Apple Pay Suica Service Mode

Apple Pay Suica Service Mode is a weird function that doesn’t have a counterpart on the Android Suica side. The JR East Apple Pay Suica help page mentions this. The iPhone Service Mode explanation says, “Service Mode will allow station agents and kiosks to help with any issues with your card.” The street reality is that station agents don’t need you to put the device in Service Mode, just fork it over and they can fix any Suica issue for you.

This difference exists because Osaifu Keitai smartphones (and the candy wrapper Google Pay Suica) have a dedicated FeliCa chip. Apple created it’s own custom FeliCa implementation hosted on the iPhone A Series and Apple Watch S Series SOC. But the Apple implementation did not really mature until A12 Bionic and the Express Card (Student ID)/Express Transit cards with power reserve feature. The A12 Bionic Secure Enclave supports limited NFC transactions that bypass iOS. It’s the same way a dedicated FeliCa chip works on Android.

This means that Apple Pay Suica on non-A12 devices requires iOS/watchOS to be up and running for Suica to work. Unfortunately this also means that different iOS versions sometimes have performance issues on non-A12 devices and that iOS occasionally drops the ball. Fortunately iOS 12.3 fixes all issues and has great Apple Pay Suica Express Transit performance. iOS 12.3 is a highly recommended update.

The Dead Suica Notifications/No Suica Balance Update problem happened occasionally and the way to fix it is to turn on Service Mode and leave it until it turns off automatically in 60 seconds or the screen goes dark, whichever comes first.

In this case Service Mode syncs and reconciles iOS with the Suica Stored Fare (SF) balance information from the FeliCa embedded Secure Element implemented inside the A Series/S Series Secure Enclave.

Service Mode seems pretty useless on A12 Bionic devices. I imagine it’s there more for show than actual functionality, although Service Mode is useful for cash recharge on 7-Eleven ATM machines where you have to put the device upside down to capture the ATM NFC antenna hit area.

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JR East Suica System Downtime Notice

Mobile Suica maintenance is a regular nightly occurrence from 1am~4am with longer once a month sessions. The July 6~7 and July 20~21 Suica system maintenance work is very unusual for both the time, 9pm~5am on each night, and the reach: both 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.

This is heavy system work that JR East is doing in preparation for the new eTicketing system due next April. JR East already had one system meltdown last month. Let’s hope they don’t have another.

Rakuten Pay branded Suica for Android in 2020

Apple Pay users got the Mizuho branded Suica in 2018, so it’s only fair that Android Suica users get a digitally branded Suica too. JR East and Rakuten announced Rakuten Pay Suica today. Starting next spring, Rakuten Pay users on Osaifu Keitai Android (no mention of Google Pay, ahem), will be able to create a virtual Rakuten Pay Suica card in the Rakuten Pay app and rack up Rakuten points when recharging it with Rakuten Pay.

Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani is a former bank executive and his buildup of the Rakuten payments service empire is impressive. The whole point is to remove credit cards and banks from the Suica recharge process for Rakuten Pay users, and there are lots of them. So much so that some Apple Pay users might be tempted to switch to Android just to use Rakuten Pay Suica.

All things Suica will change with the arrival of Super Suica in 2021. Until then this is another nice, and strategically important, expansion of the Suica Transit Platform, extending the usefulness of Suica in the Rakuten Pay point universe that has a deep user base in rural areas. Come to think of it, this is JR East getting their ducks in a row for the Super Suica rollout that will incorporate all those local rural transit IC cards that have been left out the e-money and digital wallet revolution. It’s a perfect matchup.

UPDATE
Rakuten and JR East are examining iOS support in addition to Android. Jennifer Bailey and the Apple Pay crew had better get cracking on negotiations with Rakuten, Rakuten Pay Suica is going to be way bigger and more important than Mizuho Suica can ever be.

For the Rakuten Pay app, FeliCa is just one payment protocol sitting alongside barcodes, Bluetooth and QR Codes

HCE Secure Element in the Cloud is pie in the sky

Stefan Heaton’s blog piece “The reason Mobile myki isn’t available on iPhone… yet” is all the proof you need that Google inspired endless nonsense with Android Pay HCE support. This was shortly after the NFC “secure element” wars were over, with embedded Secure Element (eSE) on SIM cards losing out to eSE on smartphone chips. A secure element in the cloud approach seemed like it would solve everything, except that it didn’t.

myki is MIFARE which has never been compatible with HCE. Neither is FeliCa, which Google Pay users outside Japan assumed would work for Suica until they found out HCE-F was dead in the water and lost their shit.

What nobody has said, and I think it’s worth pointing out, is that the Android Pay to Google Pay shift was also a break with HCE and Google providing, or pretending to provide, a secure element strategy for all Android licensees. Instead, Google is focused on Pixel and their own eSE, all other Android licensees and manufacturers be dammed and left to find their own solutions. I guarantee you that, in time, Google will be doing most, if not all, of the same security hoops that Apple does now, for Google Pay card emulation (not host card emulation) for Google Pixel platform eSE access.

So yes, Apple does limit NFC Secure Element (implemented in the A Series Secure Enclave) access with PassKit NFC certificates. But Apple Pay MIFARE is real MIFARE, and Apple Pay FeliCa is real FeliCa. Public Transport Victoria (PTV) can apply for a myki card PassKit NFC certificate just like any developer. And for goodness sake Stefan, stop writing sentences that confuse Express Transit payment cards (EMV credit/debit cards) with regular Express Transit cards (FeliCa, MIFARE, PBOC). Suica is not a credit card and emulating EMV at a transit gate doesn’t automatically make a credit card into a Apple Pay Suica transit card, not by a long shot. If your aim is promoting open loop over closed loop, that’s one thing. Either way, your LinkedIn blog post is not doing your LinkedIn resume any favor.

UPDATE: Yep, myki is coming to Apple Pay, nothing to do at all with HCE support.