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.

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iOS 13 Apple Maps Japan: Move along folks there’s nothing to see here yet…

I’ve been wanting to write about iOS 13 Apple Maps Japan since beta 3, but the big marquee features that really matter, New Maps and Look Around, won’t be coming to Japan until very late in the iOS 13 release cycle. They’ll arrive just before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for which Apple has promised to deliver a good map product. Other major map parts, like the redesigned Nearby and Point of Interest (POI) icons, are not fully deployed for Japan yet, so a review at this point is out of the question.

Fortunately, Ryan Christoffel of MacStories has published a helpful review of iOS 13 Maps USA, where most of the map parts are actually working. Please read his review and I’ll comment on the sections he outlines that make sense to comment on, given the unfinished state of iOS 13 Maps.

New Maps/Look Around
Apple is working hard to deliver these to Japan. I look forward to seeing and reviewing them in 2020. I hope for the best but given Google Maps Japan meltdown experience after dropping JP map supplier Zenrin, I have serious doubts Apple can deliver a consistently good map product that covers all of Japan in detail. We shall see.

Favorites/Collections
Anything would have been an improvement over the iOS 12 style Favorites/Recents list, and iOS 13 Maps is a definite improvement that I look forward to using more. Problems remain however, adding train lines so that transit updates appear in the Maps transit widget are still a complete mess, and favorited stations labels remain too vague to be useful. Which Shinjuku station are we talking about here: JR Shinjuku, Seibu Shinjuku, Keio Shinjuku, Metro Shinjuku, and so on.

Real Time Transit
Google Maps Japan and Yahoo Japan Maps have had this forever, and continue to evolve their features. Apple is just adding this basic service now, almost 3 years after Japan transit arrived in Maps. iOS 13 Maps Japan offers real time transit, while Google Maps Japan offers real time transit, platform numbers and boarding positions. The sad part is that Apple, Google and Yahoo Japan pull data from the same source, but Google and Yahoo Japan make far better use of it with constant incremental upgrades and improvements. And iOS 13 Maps transit widgets remain as useless as always.

The takeaway here is that Apple needs to decouple map service improvements like transit from the annual iOS development cycle. This is killing product evolution.

What’s Missing
Christoffel covers missing pieces that are different from Japan map needs, some of them covered in my WWDC19 wish list: Traffic, Junction View, Share ETA. There are also important things that Chirstoffel doesn’t cover at all: good quality indoor/underground station maps that are critical for Japan and a must have for the Tokyo Olympics.

Dark Mode Apple Maps

iOS 13 Apple Maps Japan: Death by Point of Interest in the dark

Christoffel doesn’t mention dark mode maps at all. On purpose? Smart people like Howard Oakley and Michael Tsai question the current implementation of iOS 13 Dark Mode. From the perspective of the current beta Apple Maps Japan dark mode I can only say this: the Apple designers who think this looks good enough to be useful should be banished to a life where the only map they are allowed to use is dark mode Apple Maps.

Apple Pay Octopus Screenshot Leak

There have been plenty of ‘Apple Pay Octopus is coming’ leaks since Octopus Cards Limited (OCL) and Apple started testing in December 2018, but there has not been a single screenshot leak, until now:

The dark mode Octopus card detail UI here does look legit and definitely iOS 13. Oh if I could only get my grubby hands on it. Hopefully we’ll get official details from Apple soon, perhaps in tandem with the Apple Card rollout due this month.

iOS 13 b5 Apple Pay Suica Update

The latest iOS 13 beta Apple Pay Suica has a minor UI tweak that removes the Shinkansen/Green Ticket section added in b4 and, hurray, returns 3D/Haptic Touch notification shortcuts. This was expected as Suica notifications shortcuts have disappeared and reappeared in previous beta cycles. The new Core Haptics version doesn’t feel as nice as the older 3D Touch version on iPhone XS but there is time before the final release. The actual performance of Apple Pay Suica on iOS 13 is on par with iOS 12.3~12.4, a very good thing.

One new interesting tweak is that Suica notifications now appear simultaneously on iPhone and a paired Apple Watch, but I can’t figure out if this is a feature or a bug. The messy low resolution ‘In Transit’ Suica notification artwork is definitely a bug and a placeholder. I hope it’s an indication that dynamic card artwork is coming iOS 13 Wallet after all, even if it’s PassKit NFC Certificate territory that is out of reach to most developers.

And for those Apple Pay Octopus fans out there, sorry but there are no changes from the b4 transit card references when adding cards in a Hong Kong region Wallet.

Apple Pay Suica notification shortcuts have returned in iOS 13 b5

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.