Express Transit Tips for Apple Pay HOP Users

Apple Pay HOP card launched on Portland TriMet today, the first transit system in America that supports Apple Pay Express Transit. Here are some Express Transit card tips and other things for Apple Pay HOP users that I have learned from 2 years of daily Express Transit Suica use.

  • Express Transit only works while Face ID/Touch ID is active. Express Transit stops working when Face ID/Touch ID is disabled. Be careful if you wear a face mask during your commute or put iPhone X, XS, XR in a tight pants pocket. It is easy to disable Face ID without realizing it with a rude passcode request at the transit gate. Face mask users can mitigate this by turning off Raise to Wake. If you still have problems the last resort is turning off Face ID for unlocking iPhone, be sure leave it on for Apple Pay.
  • Express Transit on Apple Watch is great, depending on which wrist you use, but in winter when wearing layers of clothes, iPhone is faster to whip out at the gate. iPhone is also free of left wrist vs. right side gate reader issues. As one reader points out: “Apple Watch works great for Express Transit except it’s on the wrong wrist in many cities. I’m a broken record at this point but a smart band would be a terrific addition to the lineup (and would solve this problem).”
  • iPhone X users need to be aware of the iPhone X NFC problem which can cause endless gate errors with Express Transit. You may need Apple to replace it, never an easy thing.
  • iPhone XS/XR users can finally put the Express Cards with power reserve feature to good use, it is cool and assuring knowing that you have 5 hours of reserve power to clear the final destination gate.

Enjoy Express Transit on Apple Pay and happy travels.

“first time in America”
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Dynamic Apple Pay Wallet Cards in iOS 13

Recent changes in iOS 12 Apple Pay Wallet are fascinating and unusual. iOS 12 started out with Apple Pay Suica Express Transit performance problems all over the place. By iOS 12.3 Express Transit issues were fixed with stellar performance, a new EMV Express Transit option was added, and Suica card had a whole new design that I call Apple Card Suica because it incorporates UI elements from Apple Card.

This is unusual because big changes like that are for big updates like iOS 13. I guess Apple decided not to wait for iOS 13 to roll out Apple Card, and made big changes to Wallet starting in iOS 12.2. It will be interesting to see what new Apple Card Wallet functions are offered to developers at WWDC19. My take is that developers will get to do all the things Apple Card does because Apple wants to encourage developers to migrate useful functions out of apps and into Wallet cards.

The dynamic Wallet card art of Apple Card is especially fascinating. One of the problems with static card art in iOS 12 Wallet is it doesn’t do anything and gobbles up precious screen space. Apple Card dynamically changes colors to give the user important information. This dynamic function is very useful and solves some Wallet UI problems.

Suica Commuter cards in iOS 12.3 don’t have enough space to display ‘Add Money’ and ‘Renew’ buttons on the main card along with the commute route. Instead, users have to dig down a level to find them along with the commute plan expiration date. Add Money, Renew, commute plan route and expiration date are important card items that need to be on the main card screen.

Dynamic card art elegantly solves this problem. Suica App already does this in the app by displaying the commute route and commute plan expiration date on the virtual Suica card, just like it does on plastic Suica. Dynamic card art in iOS 13 Wallet would be the perfect solution, all the important items fit on the main card screen. Card art is finally useful and saves screen space instead of wasting it.

EMV Express Transit Missing in iOS 12.4 Public Beta 2

Developers reported that the iOS 12.3 EMV Express Transit feature was missing in iOS 12.4 beta 1. The feature is still missing in iOS 12.4 Public Beta 2 (16G5027i), stay away if you use it. Suica Express Transit performance remains stellar and solid as it is in iOS 12.3.

It’s weird the new feature would be missing at this stage in the public beta beta cycle. I guess this means the under the hood Apple Pay Wallet construction that started in iOS 12.2 continues in the run up to Apple Card and iOS 13. I’m sure we’ll hear all about it at WWDC19.

EMV Express Transit Missing in iOS 12.4 Beta 1

Developers who installed iOS 12.4 beta 1 after todays’s release are reporting that the EMV Express Transit feature that just went live in iOS 12.3, is missing from iOS 12.4 b1. These kinds of things can happen in early beta test cycles, my guess is this is why iOS 12.4 public beta has not been released.

What this really means is that the heavy construction and under the hood changes in Wallet and Apple Pay that started in iOS 12.2 and iOS 12.3, are still ongoing. It’s one more indication of many new Apple Pay things we’ll hear all about at WWDC19.

It is going to be a fun but hairy ride until Apple Card arrives. Be safe and stay away from iOS 12.4 beta and leave it for professional developers. Stick with iOS 12.3 and enjoy the great Apple Pay Express Transit performance.

Apple Pay Suica on Apple Watch: First Impressions

Now that iOS 12.3 is out with great Apple Pay Suica performance and no more bugs, I have a new side project: Apple Pay Suica on Apple Watch. I moved my daily Commuter Suica to Apple Watch and it’s an interesting experience. Some first impressions.

  • Apple Pay Suica performance on watchOS 5.2.1 on Apple Watch Series 4 is great, but not as great as iOS 12.3 on iPhone XS. Because A12 Bionic removes the iOS overhead for Express Cards with power reserve, Apple Pay Suica on iPhone XS/XR feels light and snappy like a plastic Suica card. I can’t wait for Express Cards with power reserve on Apple Watch.
  • Suica Recharge on Apple Watch sucks and I have discovered how wonderfully useful Suica App really is. I have a Commuter Suica on Apple Watch and a My Suica on iPhone. Both of these can be recharged and managed (with different credit cards attached to each Suica!) in Suica App. It’s super convenient and has opened my eyes to a major Apple Pay Wallet design weakness: iPhone Wallet and Watch App Wallet should just be one thing that manages all of my Wallets cards on both devices in one place. Apple Watch Wallet is great, in a pinch, but it’s a lousy UI experience for managing transit card options and Suica Recharge. Apple Pay transit prepaid card users access those card options far more than credit cards. I added a unified Wallet request for iOS 13 to the Apple Pay WWDC19 wish list.
  • Suica Reminders for low balance and commuter plan renewals are another Apple Watch weak point. They don’t exist. Suica App to the rescue again with Notification Sounds. The 3 beep Suica low balance reminder (¥1,000 or less) works everywhere and is a life saver. It’s far more attention grabbing than Apple Pay Suica Notification Center reminders on iPhone.

A true story: I was buying lunch at a family owned Daily Yamazaki convenience store. You might know the kind, a Showa style convenience store stocked with Yamazaki breads, homemade sandwiches and bento, usually run by an older couple, a store from a different era that will unfortunately disappear.

I bought a bento and paid with Apple Pay Suica on Apple Watch. The Suica 3 beep low balance reminder sound from the reader caught the attention of the owner who looked to be in his late 70s. “Suica works on that? It’s so small.” I assured him Suica worked on Apple Watch.

He smiled and said, “That’s really convenient. You’ll never lose it or have to find it when it’s on your wrist.”

It is indeed.