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iPhone transit users outside of Japan appreciate Apple Pay Suica too. Touch ‘n Go is MIFARE and definitely doable in iOS 13 Wallet.

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iOS 12.3 brings EMV Express Transit support to Apple Pay* (U)

*(Note: iOS 12.3 EMV Express Transit is only for Portland TriMet, updates and details here)

The short story
Text strings added in pass.json files enable new card options in the new Apple Card/Wallet UI to be unveiled at WWDC19. New PassKit functions to add Wallet card options directly instead of using apps, are some of the new Apple Pay features that Apple will promote at WWDC, with some new options such as EMV Express Transit also working on iOS 12.3 Wallet which already has lots of new changes under the hood.

The long story
iOS 12.3 is an interesting Apple Pay update, an important one for Apple Pay Suica users and we have the new Apple Card and Wallet UI. The Tap Down Under site recently discovered an EMV Express Transit option as well. Beau Giles who runs Tap Down Under reported:

New strings discovered within the pass.json files of Apple Pay card files make mention of new ‘Transit Network Identifiers’ options, as well as new passUpgrades/open loop options – which would provide an equivalent solution for Apple Pay customers…
You’d be able to set your preferred EMV card (again, Visa, Mastercard or American Express) to use for ‘Express Transit’ – no need to authenticate, just tap your iPhone or Watch at an Opal reader.

Tap Down Under iOS 12.3 to bring EMV Express Transit support to Apple Pay

Nice find Beau!

The “equivalent solution” he mentions is the recently added Samsung Pay Transit Card feature for Sydney area Opal transit fare system. The user can select a regular EMV Samsung Pay bank card to use for transit without having to unlock the device or authenticate the card at an Opal transit gate.

What it is and what it isn’t

Let’s get this out of the way: this is not Suica Express Transit. As the new iOS 12.3 Wallet option explanation makes clear, there are transit cards and there are payment cards. It does not work like Suica or other transit cards whose entire transaction architecture is built on instantaneous prepaid self contained secure express transit settlement without network connections.

Apple Pay Suica works the same everywhere, while Samsung Transit Card is a special mode only for transit through Opal gates with regular old EMV everywhere else. It’s a workaround hack for a EMV weakness on smartphones that mimics transit smartcard operation, though it is much slower at the gate than native FeliCa and MIFARE smartcards (watch the video), and because EMV is not a smartcard, does not support different kinds of fares (commuter, senior, student, etc).

The hack itself is less software technology than special arrangements between card companies, Transport for NSW and Samsung, that waive CVS checks for Samsung Pay designated Transit Cards at Opal transit gates. In some ways it’s a merchant arrangement like VISA, Mastercard, American Express letting poor old J.C. Penney keep mag strip card settlements on life support in exchange for switching off contactless payments. And just like J.C. Penney switched off Apple Pay, card companies can switch off EMV transit card support at any time without telling users.

Samsung’s strategy for Samsung Pay in Asia Pacific is an interesting one, using transit to gain ground where Apple Pay has not: Hong Kong Smart Octopus, Taiwan EasyPass, and EMV Transit Card for Opal. The Apple Pay Transit story has picked up considerably momentum recently with the Apple Pay HOP and Ventra Express Transit announcements in March, and Tim Cook’s recent mention of Apple Pay coming to MTA OMNY in July.

All of these Apple Pay Transit service rollouts are due between the iOS 12.4 release for the Apple Card rollout and iOS 13 this fall. The strings that Beau found appeared on indicated that backend system support was already in place with card providers and Apple Pay iCloud servers in early May. The strings list iOS 12.3 and watchOS 5.2.1 as the minimal system requirements.

iOS 12.3 is out and EMV Express Transit is live for all Apple Pay users, but the service itself is limited to Portland TriMet. That must sting for Sydney Opal transit users who were expecting to use it, but not surprising as Sydney transit isn’t listed in the Apple Pay Transit support page. Nevertheless it is an oddly low key rollout for a new Apple Pay service, Apple Pay support pages are the only place it is mentioned. My take is that we will get the full story at WWDC with the iOS 13 announcement, the new Apple Pay Wallet Card UI and other new PassKit functions for developers.

