JR East and Sony Creating ‘Super Suica’ Card for All Japan

Via Ata Distance:

JR East and Sony announced co-development of a ‘national’ super Suica card that will replace local Japanese transit card variations such as ICOCA, TOICA, SUGOCA, Kitaca, PASMO, manaca, Nimoca, Hayaken and others into a single card that does it all. JR East and Sony plan to have the card in circulation starting April 2021. Too late for the 2020 Summer Tokyo Olympics party certainly, but great news for transit customers nationwide nevertheless. The clouds of uncertainty have parted, the transit platform future shines bright.

Japanese transit cards are already compatible with each other for transit and e-money purchases but commuter passes and point systems are still tied to local transit cards. You can use Apple Pay Suica in Nagoya and Osaka, but you can’t add a Suica Commuter Plan for an area outside of the JR East rail network. Also it is difficult if not impossible for smaller transit companies to host local transit cards on mobile. The new super Suica card will solve these problems and reduce costs for everybody. I suspect the current ¥20,000 Suica limit will also be raised to ¥40,000 or more for Japan-wide ‘Touch and Go Shinkansen’ service.

The new card will likely resemble the recently released Mizuho Suica, a basic super Suica card with localized branding, commuter plans and point systems. The Mobile Suica cloud infrastructure is already in place so everything will be hosted on that.

It will be great to have a single Apple Pay ‘Super Suica’ card that can do it all, from Shinkansen to commuter plans and point systems nationwide. I don’t know about you but I can hardly wait.

More good news for Japanese transit.

35° 41.876 N 139° 42.726 E

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Apple Pay Suica performance improvements coming with iOS 12.1 update

Apple Pay Suica performance improvements coming with iOS 12.1 update:

Good news for Apple Pay Suica users: word coming down Apple developer channels is that iOS 12.1 contains Apple Pay Suica fixes and performance improvements.

After updating to iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica users started complaining that Express Transit cards were sometimes unresponsive with Apple Pay demanding a Passcode/Face ID unlock at transit gates, or causing error flicker. It seems to be a performance issue across all Apple Pay Suica compatible devices: iPhone 7 (JP), iPhone 8, Revision B iPhone X, Apple Watch 2 (JP), Apple Watch 3 and the just released Apple Watch 4.

iPhone XS is free of the problem thanks to A12 Bionic bulletproofed Apple Pay Suica.

iPhone X Suica problem units will not see any improvement because it is a hardware issue for iPhone X units manufactured before April 2018. The only way to fix NFC problem iPhone X units is to get them exchanged. See the iPhone X Exchange Guide for details.

(Via Ata Distance)

Now I know when to upgrade unless work forces my hand sooner.

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Global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4

Global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4:

Apple updated Apple Pay eligible device information and Suica information with the release of iPhone XS today. It’s really boring to know that iPhone XS, iPhone XR and Apple Watch Series 4 are Global FeliCa just like previous generation devices, boring in a nice predictable way. They have to be in order to work with those FeliCa powered Student ID Cards for iOS 12 and watchOS 5. It’s really just Apple Pay, that’s all customers need to know.

I suspect A12 Bionic powered Express Cards with power reserve will work better on FeliCa Suica than the forever beta China Transit cards. We’ll find out soon enough.

(Via Ata Distance)

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7-Eleven as Innovater

If you’ve experienced 7-11 in Japan, this will not be a surprise:
Why 7-Eleven is one of today’s most innovative retailers – TechHQ

They’re not going to win any cool awards, but let’s give them some recognition for leveraging digital technologies to augment the physical retail experience.

7-Eleven stores are more high-tech than you think.

The company is, for instance, rolling out support for Apple Pay and Google Pay at a majority of its US stores throughout September, adding to other mobile payment options such as Samsung Pay.

According to Gurmeet Singh CDO and CIO at 7-Eleven, frictionless experiences are the future, and digital payments play a key role. The ability to pay with their smart devices gives people one more reason to shop with a retailer.

