Visa Japan Finally Ready to Sign on to Apple Pay Japan?

IT journalist Junya Suzuki was answering a question of mine regarding dual mode (EMV/FeliCa) credit/debit cards which are somewhat mainstream, even on Docomo dCard, but the plastic issue Sumi Trust Visa contactless cards are EMV only.

I guess Visa Japan still wants to promote payWave (banded as Visa Touch in Japan) over better customer service. Because if Visa was promoting better customer service, they would offer dual mode for plastic cards and Apple Pay like Mastercard and American Express do.

Visa Japan has yet to sign directly with Apple Pay, the reason why Japanese issue Visa cards don’t work for Apple Pay Suica Recharge, but there may be hope. Suzuki san’s tweet suggests Visa Japan might finally sign with Apple Pay, “in the very near future.”

I certainly hope so, but given that Visa Japan has ‘been in discussions with Apple’ to officially join Apple Pay Japan since the service launched in October 2016, and have done nothing the whole time, I’ll believe it when I see it.

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WWDC19 Apple Pay Scorecard

NFC technology lineup in iOS 13

Now that WWDC19 is over, here’s a look at the scorecard compared with the WWDC19 Apple Pay wish list. iOS 13 Core NFC gained Read/Write support for NDEF, FeliCa, MIFARE, ISO 7816 and ISO 15693. This means that iOS 13 apps can finally support contactless passports, drivers licenses, retail and manufacturer vicinity NFC tags, transit ticketing, badging, and much more. For developers this is a huge and welcome development.

The details are interesting. On the MIFARE side, Ultralight, Plus and DESFire are supported, the security weak Classic is not. FeliCa is there of course, but the weird thing is that all devices from iPhone 7 and above are supported. You might remember that from the Apple Pay point of view iPhone 7 is not a global FeliCa iPhone, but it is from a iOS 13 Core NFC point of view. I guess FeliCa support on all iPhone 7 models was really there all along, Apple just didn’t tell us…until now.

WWDC is all about developers so there was no marketing mention of the new iOS 13 Core NFC enabled NFC tag Apple Pay that Jennifer Bailey showed at Transact last month. It makes more sense to mention new services like that with new products at the fall event.

The Apple Card rollout due this summer is a head scratcher. There was nothing new for PassKit or Wallet at WWDC19, but there are lots of things Apple Card can do in Wallet that other cards, as yet, cannot do. It feels too big and important for just a press release and a new web page. And yet, by itself, it’s too small for a full blown Apple event. I think the Apple Card rollout is going to be a very interesting release for all things Apple Pay.

The end of just “Apple Pay”: iOS 13 and multiple Express Cards

Express Transit Card for transit cards and Express Mode for Student ID cards in iOS 12 are kind of a mess. They are the same option for the same thing with different names in different places. Express Mode for Student ID is on the card itself, while Express Transit is in Wallet settings.

Express vs Card Clash

Prepaid cards, stored value (SV), present a problem for Wallet. SV cards in Wallet want to be exactly like they are in plastic, tap and be done without any authentication. But what happens when Wallet has multiple SV cards, each one wanting to be an Express Transit or Express Mode card? The fine print on Use Express Transit with Apple Pay illustrates the messy dilemma and limitations of iOS 12 Wallet: you can set one payment card and one transit card per transit network, except for China which doesn’t allow EMV Express Transit at all.

The fine print on Apple Support

In this scenario an Apple Pay user can set both a HOP card and a payment (credit/debit) card to use on Portland TRiMet. What happens at the transit gate if the iPhone user also has a Student ID card in Wallet with Express Mode turned on? Apple Pay HOP and Student ID card are both MIFARE cards, the payment card is EMV. If TriMet has their backend system act together and are using the latest NFC chip sets from NXP, the gate reader will call up the HOP card and ignore the others. Everything ‘just works’, the user is on their way.

If the transit fare system is not configured correctly, or uses outdated technology, the same Apple Pay user ends up with ‘card clash’ at the transit gate. Instead of automatically selecting the HOP card, the gate says, ‘give me a NFC card’ and Apple Pay goes into default mode that completely ignores Express Transit: the user has to unlock the device then manually select and authenticate a card with Face ID/Touch ID.

