Apple Pay – NFC payments done better

People were making fun of Apple Pay in Japan because we’ve been using NFC (near field communication) technology there in cell phones and payment cards of all kinds for two decades now.

One cartoon I saw showed Tim Cook demonstrating Apple Pay to an audience of Apple fans who were amazed by the NFC technology. In the cartoon, one person asked Cook, “Did Apple invent this?” to which Cook replied, “Yes. Yes we did!”

I’ve been using Apple Pay here in the U.S. during my trip and I have to say, while Apple did not, in fact, invent NFC they have made the experience much better and safer than anything I’ve experienced in Japan.

First, the overall experience is better. In Japan you typically have to wait until the cashier finishes and presses some button, at which point the NFC terminal is activated and you can then touch your card to it (except for the trains and buses, where it’s very easy to use by just touching your wallet to the gate).

At the stores here with Apple Pay terminals, all I need to do is hold my iPhone near the terminal, I can select an alternate card other than my default card if I want, but other than that I just use the fingerprint sensor on my iPhone 6 Plus and it is ready to go. Meanwhile the cashier can still be adding things to the purchase and there is no wait.

But the most important thing is the extra security. The NFC cards I have in Japan can basically be used by anyone who finds a lost wallet with my cards. There is no real security. Instead the cards have limited balances, which is the only real protection you have.

But with Apple Pay, your fingerprint is required for each purchase. So if your iPhone is lost or stolen it can’t be used for Apple Pay purchase.

It’s probably safer than using credit cards directly because the card number itself is not stored in the iPhone. And, as everyone knows, a lost credit card can easily be used by someone else.

I hope Apple Pay comes to Japan. It wouldn’t be very convenient for daily public transportation use – the existing Japan system works better for that. But for store purchases it seems better.

The screenshot shows a recent purchase!

And the same “Wallet” also contains flight boarding passes.


Using a Japan KDDI AU locked iPhone 6 Plus in the U.S. with AT&T

I’m visiting the U.S. for 5 weeks and have a normal, KDDI AU iPhone 6 Plus. When I arrived in the U.S. I noticed the carrier signal said AT&T. So out of curiosity I went to an AT&T shop this morning and they said as long as it shows AT&T you can use it with a GoPhone prepaid contract.
So they took out my AU SIM and put in an AT&T SIM and sure enough it works as is! No unlocking necessary!
I got the $45/month unlimited talk and text + 1.5 GB plan.
I’m happy that I could use my Japan iPhone in the U.S. so easily and so just wanted to let others know who might be in a similar situation.
When I turned my phone on, by the way, I also got a text message in Japanese from AU welcoming me to the U.S. and telling me that for a flat rate of ¥2,980/day (expensive!) I could use my iPhone 6 Plus as is. Checking online, it appears you need to turn on roaming for that, which I did not do.

It seems much better to just get an AT&T domestic card for your trip.


Update 4 October 2015: It turns out this is a new AU smart phone feature since June. In major countries, AU now basically automatically unlocks the iPhone and other smart phones for certain major carriers in other countries. In the U.S. that carrier happens to be AT&T.

Apple Music, and help I got from Tim Cook

I was interested in trying the new Apple Music subscription service. In fact, I gave a demo to the Hibikinokai group last Sunday.

But I ran into a strange problem when I tried to create my own three month free trial in my main US account.

After signing up, I noticed I was charged $9.99 for the first month, even though it’s supposed to be a three month free trial.

I thought that was strange, so I emailed iTunes support and they promptly refunded me the $9.99.

But… After that, I was not able to sign up for the free three month trial. At the last step, I would get a warning telling me that since I had previously paid for Apple Music I was no longer eligible for the free trial.

I contacted iTunes support, and they told me there was nothing they could do about it, because that’s just the way it is. It didn’t matter that I was accidentally charged to begin with and refunded. The system saw that I had previously paid, and as far as it was concerned that was that and I just could not have the free trial.

That didn’t make sense to me, so I sent an email directly to Tim Cook. His email address is easy to find.

Within less than a day, one of his assistants got back to me to help.

We tried various things. First she tried to reset something, but when I went into try I ended up with the same warning at the last step that if I pressed the button I would be charged $9.99.

She also had me try from a different device, but it was the same result.

Finally, she emailed me back to say that she had deposited $30 credit to my iTunes account and I could use that for my three month free trial. Or for whatever. Sure enough, when I checked, there was $30 waiting for me.

So problem solved.

Now I can say I’ve written directly to both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook and gotten a response both times. Of course with Steve Jobs, he actually emailed me back directly. With Tim Cook he had an assistant write back. But that’s fine.

Now I can check out Apple Music and see if it can improve my mood. I’ve been rather down lately.