Downsides

A low key approach makes sense for Apple because EMV Express Transit is a service that bank card companies can switch it off at will. They ultimately control it, Apple doesn’t. The feature does not magically work on any ‘open’ transit system because many moving pieces have to be tied down and in place before it can work: agreements between card companies, Apple and transit agencies, along with transit fare backend system support that in western countries is usually outsourced to large companies like Cubic or Thales.

iPhone XR/XS Express Transit with power reserve works with EMV transit but is a potentially confusing user experience: power reserve works for transit but not purchases, users will want to use it like a plastic payment card. And because it removes a layer of security for cards tied to bank accounts, with no safety net like a transit prepaid card, EMV Express Transit will be a security concern for some users.

Summary

I have doubts how Apple can successfully market EMV Express Transit when it completely depends on various outside companies in various regions to work successfully. If anything goes wrong at the transit gate, and it will, Apple catches the blame, never the bank card company. What’s the marketing angle when even Samsung is not heavily promoting EMV Transit Card and how far can the service be extended to other transit systems?

I see this as just another round in the contactless payment turf wars so that card companies can extend their power and reach into transit, and sabotage the ISO/IEC 10373-6 specification, and GSMA/GCF (Global Certification Forum) TS. 26, TS. 27 specifications created by the NFC Forum and transit partners specifically for NFC transit settlements.

Personally I agree with @elevtechlift that EMV Express Transit is a ‘nice, but’ option. It sounds nice, but distracts everybody from the real job of improving transit service with better gates and innovating transit payment technology. Better for Apple to focus on innovating things they control: move Apple Pay forward with features like Express Card with power reserve on Apple Watch, and get developers to add more options and all kinds of NFC enabled cards to iOS 13 Wallet. Hacks that hide EMV weak points and play market politics by sabotaging ISO/IEC 10373-6, hacks that card companies can switch off at any moment, are a waste of time and resources. Improving EMV on transit is a job for EMVCo, not Apple.

At any rate, WWDC19 is shaping up to be an interesting show for all things Apple Pay.

UPDATE
*Instead of writing a new post I rewrote this one, twice. I see EMV Express Transit as just one more Wallet card option. The heavy reworking of Wallet to make new options possible, new Apple Pay features and Wallet UI for iOS 13 are the real story.

iOS 12.3 beta Apple Pay Suica Performance (U)

Despite the wobbly state of Apple Pay Suica card UI design in iOS 12.2 and iOS 12.3, real world Express Transit performance continues to improve. NFC performance is a very subjective thing due of all the constantly changing conditions that come into play: device software and antenna design, NFC chip firmware, reader antenna design and firmware, etc. There are also the different ways that Suica calculates transit fare, stored fare (SF) vs. commute plans. No doubt weather conditions come into play too; I swear that Suica response times are slower on torrentially rainy hot days.

Nevertheless, iOS 12.3 beta (16F5148a) Apple Pay Suica Express Transit performance might be the best Apple Pay Suica ever, and extends the solid performance gains and bug fixes of iOS 12.2. I have only tested iOS 12.3 Commuter Suica but, the UI feels equally snappy on JR gates and PASMO gates now, grumpy old UT1-Neo readers are suddenly happy, the iPhone XS/XR dead Suica UI problem appears to be fixed.

We won’t know for sure until the final release, but I hope the iOS 12.3 performance improvements mean that Apple NFC engineers are hard at work going over Express Transit performance with a fine-tooth comb in advance of the Apple Pay Express Transit HOP and Ventra rollouts this summer. It also means that iOS 12.3 is the last major iOS 12 update. If the beta performance gains are delivered in the final release, iOS 12.3 will be a good curtain call for iOS 12.

UPDATE
iOS 12.3 is out and recommended for Apple Pay Suica users

The MTA OMNY EMV Launch

The most surprising thing about the new OMNY system service starting May 31 isn’t that it’s EMV contactless credit/debit card only, or that Cubic is working with Apple to bring Apple Pay EMV support in June, or even that mag strip MetroCard is hanging around until “at least” 2022.