We’ve had most of this already. Other convenience stores like Lawson and Family Mart do many of the same things. That is US is so far behind a country where most restaurants only accept cash is kind of amazing.

Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

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iPhone X NFC debacle a golden opportunity for Pixel 3 in Japan

iPhone X NFC debacle a golden opportunity for Pixel 3 in Japan:

Apple pre-order weekend for iPhone XS/XS Max and Apple Watch Series 4 is winding down. There was far less excitement this year in Japan than before. Ming-Chi Kuo is already trimming his iPhone XS exceptions. Reading Japanese reactions on Twitter it’s easy to see that many are waiting to see what Japanese market support Google announces at the Pixel 3 October 9 event. If Pixel 3 comes with Global FeliCa support like iPhone does, the Google Pay Japan flop withstanding, Japanese iPhone X users disgusted by the iPhone X NFC debacle will gladly take switch.

A lot of Japanese in the blog sphere are saying Apple iPhone has peaked out in Japan. If that turns out to be true in the months ahead, Apple has nobody to blame but themselves.

(Via Ata Distance)

Hmmm. My personal Google Nexus 6P is on its last legs. If a new Pixel 3 could deliver a transit experience near to par of the iPhone … 

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The final word on global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4

The final word on global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4:

Apple is slowly updating Apple Pay eligible device information and Suica information and finally got around to updating the Apple Pay Japan page eligible device specs. It’s the final word that iPhone XS, iPhone XR and Apple Watch Series 4 are really truly global FeliCa just like previous generation devices, but more important, from here on out, simply Apple Pay.

The last piece will fall into place when the Apple Watch platform adds Express Cards with power reserve that are specific to A12 Bionic iPhone XS and iPhone XR. Apple Pay will be feature complete on all devices, across the board.

(Via Ata Distance)

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iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica Notification Improvements

iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica Notification Improvements:

My beta experience with iOS 12 has been a very positive one and I look forward to the official release. Wallet Notifications have been improved with some nice little touches. Wallet Notification labels are clearer, handy if you use multiple Suica cards, and Apple Pay Suica transit notifications now include the station map area. Suica purchase notifications would be a lot more useful if they included the store name, but that’s a current Mobile Suica system limitation, not an Apple Pay one.

(Via Ata Distance)

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Apple Pay for London Transit

[https://tidbits.com/2018/06/15/uk-travel-tips-giffgaff-for-cellular-and-apple-pay-for-transit/](UK Travel Tips: Giffgaff for Cellular and Apple Pay for Transit)

Apple Pay for Transit

The challenge of driving on the opposite side of the road was one thing when we were out on the motorways and around Stratford-Upon-Avon, but driving in London was insane, what with the traffic, squirrely little roads, trying to match Google Maps directions with difficult to find street signs, and more. We were happy to return our rental car right after arriving and planned to use London’s famed public transit system—the London Tube!—for the rest of the trip.

Relying on public transit systems as a tourist is often quite stressful, between the confusion of trying to figure out routes and figuring out the local payment systems and policies. Luckily, both Google Maps and Apple’s Maps did a good job of providing detailed directions that included walking routes when switching from a bus to the Tube, for instance. But payments were still a worry because there are all sorts of variables based on zones, time of day, age, and more.

The advice we’d been given by tech-savvy friends who had been to London recently was to just use Apple Pay. When you do that, TfL’s system tracks your usage throughout the day and charges you the lowest appropriate fare—taking into account daily caps that make the final amounts cheaper than day or week passes. (An alternative would have been to buy one of TfL’s contactless Oyster cards, add money to it, and then get it refunded when we left the country. Our friends did that for their young children, who didn’t have iPhones. Also, we could have used contactless credit cards, which are still rare in the US, if we’d had them.)

