Apple Pay on Event Day

Apple Pay is sure to have a segment during the September 10 Apple Event. Here is my roundup of what to expect based on previous coverage.

Apple Card
Apple Card did not get its own press event rollout in August, this will be the closest thing. We will certainly get a feature review and some launch statistics. Long shot call: if lucky we may also get mention of a few more Wallet card feature goodies with the iOS 13 golden master.

Apple Pay for NFC Tags
This was previewed by Jennifer Bailey at her Transact keynote just before WWDC19. There has been no coverage since. NFC Tag Apple Pay works hand in glove with the Background NFC tag reading feature on iPhone XR/XS and later, and the Sign in with Apple feature of iOS 13. The Apple Pay segment makes the most sense for Apple to mention any other products or services that use the enhanced NFC Tag functionality of iOS 13.

The level of global NFC functionality integration across iPhone and Apple Watch is unique. There is nothing on the Android side that matches the seamless combination of Apple Pay Suica + iPhone + Apple Watch, a hardware combination also coming to Hong Kong transit with iOS 13 Apple Pay Octopus. An Apple Watch Series 5 that delivers background NFC tag reading ability integrated with Apple Pay along with Express Transit power reserve would be a very unique feature set indeed.

Apple Pay Transit
Apple Pay Octopus for Hong Kong is on tap for iOS 13, already announced by Octopus Cards Limited. We should get service start updates and details for Octopus, Apple Pay Ventra, EMV Express Transit for TfL. Mentions of Apple Pay myki, EMV Express Transit for LA TAP and more are possible but iffy.

May the NFC be with you.


Bonus iOS 13 Update
Apple’s Where you can ride transit with Apple Pay lists 2 kinds of Apple Pay Transit. Here is a brief explanation of what they mean.

iOS 13 Apple Pay Transit, entries such as Melbourne and Los Angeles will arrive later in the iOS 13 life cycle
  • Where you can use Apple Pay for transit with Express Transit Mode
    ‘A List’ transit that supports both native transit cards (faster than EMV except for China) and EMV style bank cards (slower) for Express Transit.
  • Where you can use Apple Pay for transit without Express Transit mode
    ‘B List’ EMV style bank card transit that requires Face ID, Touch ID or passcode at the transit gate. One benefit of this mode over regular plastic bank cards is that all Apple Pay loaded cards (China again is the one exception, UnionPay all the way) are certified by Apple for the listed transit agencies. This means Apple Pay cards will always work, while plastic versions of the same card sometimes do not.
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iOS 13 Apple Pay Suica Warning for EX App users

One of the early issues of using Apple Pay Suica was that the Suica card ID number would change every time the card was removed and re-added to Wallet, migrated to a new iPhone, or transferred from iPhone to Apple Watch. This was no problem for using Suica for transit and payment, but soft-linked services like JRE POINT and the JR Central Shinkansen EX App were a problem. Users had to manually update the Apple Pay Suica card ID number in those service accounts. If they did not, those services stopped working.

The good news is that Mobile Suica and Apple Pay fixed the issue in 2017. The bad news is that the issue is back again. JR East has done a lot of backend work on the Mobile Suica system to get the iOS 13 direct Suica card creation Wallet feature in place. I moved by main Apple Pay Suica card to test it on Apple Watch today and noticed that the Suica card ID had changed. I thought I might need to issue an all points alert, but close investigation revealed that JR East has really improved things on the Mobile Suica system.

The Suica card ID number changes, once, it seems. After that, moving Suica around doesn’t change anything. I suspect this is related to the changes in iOS 13 Wallet. Another interesting change is that the JRE POINT system automatically updates a changed Suica ID number from Mobile Suica. It just works. Hurray!

Softlinked Apple Pay Suica services like EX App (smartEX and Express Reservation) and Touch and Go Shinkansen are still a problem. Touch and Go Shinkansen users simply register their device again at a JR East station kiosk. Apple Pay Suica & Express Card EX App users need to open up Suica App, tap the Express Reservation option and login to EX via the shitty little mobile EX browser window. You should see a “Your Registered Device has changed” and a “Update” button. Tap that and all is done. You can confirm the updated Suica ID number in EX App.

I do not have a smartEX account and cannot confirm this, but I suspect users need to update any changed Suica ID number manually in the EX/smartEX Apps. In the future I hope that JR Central does a better job of dynamically connecting their EX system with Mobile Suica.

Tokyo Cashless 2020: Dear JR East, we need a new Suica Charge App

With less than a year to go until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics I’m kicking off a new series: Tokyo Cashless 2020, a periodic look at all things cashless as Tokyo gears up for the big event.

