Wednesday, September 10, 2014

iPhone 6 "Apple Pay" unavailable in Japan

As discussed many times on this blog, Japan uses Sony's FeliCa standard for mobile payments, such as Suica, Waon, Edy, etc. Quoting Eido Inoue:

FeliCa is Sony developed "Japanese NFC" and is much older than the international NFC system that was inspired by it. Early Japanese phones (smartphone and feature phones) were FeliCa only; newer (all 2014 models and most 2013 models) Japanese market Android docomo phones with NFC are hybrid NFC+FeliCa. Non-Japanese phones are NFC only.
The tech specs so far only list NFC as included on the iPhone 6. Perhaps you recall the debacle surrounding the advertising for the LTE iPad, which misled many non-US consumers to think it was compatible with their local 4G networks. This time around, the marketing department at Apple has done a much better job. There is simply no mention of "Apple Pay" at all on the Japanese website.


  1. My boss and I were just discussing this--do you think there's any way of resolving this issue? Will Japan have to be the one to blink first and start shifting paystations over to the NFC used more commonly in the US? Or will iphone users just have to settle for buying special cases to hold their suicas and pasmos if they want to swipe with their phone, since Apple's never going to let Japan dig around in the guts of the phone to install FeliCa technology?

    I'm an Android user who's gotten really used to just swiping my phone whenever I want to board a train, but I'm considering getting the new iPhone, and while I was under no impression that Apple Pay would be supported in Japan, it's going to be something I miss. I see on the Apple UK website that Apple Pay is also not included in their version; is this NFC compatibility largely US-only?

  2. Rakuten already publicly demonstrated NFC-A Edy over a year ago.

  3. トーマス ギャビンSeptember 10, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    In theory though, the existing Felica infrastructure should work...

    "Compliance with FeliCa is required by the NFC Forum for creating NFC devices and specifications"

    So, I guess its all about business agreements etc.
    Given that iPhone market share is pretty damn big, I would be surprised if ApplePay support doesn't turn up.

  4. Issue is not the technology, it's the banks - Apple Pay uses a kind of OTP system which the bank needs to support for payments to work. Instead of the current system where your card details are sent from the shop to the bank, it will instead send a unique and ever-changing code which the bank use to verify payments. This provides excellent security as this one time payment authorisation is completely void of any data to steal or abuse.

    Given a little time I can see this coming Japan to one or two banks within the next year or so, and maybe the top half dozen in 2 years, but not really much more than that. I've seen the inside of many Japanese banks and if you knew what their IT infrastructure looked like you'd be shocked that they even stay in business from day to day.

  5. トーマス ギャビンSeptember 11, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    Yeah, agree that it's going to be the commercials, as I briefly alluded in my first comment.

    I'm also excited about the online support aspect, rather than the just the NFC part for shopping in stores and cafes.