iPhone X Keynote: Global FeliCa and Why It’s Important

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The Apple Pay Japan page quietly and clearly confirms global FeliCa support in new iPhones and Watches

It worked out pretty well after all. Phil Schiller did not say anything in the keynote but global FeliCa did make it into iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3 and iPhone X.

Global FeliCa
Global FeliCa (NFC-F) for iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 joins NFC A-B for one seamless NFC world standard that has been a certification requirement for global NFC devices since April 2017. Apple already had FeliCa in iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 but only activated NFC-F for devices sold in Japan.

With all restrictions removed Global FeliCa means that ‘inbound’ visitors to Japan with the new devices can add the Japanese transit card Suica to Apple Pay for using Japanese transit or making store purchases. This also opens up FeliCa systems outside of Japan, such as Hong Kong’s MTR system and Octopus Card, and Singapore’s EZ-Link to Suica-like Apple Pay services in the future.

The whole reason for making NFC A-B-F a single standard was to let our smart devices solve things and ‘just work’ in every country instead of forcing local transit operators and vendors to install unnecessary or incompatible contactless payment infrastructure. NFC A-B processing time for example is too slow for Japanese ticket gates that are designed to instantly process fares in the busiest train stations (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Ikebukuro) in the world.

Long term implications are going to be very interesting. Even though Apple is not advertising it, putting FeliCa into every iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 will make FeliCa a NFC world standard on a level unimaginable, and unattainable up to now.

Put another way, there are lots of global standards which FeliCa was. There are also global standards that really matter. Thanks to Apple putting global FeliCa in iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3, FeliCa just became the latter.

The expanding intersection of seamless NFC, transit fare systems and contactless payments is just getting started and will play out in amazing ways.

Apple Pay Japan site refresh adds Global FeliCa but no new transit cards

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The Apple Pay Japan page has been refreshed in iOS 11 style with new iPhone 8, iPhone X and Series 3 Watch support now listed in the specs showing global FeliCa support. The body text still refers only to iPone 7 and Series 2 Watch. At this point no new credit cards or transit cards are listed. I’ll post any new developments here.

Global FeliCa for iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3

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Despite some signs, and hopes, that Apple would turn on FeliCa for the rest of the world, it appears the same strategy is in place for the new iPhones: global NFC chips with NFC A-B-F, but only NFC-F turned on for devices sold in Japan. The Apple Japan page is the only one that lists FeliCa in the  iPhone 8, X and  Series 3 tech specs, same as is was for iPhone 7.

No sooner than I posted that global FeliCa did not appear to be in the works that Japanese twitters users pointed out the different wording on the refreshed Apple Pay Japan page. The phrase “only for devices purchased in Japan” is not used with the new devices announced today and the specs are very clear: global FeliCa (NFC-F) support is built into iPhone 8, X and Series 3 Watch and those devices bought anywhere in the world can be used for Apple Pay Japan.

Japanese press on-site reports from the Apple Park keynote also confirmed global FeliCa support in the new devices from Apple staff in the hands on area.

This is in line with the new NFC A-B-F certification requirement that started in April 2017 and it also means that ‘inbound’ visitors to Japan can add Apple Pay Suica with the new devices.

Though Apple is very low key about global NFC-F support, FeliCa systems outside of Japan, such as Hong Kong’s MTR system and Octopus Card, and Singapore’s EZ-Link will be able to add Apple Pay Suica-like services. We will find out more as iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3 and iPhone X go on sale.

A better summary and analysis of Global FeliCa is here.

The #1 Japanese Transit App

fullsizeoutput_642bIt’s not Apple Maps, it’s not Google Maps or even Yahoo Japan Maps. The #1 Japanese Transit iPhone app is Yahoo Japan’s stand-alone Transit app and Yahoo Japan is going to town with a big fun marketing blitz featuring Doraemon.

After one year of using Apple Maps Japan Transit since the September 2016 debut, I don’t find it very useful. None of the map apps are very useful for public transit. The problem is they all treat public transit like car navigation: here is point a, here is point b, here is a map route. Transit route map overlays might look cool but are not helpful and waste space that could be used for real information. Both Apple Maps and Google Maps force you to dig for more information instead of just showing it.

Yahoo Japan Transit offers you lots of great information that you can either sort for fastest, cheapest, etc., or quickly search for different times (orange left or right). Yahoo Japan has also integrated those stupid two letter train line codes but thankfully only in the initial search result list.

Map apps basically assume I don’t know how to get to my destination. On the other hand stand-alone transit apps like Yahoo Japan Transit assume you that you know how to get to your destination and just want to find the best way of getting there. It simply offers the best transit options in a handy sortable list: transit time, price, number of transfers. You can save routes, put them in a calendar, set time alarms, GPS destination alarms and more.

And to top it off, if you really need to see how to get from the station to the destination, Yahoo Japan Transit offers you a quick pop up map which is all that you ever really need saving you a needless trip to the map app.

Something Went Wrong in Siri’s and Apple Maps Development (U)

John Gruber made a great post today:

Siri, as it stands today, is at best a halfway product. Again, I’m pro-Siri in the voice assistant debate, but even so I think it’s generous to describe it as “halfway”. The whole category is garbage, Siri included. And frankly, it just doesn’t feel like Apple has made as much progress in six years as they should have.

Something went wrong in Siri’s development, and it wasn’t the voice quality.

I don’t think it is entirely coincidence that two of Apple’s most troubled products, Siri and Apple Maps both appeared at the same troubled time: iOS 6 and the departure of Scott Forstall. They are very different products but the lack of progress in Siri and Apple Maps development after six years, is very troubling indeed.

John was very kind and tweeted a reply that Siri (2011) and Apple Maps (2012) don’t compare because Apple Maps has made far more progress in six years than Siri. That may be true for Apple Maps in America. In Japan Apple Maps is stuck in 2012 limbo

I don’t think there is a definitive answer. Yes, Siri has made excellent progress with natural sounding voices. Yes, Apple Maps has evolved into a good product for America. But these are parts, not a whole.

Again and again I think it all comes back to Steve Jobs WWDC 1997: is the total more or less than the sum of the parts? For John the answer might be more. For me, the answer is less which is why I see both Siri and Apple Maps facing the same problem; lack of progress.

Apple Pay Suica Commuter Pass Renewal Window

Adding a Suica commuter pass to Apple Pay is just as easy as a regular Suica. You can also renew the commuter pass right in Wallet without a trip to the Suica app. One thing you need to be careful of is the commuter pass renewal window.

Suica commuter passes are good for 1-3-6 month renewable intervals which you choose when renewing the pass in Wallet. You can only renew a commuter pass two weeks before the expiration date. If you go past the expiration date and miss the two-week renewal window you can no longer renew the commuter pass in Wallet.

In this case you have to go to the Suica app and purchase a “new” commuter pass. You will need to input the station points, any transfer station point and select the validity interval. The last step is the purchase with Apple Pay. Once complete your Apple Pay Suica commuter pass is ready to go. It is not a new card, it is the same card with a new validity period.

Global FeliCa iPhone 8

It’s nice to know that Japanese IT journalist Tsutsumu Ishikawa, the reporter who broke the FeliCa iPhone 7 story in the Japanesae press via Nikkei quickly stolen away without credit by Bloomberg in the English press, is also on the lookout for global FeliCa at next weeks iPhone 8 event.