ApplePay in Japan

Apple Pay is probably nice and all, and having been a user of Mobile Suica in the past (on Android), I know many of the benefits of using a Suica card on mobile device, however this October 25th launch of Apple Pay in Japan has been botched.

Of course, first thing after opening the service, the Suica servers failed. The load caused by all those users simultaneously trying to switch to the new system must have been way too much, and nobody seems to have guessed putting ads all over the metro stations would cause everyone to try to switch. Well, load and crash is one thing, recovery is another. The service stopped working around 7:30am, however Apple’s System Status reports it started slightly before 9:30am...

You’ll notice the text in Japanese. “Apple Pay, a part of the users affected. There are times where adding a Suica card to Apple Pay will not work”. The last part, especially the “there are times” (”できないことがあります”) is especially light. I’ve tried at various times of the day, and it still doesn’t work, despite...

You probably guessed it. According to Apple, the problem is solved. I can confirm however that it still doesn’t work.

So yeah. So much for testing Suica on iPhone. The conclusion is simple: doesn’t work, actual test will have to be done another time. Note that when you use an iPhone, it is not possible anymore to use Mobile Suica services such as EX-IC (reservation of Shinkansen), Bank Charge, Credit Card Charge (all charge needs to be done through Apple Pay or at locations supporting charge such as convenience stores) most likely because Apple’s contract with JR/Suica includes some exclusivity on payment processing.
And of course, support of Apple Pay for payment methods other than Suica is fairly limited as it doesn’t even include VISA, and so far it seems that even with a supported card issuer, payment via Apple Pay are not possible (only via the supported iD system, in my case).

Despite the day going through the issue hasn’t been resolved. Not only adding cards is broken, but charging too, and this includes also other devices according to Twitter/news websites. The idea of “moving” your Suica card to your mobile phone was quite cool, it’d be even better if it actually worked.

I’ll probably do a new post on Apple Pay with Suica once this works and detail the result. I did hear somewhere that JR is planning at some point in the future to switch all its Suica system on a centralized architecture (ie. each Suica use checked in realtime against a database instead of only using the card itself), if this happens in the same way Suica for Apple Pay launch happened we’re up for some trouble times in Tokyo’s metro.