The physical process of paying with Apple Pay is brilliant—most of the time. There’s a yellow payment pad on gates in the Tube stations and at the front of buses. You invoke Apple Pay, authenticate, and then touch your device to the pad. (You’re supposed to be able to touch your device to the pad to invoke Apple Pay and then authenticate, but that didn’t work the one time I tried it.) The gates then open, or a light turns green, indicating you can proceed. For the Tube, you have to touch in when you enter the station and touch out when you leave; for buses, you just touch in when you board and don’t need to touch out.

If you want to use Apple Pay for public transit in London, there are a few quirks to keep in mind:

• Use a supported credit card. Our debit cards from our local credit union had no currency conversion fees, so we thought we’d use them with Apple Pay. However, it turned out that US debit cards generally aren’t accepted in the UK, so we had to set Apple Pay to use a different credit card. Make sure you have a few credit cards loaded into Apple Pay to be safe.

• Use the same device each time. To avoid higher fares for seemingly incomplete journeys and to take advantage of the daily capping, you have to touch in and touch out with the same device for all your trips in a day. In other words, settle on your iPhone or your Apple Watch, and don’t switch. We only used our iPhones because I’ve had more trouble in general with Apple Pay payments registering from the Apple Watch. (Although I’m sad that I didn’t try it one day when we had little travel planned.)

• Be patient and try again if necessary. We had a non-trivial number of failures, where Tristan and I would get through the gates, for instance, but the system would reject Tonya’s payment. Some of that was user error, as we all figured out how to use Apple Pay more fluidly, but other failures had no obvious cause. It might have been related to all three of us using the same credit card in too quick succession, but sometimes everything worked as expected. Apart from suffering dirty looks from other commuters who we were blocking, there was no problem with waiting briefly or trying another gate—it always worked in the end.

Regular readers know I enjoy a good contactless payment travel story. While not as frictionless as the Japan system(s), this seems workable for a visit.

Apple Pay & Suica when traveling to Japan

How to Use Suica with Apple Pay when Traveling to Japan – Mason Simon

Suica is one of the main transit payment cards in Japan. It has a cute and fun design and works in lots of places aside from train stations. Apple supports using your Suica via Apple Pay, and has a great support article on how to set that up. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

I live in USA and traveled to Tokyo recently. I used an iPhone X (supported) and followed all the steps in the support article, including setting my device region to Japan. But when I went to add a new card to Apple Pay, I never received the prompt to add a Suica.

After a couple of pleasant calls with Apple support, it sounded like the problem was that I had an Apple Music subscription, which locked my iTunes account to USA. I tried canceling that, but you have to wait for the thing to expire, and my trip would be over by then.

Luckily, there is another way.

(Via Mason Simon)

Read on for the scoop. This is one of the best write-ups I’ve seen & the one I wish was around when I moved here.

Google Pay Japan is smoke and mirrors

Google Pay bellyflops in Japan:

That didn’t take long. No sooner had Google Pay landed in Japan when Android users without JP carrier locked Osaifu-Keitai phones noticed they weren’t invited to the FeliCa party and lost their shit. Then local Japanese tech journalists filed reviews and they were not kind: “zannen” which means “too bad” as in “too bad Google Pay is a weak imitation of a real FeliCa Osaifu-Keitai that any user could add and use on any Android phone.” Too bad it’s not a Global FeliCa iPhone.

I called it a few weeks ago:

If and when Google Pay Suica arrives it will likely be on Osaifu-Keitai /Mobile FeliCa enabled locked Android devices from Japanese carriers. Global FeliCa iPhone-like out-of-the-box Mobile Suica on ‘global FeliCa’ Android devices from anywhere looks to be a long way off.

FeliCa Dude called it earlier: “Android Pay is smoke and mirrors”

Google Pay Japan is smoke and mirrors.

(Via atadistance.com)

Not that my US-purchased Google Nexus 6P would have been included in this due to age if not build, but I would have liked a truly viable option to the Apple Pay & Suica combo. I’m not looking to switch but competition could be good for innovation.