iPhone X Suica Problem Holdouts

There are many iPhone X owners in Japan with the Suica NFC problem who are simply not aware of it for various reasons (and this blog is far too small to make any difference). And then there are the holdouts: iPhone X owners with Suica problem devices who know what the problem is, know the Japanese language coverage of it on this blog, but refuse to go to Apple for an exchange. To me, the holdouts are the most distressing aspect of the iPhone X Suica NFC problem.

Everything in life is a choice and that is theirs to make. But I do understand the feelings behind that choice. There is no guarantee that any of my iPhone X Suica problem reporting is correct, there is no independent verification out there. Only Apple can do that.

The holdouts feel that Apple, and only Apple, is responsible for going public with the iPhone X Suica problem with an offer to fix it. In other words, Apple should take care of customers who bought an expensive Apple device, Apple should be pro-active about fixing customer problems with those devices. Apple should come to them, instead of them wasting time dealing with the Apple tech support runaround. I completely agree.

One of the iPhone X Suica problem holdouts is moving to Android, there are undoubtedly more. For him, iPhone X has been an endless parade of disappointment. I wish him well and a better NFC experience on his next device. One thing I can say about Japanese customer habits: once they drop something, they never go back.

The iPhone X Suica NFC Problem One Year Later

One year later there are still plenty of defective NFC iPhone X devices out there. I know because the page views for iPhone X Suica Problem Q&A Exchange Guide are consistently high enough to suggest people go out of their way to search the problem online.

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 but iPhone X owners are not aware of the NFC defect for a number of reasons:

  • Apple has not publicly admitted there is a problem, they admit it internally however.
  • Apple Pay Express Transit use is the easiest way to discover a defective NFC iPhone X unit. Since Express Transit only exists in Japan (nationwide) and China (Beijing and Shanghai), Apple has used this to limit Rev. B iPhone X exchanges to problem use cases from those regions.
  • Mainstream Apple tech media in America (and Japan) has not reported the problem. I know of only 2: AppleInsider Mikey Campbell was kind enough to report the issue early on because I asked him to. Michael Tsai Blog picked up the issue later in his excellent digest of the iPhone X Suica Problem. Mainstream reporting in America is the best way to spread awareness of the issue because it is picked up everywhere around the world.

I think it’s going to be a fascinating time when Apple Pay Express Transit finally goes live in America with HOP and Ventra this summer. Some iPhone X HOP and Ventra transit users will undoubtably discover that their iPhone X Express Transit card does not work right at the transit gate.

iPhone X went on sale November 3, 2017, the AppleCare+ 2 year coverage window for iPhone X starts closing this November. I hope that poor iPhone X users in Portland and Chicago don’t end up stumbling in the dark and can get Rev. B iPhone X replacement units without any hassle, before that window closes.

Help for iPhone X NFC Problem Devices

Until now large scale Apple Pay Express Transit use has been limited to Tokyo (Suica) and Beijing/Shanghai (China Transit). Apple Pay Suica is by far Apple’s largest Express Transit market since Suica has been in use for transit and store purchases nationwide for over a decade and on mobile phones since 2006.

Because of the larger Apple Pay Suica user base and higher use rate, it was easier to identify the iPhone X Suica problem even though it was a NFC problem affecting all NFC modes, A-B-F, and related technologies (FeliCa, PBOC, EMV). Though Apple never publicly acknowledged the hardware problem (sadly, far too common these days), Apple quietly exchanged bad iPhone X devices for Revision B iPhone X devices for pesky, persistent users who had Apple Pay Express Transit problems in Japan or China.

The launch of Portland’s HOP card and Chicago’s Ventra card on Apple Pay Transit will be the first large scale deployment of Apple Pay Express Transit use in America. This raises a very interesting question. Will Apple exchange bad iPhone X devices for those users who will undoubtedly experience transit gate/transit reader errors in Portland and Chicago? I certainly hope they do but we won’t know until the services go live on Apple Pay. Judging from Apple Pay Transit day 1 user reactions in Singapore, there are plenty of bad iPhone X NFC devices out there waiting to be discovered.

Meanwhile here is a iPhone X Suica NFC Problem Exchange Guide to help you understand the problem.

Unbundled World

Tim Cook on the 1Q 2019 iPhone sales decline in Japan:

In Japan, iPhone purchases were traditionally subsidized, bundled with carrier contracts. Today, local regulations have significantly restricted those subsidies as well as related competition. We estimate less than half of iPhones sold in Japan in Q1 this year were sold via subsidy.

That and the battery replacement program were the official reasons. The unmentioned unresolved iPhone X Suica problem was another.

UPDATE
Tim told Reuters that, ‘Apple is rethinking how it prices the iPhone outside the United States after largely setting the price in U.S. dollars, which made the phones more expensive in local currencies as the dollar strengthened.’ Hopefully Japan is one of the markets that could see iPhone price adjustments. There are also other things Apple can do in Japan to help offset the iPhone sales decline.

Title of the Year: the iPhone X Suica Problem

The one issue that refused to go away this year was the endless parade of “iOS x.xx Update Does Not Fix The iPhone X Suica Problem” posts. It was a strange journey stretched over a period of 8 months: an endless loop of frustration, hope for a fix, dashed hopes when an update failed to deliver a fix, until finally stumbling on an iPhone X NFC hardware problem with the help of readers and fellow iPhone X Suica users.

I am deeply grateful for all the advice, guidance and insights from many individuals who took the time to answer my questions. I learned a lot and sincerely hope the gathered information was of use to other iPhone X users struggling with the issue. Nothing is worse than dealing with a problem alone in a vacuum. I wish everybody a very happy holiday, a wonderful New Year and flawless Apple Pay Suica performance whatever your device may be.