Now that iOS 13 with supercharged Core NFC is almost here, it’s time for JR East to junk the old Suica Charge app for Sony PaSoRi FeliCa reader combo on life support until the plug is pulled in September 2020, and create a new Core NFC supercharged app for iOS 13. Since any iPhone 7 and later has the ability to Read/Write FeliCa cards build a whole new app around iPhone as the NFC read/write device. Here are some other helpful suggestions:

  • Make the app multilingual, or at least support English in addition to Japanese
  • Cooperate with the other major transit card companies to support all compatible Japanese transit IC cards for recharging, not just Suica
  • Support international issue credit/debit card registration in the app so that anybody from anywhere can recharge plastic transit IC cards with their bank card
  • Support In-App Apple Pay for recharging
  • Support the app on Non-Osaifu Keitai Android phones that can read/write NFC-F, there are lots of them out there coming to Tokyo in 2020, support Google Pay for In-App recharging too

There is an ocean of plastic Japanese transit IC cards out there. There are lots of Android users, and even iPhone users, who cannot use Apple Pay Suica or Google Pay Suica. A handy Suica recharge app that lets inbound travelers recharge plastic transit cards on the go with just a smartphone is screaming to be born, it would be an essential tool in alleviating station recharge kiosk lines during the Tokyo Olympics. JR East, please make it happen.

Update: I had forgotten that JR East had announced the end of “Suica Internet” services in September 2020. Suica Internet is a set of internet based services for online shopping and recharging Suica cards with the Sony PaSori reader and a Windows PC. JR East is pruning legacy services as they prepare for the next generation Super Suica rollout in April 2021.

Unlocking Suica App Security Lock

Suica App is very handy but comes with serious limitations for inbound visitors:

  • Suica App is Japanese language only
  • Suica App only accepts Japanese issue cards for registration

An English version of the app is certainly coming before the Tokyo Olympics, likely arriving in tandem with the new JR East Shinkansen eTicket system in April 2020.

Fortunately we have the English language SuicaEng app for adding a virtual Suica card, and we also have direct virtual Suica card creation in iOS 13 Wallet that eliminates dealing with SuicaEng or Suica App. And if you need to purchase anything in Suica App, such as Commuter Plans or Shinkansen eTickets, it can all be done with your Apple Pay cards.

Suica App has good security, but if you forget your Mobile Suica account password or attempt to register an international issue credit card, you can get yourself security locked out of Suica App and Mobile Suica. Here’s how to unlock the Suica App security lock and get a new password issued.

The first thing you need to do is write down your Mobile Suica registration details:

  • Last name, first name in Romaji/Kanji and Katakana
  • Birthdate
  • device phone number
  • Japanese postal code number
  • Mobile Suica registration e-mail address
  • An e-mail address you want the password reset sent to, this can be the same as the Mobile Suica registration e-mail

Once you have this information ready, go to this Mobile Suica Password Reset form. Follow the screenshot example below and enter the information. After entering the information click or tap on the button to verify the information, if all looks good click or tap the send button at the bottom of the verification screen.

You will receive a Mobile Suica password reset message from info@mobilesuica.com, messages can take up to 2 hours to arrive. Be aware that Mobile Suica issues password resets daily from 9:00 to 20:00 Japan Standard Time (JST), if your request arrives outside of those hours, it will be processed the next day.

After you obtain a new password from Mobile Suica, login to Suica App using the new password. You can then change the password in Suica App, follow the screenshots below:

In the event that Mobile Suica Support requests that you contact them to remove the security lock on your account you only have 2 options, both of them require Japanese language ability:

For either option have the following pieces of information ready:

  • Last name, first name in Katakana
  • Birthdate
  • Mobile Suica registered device phone number
  • Mobile Suica account ID
  • Suica card ID number
  • Suica card ‘Shikibetsu’ ID: this is the same as your Apple ID or slightly different with an ‘_1’ or ‘_2’ appended at the end


When using the chat option you type a request such as ‘Mobile Suica account has a security lock that I want unlocked.’ The next step is passing though a few canned support responses before being connected to an online support person. They will then ask you to confirm your account with the above information. Confirm to the support person that your Mobile Suica account has a security lock that you want unlocked.

Apple’s Secret Weapon

Technology is hard to cover well in a way that’s clear and easy to understand, that educates and elevates without dumbing down the technology or it’s intended audience. Technology like Apple Pay Suica is especially hard to cover well because it is multifaceted: it merges the Apple Pay platform of Global NFC technology deployed on iPhone and Apple Watch, with the Suica Transit Platform of FeliCa NFC deployed for transit and eMoney on a national scale, and how Apple delivers all of this to a global user base.

With so many parts it’s difficult to explain the greatness and importance of Apple Pay Suica, simply and clearly, and what connects it to Apple Card. Ken Bolido who is the production lead and creative director for Austin Evans, has created a video titled Apple’s SECRET Weapon aka Your iPhone has Super Powers…in Japan. Ken ‘get’s it’ and captures all of it brilliantly: why Apple Pay is Apple’s Secret Weapon, how Apple Pay Suica is a perfect embodiment of that secret weapon, and how it relates to Apple Card. If you want to understand any of this and how it will play out, watch Apple’s SECRET Weapon. It’s essential viewing and a perfect primer for the role Apple Pay Suica will play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.