iOS 13 and the Transition to Global NFC

Crowd Cast president Takashi Hoshikawa updated his Japan Cashless map introduced back in January, the cacophony of QR Code payment platforms continues to grow. Just like any gold rush, QR will crash and burn at some point. Big players will gobble up the smaller ones and things will settle down.

But something else is going on. There’s a small but important difference, so small that Takashi Hoshikawa is not aware of it: he labeled the FeliCa section in the upper left corner as NFC.

This is the result of using Apple Pay on a global NFC iPhone where all the necessary hardware and software is seamlessly unified. The old plastic card mentality of different walled off technologies: contactless credit card (EMV), transit card (FeliCa, MIFARE), ID card (ISO 7816), NFC A/B or F, etc. slips away and becomes one seamless NFC Wallet in the mind. This mindset is also on display in SearchMan co-founder Naoki Shibata’s recent article on Rakuten Pay Suica: no mention of FeliCa anymore, it’s just one NFC thing.

This is an important and natural, but quiet progression that will accelerate with the enhanced NFC support in iOS 13 and expansion of new services like Apple Pay Octopus. iOS 13 Apple Pay Wallet will set the standard for global NFC that just works, a standard that Google Pay will struggle to match because of Android hardware fragmentation.

Players that leverage the advantages of global NFC and offer new services based on them, like JR East (Inbound Apple Pay Suica), and Mastercard (NFC switching dual mode bank card services) will gain, while companies that stick with the old ‘one thing’ contactless plastic card mentality, like Visa, will lose. It’s that simple.

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WWDC19 Apple Pay Scorecard

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.