iOS 13 b4 Apple Pay Suica: the wheel that refreshes

The Apple Pay Suica iOS 12.2 UI had one head scratching feature: the pull down refresh in the Suica details window. It didn’t update the balance or transaction information, or appear to do anything at all except twirl. It was a useless mystery wheel that iOS 13 b4 finally solves: it’s for updating the new Shinkansen and Green Car ticket information sections added in the latest beta from Mobile Suica.

These previously existed but only appeared when a user purchased Shinkansen or Green Car eTickets in Suica App. Purchased eTickets are downloaded to the Wallet Suica card for use on JR East Shinkansen lines or Green Car seats for regular trains on JR East and JR Central. It makes sense to add a permanent Tickets section so that users will know where to find and download them before going through the Shinkansen transit gate. I hope we’ll get better notifications too. I think this is also JR East and Apple getting things ready for the new Shinkansen eTicket system and refreshed Suica App due to arrive on April 2020.

There are no other Suica changes in iOS 13 b4. Suica Notification 3D/Haptic Touch shortcuts are still missing and that big useless Suica in-transit notification is still there, useless as ever. Maybe we’ll find the answer to that mystery in the next beta

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QR Codes and Big Data

After the 7pay QR Code launch and security meltdown, Twitter is full of Japanese tweets asking ‘why do we need QR when we already have fast secure FeliCa services like Apple Pay Suica?’

It’s a very good question. Finding the reasons behind the manufactured QR Code in Japan mania is not easy. On the surface it looks like a strange retro attempt to replicate the success of AliPay and WeChat Pay in the Japanese market and lower operating costs are certainly part of the allure. A close examination of actual QR use boils down to LinePay and using LinePay points to buy stuff on the Line Store (stickers, coins, etc.).

So why is 7-Eleven aiming to trash their FeliCa nanaco card and push their user base to 7pay QR, and why are all the other convenience store chains doing the same? IT journalist Junya Suzuki, Japan’s top reporter covering all things cashless has posted a great explanation: Big Data.

If you have lived in Japan for any length of time you are probably familiar with the T-Point card. A few years ago Doutor, FamilyMart and many other business were pushing T-Points. Now they are not. Doutor dropped T-Point for Docomo d POINT in June, and the arrival of QR FamiPay is FamilyMart kissing T-Point goodbye.

As Suzuki san points out, from the convenience store point of view, the problem with customers using Suica, nanaco or T-Point is that they don’t have personal data attached to them. Anybody can buy a Suica card at a JR station or a nanaco card at 7-Eleven and use it on the spot. The only piece of data going into the system is the card id#. They can’t get your name, phone, etc. and profile the customer.

With QR Code apps and an account signup/sign in, QR Code platform operators get the information they want to profile customers and plug it into Big Data. The customer ends up being the product. It’s not about offering better service or technology. How useful QR Code payment apps are in the long run, or how much they actually end up being used, is anybody’s guess.

Unfortunately the current messy situation is only going to get worse as Japanese bank QR Code platforms start launching this fall. Smartphone users will have to find their own way through a growing maze of QR payment apps and different UIs, each one vying for attention with campaign booty. The freebie startup campaigns will eventually end, The inevitable consolidation process will be painful. There is no doubt however that the 7pay startup fiasco is a tipping point, the reevaluation process has begun.

Reminder: JR East Suica System Downtime July 6 9pm~5am

Just a friendly reminder that the first of JR East’s major Suica system maintenance downtimes starts Saturday July 6 at 9pm and runs to 5am. Mobile Suica and JR East station Suica ticket machine services are going offline.

During the offline period you can still use plastic Suica and Apple Pay Suica for transit and purchases as usual, but Apple Pay Suica Recharge will be limited to cash only from 1am~4am. Remember that you can always cash recharge Apple Pay Suica at any convenience store cash register or 7-Eleven ATM machine. 

All other operations such as adding Suica to Wallet and all Suica App functions, and corresponding services at JR East station Suica ticket machines, will be offline for the entire maintenance window.

Be prepared and check your Suica balance and recharge before 9pm. The next major maintenance downtime is scheduled for Saturday July 20 9pm~5am.

iOS 13 Apple Pay Suica: Move along folks there’s nothing to see here…

As I wrote previously, “if you are using iOS 12.3, you are already using iOS 13 Apple Pay Wallet.” The major under the hood Wallet changes of iOS 12.3~4 were completed ahead of iOS 13 for the Apple Card rollout that is coming very soon. For Apple Pay Suica users, and Express Transit users everywhere, the solid Express Transit performance of iOS 12.3~ iOS 12.4 and the UI, are exactly what you get in iOS 13. There is nothing new, a good thing.

The only changes are Suica Notifications which have lost 3D Touch shortcuts for Recharge and Commute Plan Renewal. Since 3D Touch is on the chopping block in iOS 13, this is not unexpected, but it is unfortunate: the recharge shortcut was handy and finally useful with the robust iOS 12.3 Suica Recharge performance. Suica Notifications are still a work in progress however, witness the useless ‘In Transit’ Suica notification, hopefully shortcuts will reappear in some form before the final release.

The Apple Card rollout remains a real head scratcher. There are lots of things Apple Card will be able to do in iOS 12.4 Wallet that other cards, as yet, cannot do. And Apple has not offered anything in iOS 13 PassKit or Wallet for developers to do those dynamic card UI things that Apple Card does. I wonder how well that will go down with developers after Apple Card finally ships.

NTT Docomo Celebrates Osaifu Keitai 15th Anniversary

It all started today, July 1, 2004, when NTT Docomo launched the iMode FeliCa mobile wallet, called Osaifu Keitai in Japanese. It was the world’s first mobile payment platform, a tremendous achievement and forerunner to the Apple Pay and Google Pay services we have today. To celebrate the anniversary Docomo has lined up a bunch of point campaigns for all the Osaifu Keitai payment networks: Mobile Suica, iD, QUICPay, WAON, nanaco, Edy. Unfortunately Apple Pay users are only eligible for iD and QUICPay (details will be available later).

Docomo also has a nifty anniversary page highlighting all the Osaifu Keitai payment networks, when you tap or click the payment icon it plays the feedback sound you hear at the register. The Suica sound is the original one we heard way back in 2006, which you don’t hear anymore. It’s a fun way to celebrate the trailblazing mobile payment platform that Docomo and Sony invented.