The iPhone X Suica Problem

The iPhone X Suica problem is a iOS 11 software issue that causes transit gate errors when using Suica Express Transit on iPhone X. Most errors occur with JR East transit gates but can occur with any transit reader device. iPhone 8 / 8 Plus and Apple Watch Series 3 are free of the Suica problem and work reliably.

There are 2 basic error patterns:

  • Error Flicker: the transit gate flashes an error but instantly clears automatically without a reread.
  • Full Error: the transit gate flashes an error but does not clear automatically forcing the user to try again. The second read is always successful.
  • In all gate error cases the iPhone X shows Done and a checkmark on the display
  • Error Ratios: approximately 1 in 5 gate transits is an error flicker, 1 in 10 gate transits is a full error but some iPhone X users experience higher error ratios.

This video shows regular Suica Express Transit performance, Suica error flicker and a full error:

Timeline
iOS 11.0.1~11.0.3 (September 26~October 11)
: Apple Pay Suica Express Transit on iPhone X worked reliably.

iOS 11.1 (October 31): The first signs of trouble came from Japanese iOS 11.1 beta testers who complained that Apple Pay Suica Express Transit was slow or unusable. The official iOS 11.1 release on iPhone X was unreliable from the start: Suica Express Transit performance was so poor that JR East issued a Apple Pay Suica system notice on November 8 just 5 days after the iPhone X launch.

iOS 11.2 (December 2): The Apple Pay Cash release broke Apple Pay Suica and Apple Pay Suica notifications stopped working. Sluggish Suica performance and frequent iPhone X Suica Express Transit gate errors became a real problem.

iOS 11.2.5~11.3 (January 23~March 29): the Apple Pay Suica notification bug was fixed in iOS 11.2.5 unfortunately Express Transit error problems and Suica sluggishness were not and continue to be an ongoing performance issue with iOS 11.3.1 and iOS 11.4 beta.

The problem is very similar to the one experienced on Xperia Z5 Android devices. Complaints on Twitter and Japanese blog sites the past few months have been constant. Japanese iPhone X customers who experience it regularly on their daily commute are frustrated with Apple’s lack of action:

Summary
The iPhone X Suica problem is irritating especially at rush hour packed station gates. The more Apple Pay Suica is part of your daily transit routine the more frustrating the iPhone X Suica problem will be. Occasional transit users won’t notice it much.

Fortunately Suica Express Transit works fine most of the time. Transit gate error flicker clears automatically. When you experience the full error that does not clear automatically simply wait for the gate reader to reset and try again, or go through another gate. The second try is always successful.

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