Waiting for iOS 13 Apple Pay Octopus

With the rollout of Apple Pay Octopus approaching the contents of this post has been consolidated into More Apple Pay Octopus Details. Instead of separate posts new information and developments will updated there.

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Apple Pay Octopus Details and Launch

With the Apple Pay Octopus rollout getting close I am consolidating new information and developments here, launch update at the bottom

A Hong Kong reader steered me to the source used in the previous screenshot post, there is quite a lot of detail from this September 2 post on the Lihkg.com site. Apple Pay Octopus device specs listed there are in line with expectations, an exact match with Apple Pay Suica:

A machine translation of the Chinese suggests:

  • Plastic card transfer and direct virtual Octopus card creation in Wallet supported, but unlike Suica Octopus plastic card deposits are not added to the balance when transferred to iPhone. The initial required balance for creating a virtual Octopus card is HK $100 with $50 as a deposit, shown in the screenshot. The Octopus deposit serves as emergency transit fare in case the Octopus balance is zero.
  • Service fees for Apple Pay Wallet Recharge are unclear. There are service fees on Samsung Smart Octopus for Samsung Pay Wallet recharge with Mastercard and Visa cards.

I get the feeling that some of these details might be different for the official Apple Pay Octopus rollout, we shall see. The current OCL schedule will almost certainly be updated with the Apple Pay Octopus release.

The post also says that, ‘most of the original’ transferable services of plastic Octopus are supported on the virtual version such as Automatic Add Value Service (AAVS), using Octopus for building access, etc., the same as Samsung Smart Octopus where some services are not transferred automatically from plastic Octopus, such as MTR Park and Ride, and need to be registered manually to virtual cards.

Other screenshots from the same site show Wallet Recharge apparently limited to China UnionPay (CUP) branded cards for the beta test period but should open up with the official release. A new beta test version of the iOS Octopus app (v6) and creation of Adult and Elder Apple Pay Octopus cards is also shown.

All in all it is clear that testing is far along, remember that this all started back in December. Apple Pay Octopus is ready for the iOS 13 rollout. Official service details from Octopus Cards Limited and Apple should be coming on, or shortly after the September 10 Apple Event. iOS 13 will be released on September 19.



UPDATE: Apple Pay Octopus Launch Day

The iPhone 11 Apple Event did not mention iOS 13 at all. Perhaps the simultaneous iOS 13 and iOS 13.1 beta release was unprecedented and too awkward to fit in the keynote. There was more riding on iOS 13.1 than people realized: highly anticipated items like Apple Tag were not mentioned even though there is plenty of evidence of it all over iOS 13.

The same is true for Apple Pay Octopus. The Apple Pay Wallet blurb has this transit card reference when the Region setting is Hong Kong: “Add credit, debit and travel cards to Apple Pay to make secure purchases and to use public transport”, both in the latest iOS 13.1 beta 3 and the iOS 13 golden master. This means everything is a go from iOS 13. Octopus Cards Limited (OCL) already announced “Octopus coming soon to iPhone and Apple Watch”on July 11 promising it “later this year.” We have some dates to consider:

  • September 19 iOS 13 release
  • September 25 Apple Pay Octopus release

There’s a small chance of an Apple Pay Octopus start announcement from OCL on September 19 iOS 13 release day, which is September 20 in Hong Kong. The actual start date will likely be offset a few days because there is huge pent up demand for Apple Pay Octopus. Apple and OCL would be wise giving their online system and support teams enough breathing space after the iOS 13 release weekend to avoid an Apple Pay Suica launch like meltdown.

In this scenario September 25 local Hong Kong time looks like the best target launch date for Apple Pay Octopus.

A press release from Apple would be nice but I’m not holding my breath. The days of announcements for transit additions to Apple Pay may be over. If the Apple Pay HOP service launch earlier this year is any indication, OCL should be lining up local Hong Kong media beforehand to cover startup day.

Keep an eye out for updates to the Hong Kong Apple Pay web page, it will certainly get the same Apple Pay Octopus artwork featured on the Octopus Cards Limited site at some point, and a graphic similar to the Japanese Apple Pay page outlining the different device support configurations for transit (Octopus: iPhone 8 and later) and payments (Octopus: iPhone 8 and later, or credit/debit bank cards: iPhone 6 and later). The Hong Kong Apple Pay NFC use device profile is very unique, there is nothing quite like it anywhere else.

UPDATE 2: Some readers have wondered if a later, as in iOS 13.1 later, launch date makes more sense in connection with a rumored October event. Anybody’s guess is as good as mine but there is no technical reason to wait. From the software side Apple Pay Octopus is ready to fly with iOS 13. It’s all up to OCL to push it out of the nest.

UPDATE 3: BTW Mobile Suica has a ‘special maintenance’ scheduled for early September 25 0:00~ 4:00, all recharge functions and credit card registration will be offline. Of course this means that most Apple Pay Suica functions will be offline too. Does Apple need to take some Apple Pay functions in Asia offline for bit? It’s probably nothing, but the midweek special maintenance date is odd and…..interesting.

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.

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.

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.