Multiple Express Cards in iOS 13 Wallet

There are major Japanese eMoney prepaid cards on Android Osaifu Keitai and its candy wrapper cousin Google Pay that are missing on Apple Pay: WAON, Rakuten Edy and nananco. One ‘missing on Apple Pay’ reason is that iOS 12 Apple Pay Wallet lacks a smart way to deal with multiple Express Transit and Express eMoney Cards. Wallet can hold multiple Suica cards but only one of them can be Express Transit. It’s the same deal for every eMoney card.

This started to change in iOS 12.3 with the addition of Express Transit with Payment Cards. The massive rebuilt of iOS 12.3 Wallet means that iOS 12.3 is basically iOS 13 Wallet already, and the heavy work continues with the temporary removal of Payment Card Express Transit in iOS 12.4 Public Beta.

iOS 13 Wallet will complete the journey, hopefully delivering a vastly improved and unified Wallet UI that elegantly solves the multiple Express Transit/Express Card issue, and eliminates card clash. At a transit gate the user should only have to tap, at checkout the user should only have to select a payment logo on a screen or tell the sales clerk Suica, Mastercard, etc., and pay.

The end of paying with just “Apple Pay”?

More payment options in iOS 13 Apple Pay Wallet will present users with a problem: more choices. Telling the sales clerk “Apple Pay” does’t work anymore except in regions where bank cards remain the only Apple Pay option. In Japan, Apple Pay users already say Suica, iD, QUICPay or NFC Pay. Hong Kong Apple Pay users will have the option to use Octopus or bank cards, and so on.

As Apple Pay matures with more payment options and services, it starts to resemble our real overstuffed wallets. 30 years of using a Mac has not organized my work life one bit. In the long run, I doubt Apple Pay will organize my wallet life any better, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun to use.

Full coverage on the WWDC19 iOS 13 Apple Pay Wish List

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.

Full coverage on the WWDC19 iOS 13 Apple Pay Wish List

NFC tag Apple Pay Levels the Play Field with QR Codes

QR Codes has gotten a lot of hype in Japan, partly because merchants want to capture Chinese tourist money with AliPay and WeChat Pay, but also because the lower cost of QR payment systems appeals to small merchants who don’t want to buy or rent expensive NFC enabled POS systems.

Inexpensive NFC tags and NFC stickers are a logical payment alternative to full blown NFC POS systems and QR, but have remained out of the mainstream. NFC tags are great technology but they remain deeply geeky for the majority of users. The key is making NFC tags as friendly, easy and secure to use as Apple Pay. This is exactly what Apple plans to do.

At the TRANSACT 2019 conference Jennifer Bailey announced NFC tag Apple Pay. NFC tag Apple Pay works with or without apps. All the user does is tap a NFC tag and Apple Pay takes care of the rest as shown in the demo video using a SmartPlate NFC tag:

The easiest way to think of it is that instead of tapping a reader to pay with Apple Pay, NFC tag Apple Pay turns your iPhone into the reader. An NFC tag and iPhone is all that you need to Apple Pay at a store.

What does this sound like to you? Yep, this is exactly what QR Codes do and NFC tag Apple Pay is aimed right at the ‘but the store doesn’t need an expensive NFC reader to use QR’ sweet spot that QR Codes have occupied up to now. NFC tag Apple Pay levels the play field, neatly eliminating the QR advantage while offering security that QR Codes cannot match.

However don’t assume that the QR players are chained to QR Codes, it’s an inexpensive and convenient technology for building payment system app services, not particularly sacred. NFC tag Apple Pay also works in an app and this offers Japanese QR Code payment systems such as Line, PayPay, etc., a way to incorporate Apple Pay NFC support in their app, if they choose to do so.

A12 Bionic iPhone XR/XS are the only devices that support background NCF tag reading and the native ability to read tags without an app. The big question in my mind is how Apple plans to implement NFC tag Apple Pay on non-A12 Bionic iPhones.

We’re going to hear a lot about this at WWDC19 keynote June 3, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. PDT. More NFC coverage on the WWDC19 Apple Pay Wish List.