After posting about the global NFC possibility of Pixel 5 and Fitbit, FeliCa Dude forwarded some interesting Pixel 4 FeliCa information. We all know that smartphones are required to have NFC A-B-F support for NFC certification and that all smartphones can read and write all flavors of NFC. However, the software that supports Secure Element transactions is another story. Android vendors usually only preinstall EMV and MIFARE, not Mobile FeliCa, but Google is doing something different with Pixel devices.
We all know the official story that Mobile FeliCa apps only launch on Japanese Pixel 4 SKUs and no other models but it’s important to remember the basics: Mobile FeliCa is a Java Card applet on a secure element. If the right applet is present with the right keys, and the NFC CLF (contactless front-end) is configured to route Type F frames to the SE, you can enable Mobile FeliCa on any SE.
Let’s test for Mobile FeliCa
There are indications that Google installed Mobile FeliCa in all Pixel 4 models worldwide but only enables it in the Japanese SKUs. A reader asked me to post some information so that we can find out the truth with help from other readers of this blog. We are looking for non-JP Pixel 4/4a SKU users who can tag read their Pixel 4/4a device with another Android device loaded with the NXP NFC TagInfo app downloaded from Google Play. The steps to do this:
- Install the TagInfo app, turn off NFC-A and NFC-B reads as we only want to read NFC-F tags (screenshot directly below)
- Tag read the Pixel 4/4a with the TagInfo installed Android device
- Take a screenshot of the NFC scan results #1
- Tag read the Pixel 4/4a a second time, take a screenshot of scan results #2
Read #1 (Before Enablement): If FeliCa is present the Primary System Code in the Detailed protocol information section should be 0xFFFF. Additionally, Mobile FeliCa 4.1 will show a pre-enablement IDm starting with 05:FE.
Read #2 (After Enablement): On a JP Pixel 4 in the screenshot below, the Common Area (0xFE00) will be present, and the Primary System Code will have changed to 0xFE00, that of the Common Area. On non-JP models enablement doesn’t happen, read #2 will match read #1.
Enablement means running the Osaifu Keitai app. Let me know by Twitter @Kanjo or email the following: (1) the Pixel 4/4a model, (2) if the read #1 result indicates FeliCa with System Code OxFFFF, (3) if the first 4 digits of the IDm begin with 05:FE in read #1. Both reads should look identical so also let me know if anything changes in read #2.
What does it mean if all Pixel 4/4a models have FeliCa, does it change anything? It simply means that Mobile FeliCa is loaded and present in all Pixel 4/4a devices but Google only turns it on for full activations on Japanese models. This doesn’t change anything in the short term. The real value is that it helps us understand what Google is up to and possible changes that might be coming later on with Pixel 5: i.e. global NFC just like Apple.
Readers results indicate Mobile FeliCa 4.1 is pre-installed in every Pixel Phone SKU regardless of country. Mobile FeliCa is ready but the entitlement step does not occur as some system parameter prevents the Osaifu Keitai app from running. In short Pixel 4 and later all have the same NFC hardware and Mobile FeliCa software pre-installed ready to run, but Google kneecaps the software on non-JP SKU Pixel. This explains reports of Pixel 4 and later users rooting non-JP SKUs and running Osaifu Keitai.
Pixel 6 goes cheap instead of deep for Mobile FeliCa support, the same Pixel 4~5 story. Even so it’s important to remember some recent big Mobile FeliCa changes only noticed by FeliCa Dude: 1) Mobile FeliCa 4.0 removed the FeliCa Networks/FeliCa chip requirement, any 3rd party GlobalPlatforms certified Secure Element (NXP, etc.) can host Mobile FeliCa apps. Google can hit the on switch for Mobile FeliCa with an OTA update…if they want to. See Mobile FeliCa evolution for more details.