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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. 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.

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Titanium Apple Card activation with background NFC tag reading

Apple Card is rolling out to limited number preview users in America with a full release due by the end of August. In case you didn’t notice, Apple has posted 2 videos for activating the Titanium Apple Card: a video for A12 Bionic iPhone XR/XS with background NFC tag reading, and a video for non-A12 Bionic iPhones without background NFC tag reading ability. This marks the first time Apple has put A12 Bionic background NFC tag reading ability to use, almost a year since the new functionality appeared.

For the background NFC tag version, all the user does is wake the screen, unlock and hold iPhone near the card, background NFC tag reading takes over automating the rest. As you might expect the activation process on non-A12 Bionic iPhone is more manual: open Wallet, select Apple Card, tap Activate. The video cleverly removes the card selection process with Apple Card ready and waiting in Wallet.

It’s a small thing, but gives us a clue how Apple will implement iOS 13 NFC Tag Apple Pay on non-A12 Bionic iPhone: open Wallet, select a card, tap, read. It’s not as slick as background NFC tag reading certainly, but gets the job done.

Apple Card and Apple Cash Trademark Applications for Japan

The CoRRiENTE.top site reports a JP trademark bot tweet that shows Apple applied for Apple Card and Apple Cash trademarks in Japan on July 16, the trademark bot tweet itself is dated August 4. The application follows recent similar moves in Europe and other countries. The official launch of Apple Card in America is expected in the next week or so.

Japan will likely be unique in that Apple Card and Apple Cash in other countries will be EMV only, but FeliCa and EMV dual mode for Japanese digital issue. Mastercard, American Express and JCB already offer dual mode service for Japanese issue Apple Pay credit cards, which work well with NFC switching introduced in iOS 11 and global FeliCa iPhone/Apple Watch.

If Apple really wants to innovate with Apple Card, leverage the global NFC capabilities of iOS 13 and iPhone, and leave outdated single mode plastic credit card business practices in the past, they should go all in with dual mode Apple Card for all regions. After all it is Apple’s card, and virtual like the Apple Card tag line says, “Apple Card lives on your iPhone, in the Wallet app. And that makes all kinds of new things possible.”

Mastercard has been the most aggressive card company offering dual mode for Japanese Apple Pay card holders. Offering dual mode for virtual Apple Card customers everywhere can be done and would be one heck of an innovation for inbound visitors with iPhone and Apple Card for the Tokyo Olympics.

It will be interesting to see how Apple integrates Apple Card with the Japanese contactless payment networks: iD, QUICPay, and NFC Pay, how Apple Card/Apple Cash integrate with Suica Recharge and what kinds of reward points are offered.

SmartPlate CEO Takes the Softcream Cashless Index Challenge

AquaBit Spirals CEO Tomohiro Hagiwara responded to my post and took up the Softcream Cashless Index (SCI) challenge, promising to deliver a SCI score of “over 5” with his SmartPlate NFC tag payment service that works with Apple Pay and Google Pay:

The Apple Pay side of SmartPlate depends on the background NFC tag reading capability of iPhone XS and iPhone XR models, and the enhanced Core NFC functionality in iOS 13. The new iPhone models this year with A13 Bionic will undoubtedly build on the A12 Bionic NFC functions introduced in 2018. The big questions are: will Apple Watch Series 5 have NFC background tag reading as part of the Apple Pay experience on a wearable, and what about NFC Tag Apple Pay on non-Bionic chip devices?

watchOS 6 does not support Core NFC, but developers with a PassKit NFC Certificate from Apple can do lots of interesting things with Apple Pay NFC functions. Not that I’m asking Hagiwara san to divulge anything because PassKit NFC Certificates come with all kinds of non-disclosure conditions. But I do look forward to all the Apple Pay goodies coming with iOS 13. So far we have Apple Pay Octopus, Apple Pay Ventra, and Apple Pay myki on the transit side, there will be lots of new stuff on the NFC tag side. It would be great if SmartPlate can join the iOS 13 Apple Pay service rollout with backup from Apple Pay lead Jennifer Bailey at the Apple Event.

I look forward to reporting about the NFC Tag Apple Pay experience, and tasting great softcream along the way.

Tweets of the Week: Dear TfL please hurry up with that Apple Pay EMV Express Transit support

Some people are impatient. Especially at rush hour waiting behind iPhone users fumbling with Apple Pay Face/Touch ID authentication before going through crowded Transport for London (TfL) transit gates that are not that fast to begin with. Unlike native transit cards on Apple Pay like Suica and HOP, Apple Pay EMV Express Transit support is more complicated to enable because it involves not only fare system support on the transit agency end, it also involves banks and bank card hotlist management at the transit gate reader level, which is tricky because reader memory is limited.

I’m sure that TfL and fare system operator Cubic will get there eventually, but even so EMV Express Transit will never be as fast as native MIFARE Oyster cards. Unfortunately it looks like TfL will never bring those to Apple Pay.