A iPhone X NFC failure story, for the user and for Apple

The iPhone X NFC problem will continue to be a problem as long as there are iPhone X users out there. The daily number of hits to those relevant posts tells me so. I ran across a Japanese iPhone X failure tweet a while back. Suica stopped working with a Wallet error: the maximum number of Apple Pay cards (zero) has been reached. Other iPhone X NFC failures report a similar error. I retweeted it hoping all worked out for the best. Unfortunately like all things related to the iPhone X NFC problem, it did not. The user gave me an update:

Thanks. I consulted Apple in May. They immediately did a remote diagnosis and told me it was an NFC failure and the repair would be a replacement ¥70,980. I gave them the information on @Kanjo’s page and twitter, and asked if Apple already knew about this problem.

However, “Your iPhone has already been determined to be faulty, so this we cannot help you. You may want to consult an authorized repair shop or Apple store.” 😢


One of the weird aspects of the saga is that I’m almost certain it was an Apple employee who emailed and suggested that I gather and compare iPhone X manufacturing dates to find the cause. That and the internal Apple Support doc says all that you need to know: Apple knew iPhone X NFC was defective but chose to ignore the problem and ride it out.

Apple chose this path of inaction because: (1) it was only a problem in Japan as Japan was the only country with Apple Pay Express Transit at the time, (2) Apple considered the Japanese market expendable enough to hang out and dry because Japanese customers don’t complain loudly like American and European customers or at least enough to cross the language barrier (so convenient that), (3) the IT tech press wasn’t competent enough to catch and report the issue.

One thing is certain, no way could Apple get away with ignoring such a problem today. It’s a crime that iPhone X users never got the Apple repair program they deserved.

iPhone X NFC Problem

1️⃣ iPhone X NFC Problem
2️⃣ iPhone X NFC問題 (Japanese)
3️⃣ Apple Denial and iPhone X Users
4️⃣ iPhone X NFC Problem Index

UPDATE March 2021
This post explains the iPhone X NFC problem tracked from the November 2017 launch through early 2019. Since mid 2020 I am seeing more iPhone X NFC problem search hits to his site and online references of complete iPhone X NFC failure. I suspect iPhone X is prone to complete Apple Pay and NFC failure over time. As the post explains, try to get an exchange if you can or upgrade to a newer iPhone model.

Q: What is the iPhone X NFC Problem?
A: It’s a iPhone X NFC hardware defect that causes reader errors and double reads on transit gates or store readers on a regular basis: on average 1 out of 3 NFC attempts is an error. Over time iPhone X NFC can fail completely. This is the NFC problem in action using Apple Pay Suica on transit gates:

Q: Can it be fixed?
A: The only way to fix it is to get a iPhone X exchange from Apple. The iPhone X production tally below points to a hardware defect in iPhone X units manufactured before April 2018. Apple apparently fixed iPhone X NFC hardware issues and units manufactured after 2018 production week 15 (April) appear to be free of the problem. I call these NFC defect free units Revision B iPhone X. Rev. B iPhone X units have superior error free NFC performance that is immediately noticeable.

Reader Feedback iPhone X Production Tally*

iPhone X Production Tally 2018-10-6
Reader Feedback iPhone X Production Tally (as of 2018-10-6) : A simple tally of good/bad iPhone X devices and manufacture dates reported by readers to track production switchover from problem iPhone X devices to Revision B iPhone X devices. All iPhone X devices were running iOS 11.x and include both JP and international iPhone X models.

*Week 15 of 2018 appears to be the Revision B iPhone X switchover production period

Q: Is it a big problem?
A: Yahoo Japan and Google Japan Search Suggestions related to the iPhone X NFC problem are highly ranked which indicates many people in Japan regularly search the topic.

Q: Why is it a problem with iPhone X and not iPhone 8?
A:  Both iPhone models use the same NFC chip but the X logic board is considerably more complex than 8. It could be a logic board RF routing issue, an antenna specification problem, an interaction with other components on the device. Only the Apple Engineers who fixed the problem know the answer.

Q: Is the iPhone X NFC problem only Japanese issue?
A: No, it’s a global problem regardless of the iPhone X SKU Model. Readers report iPhone X NFC problems with China Express Transit cards, iPhone X users in America report similar levels of errors, double reads and complete NFC failure.

Q: Why are iPhone X users outside of Japan unaware of the problem?
A: It’s easy to catch the problem in the high usage Express Transit environment. As Japan was the first country for Apple Pay Express Transit with a high volume of nationwide use, it is easier to spot. The iPhone X NFC problem harder to catch with occasional low performance store checkout Apple Pay use.

Q: How many defective iPhone X NFC devices are out there?
A: My rough estimate is that 40 million iPhone X units were manufactured up to the April 2018 defective free Revision B iPhone X change over. How many of those 40 million are defective? Only Apple knows. My take is that almost all of them are defective or fail over time but iPhone X owners are not aware of the defect until NFC fails completely.

Q: How do know if I have a problem iPhone X unit?
A: If your iPhone X has reader errors and double reads on a regular basis check the manufacture date by pasting your iPhone X serial number here. A manufacture date is before April 2018 indicates a NFC problem iPhone X unit.

Q: How do I exchange my problem iPhone X unit for a Revision B iPhone X?
A: Apple Support does not publicly acknowledge the iPhone X NFC problem. Even with AppleCare coverage, getting an exchange takes time, patience and tenacity. Apple Support does acknowledge the iPhone X NFC problem internally however and has issued exchanges based on 2 conditions:

  • A wipe and restore did not fix your iPhone X NFC problem
  • You regularly encounter problems using iPhone X with Apple Pay Express Transit.
  • From a reader who got an iPhone X exchange in the US in late 2018: “tell them (Apple Support) to look up the internal support article on their iPad (in the store) that states issues with iPhone X for Transit in Japan and China. They found it in when I went to the Apple store in the US on their iPad.”

If you cannot connect your iPhone X NFC problem use case to Apple Pay Express Transit use, Apple will not likely give you an exchange.

If all goes well Apple Support will setup an exchange either at a Genius Bar or Delivery Exchange Service (Japan). Apple Support will have you test the iPhone X hardware via the built in diagnostics test and tell you the results show no problem.

Repeat that you want to exchange your iPhone X anyway. In Japan the Apple Support specialist will give an exchange with a scripted tag line, “this is a special one time exception,” Be sure to check the serial number of the new unit here to confirm it was manufactured after April 2018. If so, all is good.

Note: Apple Support does not stock international iPhone X models. It’s recommended that you exchange iPhone X in the same country your device was purchased in.

Updated 2021-8-12