The end of just “Apple Pay”: iOS 13 and multiple Express Cards

Express Transit Card for transit cards and Express Mode for Student ID cards in iOS 12 are kind of a mess. They are the same option for the same thing with different names in different places. Express Mode for Student ID is on the card itself, while Express Transit is in Wallet settings.

Express vs Card Clash

Prepaid cards, stored value (SV), present a problem for Wallet. SV cards in Wallet want to be exactly like they are in plastic, tap and be done without any authentication. But what happens when Wallet has multiple SV cards, each one wanting to be an Express Transit or Express Mode card? The fine print on Use Express Transit with Apple Pay illustrates the messy dilemma and limitations of iOS 12 Wallet: you can set one payment card and one transit card per transit network, except for China which doesn’t allow EMV Express Transit at all.

The fine print on Apple Support

In this scenario an Apple Pay user can set both a HOP card and a payment (credit/debit) card to use on Portland TRiMet. What happens at the transit gate if the iPhone user also has a Student ID card in Wallet with Express Mode turned on? Apple Pay HOP and Student ID card are both MIFARE cards, the payment card is EMV. If TriMet has their backend system act together and are using the latest NFC chip sets from NXP, the gate reader will call up the HOP card and ignore the others. Everything ‘just works’, the user is on their way.

If the transit fare system is not configured correctly, or uses outdated technology, the same Apple Pay user ends up with ‘card clash’ at the transit gate. Instead of automatically selecting the HOP card, the gate says, ‘give me a NFC card’ and Apple Pay goes into default mode that completely ignores Express Transit: the user has to unlock the device then manually select and authenticate a card with Face ID/Touch ID.

Multiple Express Cards in iOS 13 Wallet

There are major Japanese eMoney prepaid cards on Android Osaifu Keitai and its candy wrapper cousin Google Pay that are missing on Apple Pay: WAON, Rakuten Edy and nananco. One ‘missing on Apple Pay’ reason is that iOS 12 Apple Pay Wallet lacks a smart way to deal with multiple Express Transit and Express eMoney Cards. Wallet can hold multiple Suica cards but only one of them can be Express Transit. It’s the same deal for every eMoney card.

This started to change in iOS 12.3 with the addition of Express Transit with Payment Cards. The massive rebuilt of iOS 12.3 Wallet means that iOS 12.3 is basically iOS 13 Wallet already, and the heavy work continues with the temporary removal of Payment Card Express Transit in iOS 12.4 Public Beta.

iOS 13 Wallet will complete the journey, hopefully delivering a vastly improved and unified Wallet UI that elegantly solves the multiple Express Transit/Express Card issue, and eliminates card clash. At a transit gate the user should only have to tap, at checkout the user should only have to select a payment logo on a screen or tell the sales clerk Suica, Mastercard, etc., and pay.

The end of paying with just “Apple Pay”?

More payment options in iOS 13 Apple Pay Wallet will present users with a problem: more choices. Telling the sales clerk “Apple Pay” does’t work anymore except in regions where bank cards remain the only Apple Pay option. In Japan, Apple Pay users already say Suica, iD, QUICPay or NFC Pay. Hong Kong Apple Pay users will have the option to use Octopus or bank cards, and so on.

As Apple Pay matures with more payment options and services, it starts to resemble our real overstuffed wallets. 30 years of using a Mac has not organized my work life one bit. In the long run, I doubt Apple Pay will organize my wallet life any better, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun to use.

Full coverage on the WWDC19 iOS 13 Apple Pay Wish List

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NFC Passes and NFC Certificates for iOS 12 and watchOS 5

Apple revealed details of NFC improvements coming to iOS 12 and watchOS 5. Contactless Student ID Cards for Wallet were announced at the WWDC18 Keynote on June 4. Apple clearly wants to promote NFC Passes in Wallet over clunky QR Codes and showed a video of NFC Passes in action on Apple Watch at the Wembley Stadium contactless NFC ticket gate. In the same Apple Pay session Apple software engineers explained how to strip out QR Code references in Wallet Passes and replace them NFC. NFC Passes were previously shown at WWDC16 but uptake has been slow and Apple seems eager to push them more aggressively with iOS 12.

The recently updated iOS Security guide for iOS 12 has more details:

Contactless passes
Wallet supports the value added service (VAS) protocol for transmitting data from supported passes to compatible NFC terminals. The VAS protocol can be implemented on contactless terminals and uses NFC to communicate with supported Apple devices. The VAS protocol works over a short distance and can be used to present contactless passes independently or as part of an Apple Pay transaction.

It’s also clear that Apple wants to promote contactless passes on Apple Watch over iPhone: NFC passes were unveiled during the watchOS segment and are gorgeously displayed exclusively on the watchOS 5 page. Assa Abloy and Blackboard are working with Apple to make those happen. You might remember Assa Abloy from The Information rumor piece about door locks and ID Passes coming to Wallet but the actual ID card format and associated backend services are all Blackboard.

Temple University’s OWLCard and John Hopkins J-Card offer some clues how they will work in Wallet:

  1. Contactless Student ID cards are Stored Value (SV)
  2. Because they are SV cards, they can be recharged

Since they will reside in Apple Pay Wallet this means contactless student ID cards can be ‘recharged’ with an Apple Pay credit card instead of running to the nearest ‘refill/recharge’ station. Anytime, Anywhere Recharge.

Sound familiar? It’s just like Apple Pay Suica that you can recharge on the go and use for JR East Suica coin lockers. The only real difference is that Student ID Cards cannot be used for transit. At least not yet. The Apple Pay Developer page says, “discover how to create contactless passes for rewards cards, gift cards, tickets, and more.” Contactless passes for reward cards eh? Sounds like that JRE POINT card in Apple Pay Wallet will be possible after all.

An interesting aspect of implementing NFC Passes in Wallet is the “NFC Certificate” requirement that are issued by Apple to the developer and strictly controlled for security purposes. PassKit NFC Certificates were previously available, covered by NDA and extremely limited. Since door locks and ID passes are involved, the NDA is still central to the application process. However, if Apple is opening up NFC access to more developers wider NFC Certificate distribution could be the ticket for developers to gain NFC access that was not possible up to now. At least for mere mortals.

It will be fascinating to see what developers do with wider NFC Certificate distribution and what NFC passes/reward cards, and hopefully much more, that come out of it with iOS 12 and watchOS 5.

Update
Apple is issuing NFC Wallet Passes at their September 12 Event announcing new iPhones, Apple Watch Series 4 and the official release of iOS 12

Update 2
Welcome to the new era of A12 Bionic NFC and iOS 12

Update 3
Contactless Student ID Cards are MIFARE Card Emulation via PASSKit