of the iOS version

Some readers have suggested that iPhone X NFC issues can be addressed with software/firmware updates that tweak digital signal processing. Perhaps so, but my take is that bad units are bad units and software tweaks will never raise the NFC performance level to match a good iPhone X unit, or iPhone 8.

I’ll continue to update iPhone X manufacture data points as new ones come in but I doubt they will change the story or my quick conclusion: iPhone X manufacturing issues and QA problems will never be ironed out. iPhone X is a deeply flawed product that can’t be fixed. I wish I had bought an iPhone 8.

Testing the Revision B iPhone X Theory

Revision B iPhone X Theory

After posting my Revision B iPhone X theory a reader suggested looking at manufacturing date information that could help test the theory. My failed iPhone X exchange replacement unit was manufactured in production week 3 (January) of 2018. yuya-310 who has the golden problem free iPhone X told me his was manufactured in production week 15 (April) 2018. His iPhone X is still trouble free and works great.

So we have an initial benchmark to work with: iPhone X production week 15 (April)  2018. If my Revision B iPhone X is correct, iPhone X units produced on or after this benchmark production week should be free of the iPhone X Suica problem.

You can find out your iPhone X manufacture date and factory by entering your serial number here. If iPhone X Suica is your daily transit tool I would appreciate reader feedback (production week, factory code, error/error free unit) via Twitter @Kanjo
日本人のiPhone X Suicaユザーさまもよろしくお願いします。

This could be a fun little research project.

Production Feedback (last updated 6-24-2018)

2017 Production week 41 (October) 1 bad unit/factory code (F2)
2017 Production week 43 (October) 2 bad units/factory code (F2, DN)
2017 Production week 47 (November) 1 good unit/factory code (G6)

2018 Production week 1 (January): 1 bad unit/factory code (?)
2018 Production week 3 (January): 1 bad unit/factory code (F1)

2018 Production week 15 (April): 1 good unit/1 bad unit/factory code (GH)**

**The good unit of production week 15 2018 is the yuya-310 iPhone X Revision B theory benchmark

UPDATE: Quick Conclusion here

iOS 12 Beta 2 Does Not Fix The iPhone X Suica Problem

Yep iOS 12 B2 Does Not Fix iPhone X Suica NFC Problem

Yep. Suica Full Error City all the way. With each new iOS release it looks more and more like the iPhone X Suica Problem really is a iPhone X NFC design flaw. Here’s hoping that iPhone X Suica users get the scenario 3 option:

iOS 12 does not fix the iPhone X Suica problem Apple admits the iPhone X NFC flaw and issues a replacement program. Every Day 1 iPhone X user gets a Revision B iPhone X replacement.

Apple Pay Suica Inbound Battery Strategies

Apple Watch Suica

Google Pay doesn’t do Inbound and Apple Pay Suica remains the only digital wallet choice for inbound visitors to Japan who have a Global FeliCa iPhone or Apple Watch. One of the worries visitors have is iPhone battery life when using Apple Pay Suica. Apple Pay Suica works perfectly well in Airplane Mode without a network connection, a great battery saver tip in a pinch.

Inbound travelers have different needs however and traveling offline most of the time isn’t an option if you need GPS, online maps with transit routing or want to find a great place for lunch on the run. The danger of iPhone running out of battery mid transit is a possibility when your attention is distracted while out and about living plug to plug. Run out of juice in the middle of a Apple Pay Suica transit and you will end up paying full fare in cash at the exit transit gate. Some blogs say that you can pay with a backup plastic Suica but the official JR East position is strictly cash only.

If you are doing it all on iPhone while visiting Japan a good battery case/bank is highly recommend. There are other strategies too, they all basically boil down to dividing trip duties between 2 devices.

  • Apple Watch: if you have Apple Watch Series 3 you can transfer your Suica card from iPhone to Apple Watch with the Watch app. Offloading Suica to Apple Watch allows you to keep Apple Watch in Airplane Mode for Suica transit and use iPhone online for maps and transit without dead battery worries. The only time Apple Pay Suica needs a network connection is when recharging Suica with an Apple Pay credit card.
  • iPad: if you have a cellular model iPad buy a data travel SIM in Japan and use iPad as your main GPS map and transit tool on the road. If you have a Apple SIM iPad you can also buy a data plan on the go. It might not be the cheapest option but Apple SIM is convenient.

Any Android device will also make a good offload roaming device freeing up iPhone for Apple Pay Suica use while maximizing battery life. And remember if you do run into the 10% battery life warning mid transit, don’t panic. Simply turn the Apple Pay Suica device off, and turn it back on when you reach your destination transit gate.