The most surprising thing is that MetroCard is manually swiped on the new OMNY contactless fare gates (the YouTube video 1:30 mark).

Dear lord, have MTA commuters really been manually swiping MetroCards all these years? Living in Japan since the 1980s, I have never manually swiped a mag strip card at a transit gate ever. Lots of people don’t like Trump, but let’s make America great again by not manually swiping MetroCards anymore.

It’s very interesting that MTA and Cubic decided to launch OMNY with standard fare only EMV contactless cards for those who have them, and leave the majority of transit users with MetroCard, which has all the fare options (student fares, discount fares, etc.), until the real MetroCard replacement, OMNY transit card, arrives in late 2020.

Usually it’s the other way around, the new transit smartcard card comes first, EMV support comes much later after the system kinks are worked out. My theory is that MTA did it the other way around to road test the system with a smaller group of transit users, while pushing out the expense of installing all that OMNY card related hardware (kiosks, recharge stations, etc.) in the hope that lots of transit users will happily end up using only EMV, thus magically reducing said OMNY card related hardware investments. It’s wishful thinking, like Transport for London wishing that Oyster cards go away.

Once the real OMNY card appears is when things get interesting. All the different fare types will be supported on a smartcard, real MIFARE cards will be faster than EMV at the gate, smartphone apps from Cubic will be there for credit card linking and recharging OMNY plastic cards on the fly. Last but not least, OMNY card can finally be hosted on Apple Pay with fast secure Express Transit, just like Chicago Ventra and Portland HOP coming this summer. New York is a great city that deserves a great transit system. Here’s hoping OMNY helps make that happen.

Dear Apple Pay UI Team

Dear Apple Pay UI Team Members,

You seem to be having some trouble redesigning Apple Pay Suica transit cards in iOS 12.2 and iOS 12.3. As a daily Apple Pay Suica user since day 1, here’s some helpful criticism and feedback, just like Steve used to do back in the day. Here we go.

1) Basic Layout: why is the card art so large when it serves no real purpose other than identification? It can be smaller and still do a good job while freeing up lots of space for more important functions and actions, and less round trips to other card preference settings.

2) Latest Transactions: the basic UI for this section is OK, but icon sizes are too large and waste valuable screen space. Make them smaller so that more transactions fit in the same area. This allows the entire transaction list area to move down and make display room for more important information when needed. More on that in #2. Icon colors need to differentiate between the 3 basic Suica function types: transit, purchase and recharge. ‘Credit’ is not a good English term to use for recharge here, it’s too easy to confuse with credit card. And why is the transaction location so important that it needs to be listed first in bold? It’s secondary information taking up precious screen space. Primary information such as store names and transit routes make more sense here.

3) Commute Plan: The 2 most important UI functions of Suica card are recharging Suica balance and renewing commute plan. These 2 critical functions must be front and center in the Suica card UI. The regular Suica card UI gets this right while the commute plan Suica UI gets it wrong: the layout hides both recharge and renew functions down a level. People cannot find them. This is a design failure that needs to be fixed…like this:

This is what the Commute Plan Suica UI needs to look like, Latest Transactions need to move out of the way because they are secondary information.

4) Card Info is another mess. First of all why is a pull down refresh there? All Suica info is local to the card and Service Mode is the only way to force a refresh when necessary. Right? If it’s not serving any purpose, delete it. Important user settings are not prioritized or grouped intelligently, and hard to find. They need to be easy to find. And lose the duplicated recharge and renew functions. Putting those in 4 different places, each with a confusingly different UI design, isn’t helpful at all, it’s confusing the hell out of Suica users, young and old, newbies and old hands.

Condense all of the important items users need to find quickly onto the top half of a well organized screen…like this:

Remember that Suica is a prepaid transit card, not a credit card. It has very different functions, uses and feedback requirements. Focus on what Suica users need, anticipate what they want, eliminate everything else, and it will turn out well.

Love and Kisses,
Ata Distance