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.



Apple Pay – NFC payments done better — 8 Comments

  1. Just curious, did you use Apple Pay in the U.S. with an iPhone from a Japanese carrier? If so, I would love to know how to do that. I’m traveling back to the U.S. in 2 weeks, and would like to use my Au iPhone 6 that way—especially since I’m going to be picking up an Apple Watch while I’m there… Thanks!

  2. I was going to write a blog post on this. It turns out, to my very pleasant surprise, that iPhones locked to AU, which is what I have, work in the United States with AT&T!

    Just take it to your nearest AT&T shop, and they’ll swap out your AU Sim card for an AT&T Sim card, and you can use a prepaid gophone contract while you are in the United States.

    Apple Pay itself seems to be independent of any carrier contract. So that should work regardless.

  3. Well, first, thanks for the really quick reply!

    About the iPhone—I was just looking it up, and apparently the phones are locked here, and can be unlocked since a new law came out in May this year—but only to phones sold after May 2015. Do you know if the above service would apply to Au iPhones that are still locked to the carrier? Or is that service only for the newer phones?

  4. The laws on unlocking iPhones are still hazy. But I do know that AU is not doing it yet. People are still waiting for news on that.

    But, as I mentioned above, it doesn’t matter if (1) you are traveling in the U.S. and (2) you are ok with using AT&T. You can switch SIMs.

    On the plane back to Japan I switched back to my AU SIM and it was working just fine when I arrived at Narita.

    I believe it also works with Orange in the UK. There are various Japanese blogs about it.

    And it’s not just iPhones. All current AU smart phones are compatible with AT&T in the U.S.

  5. Cool! I’ll go to the AT&T shop when I’m there. Au has data roaming, but it’s a ludicrous ¥2000 ~ ¥3000 per day. Thanks for the information!!!

  6. Yes, that is ludicrous. Be sure to turn off roaming! If you have roaming turned on, AU might try to add the roaming service. So definitely check in settings/cellular and make sure that all roaming is turned off.

  7. By the way, I went to the U.S., and got the SIM swapped. Strangely, there were opposing views over what was what. In the U.S., the AT&T guy put in the new SIM, and it worked, and he pronounced that it was unlocked. But back in Japan, they insisted that it *was* locked. As it was, though, the story was much more than that.

    So, I got the 1.5 GB 1-month plan from AT&T, and in the U.S., it all worked beautifully. I used it right up to the plane flight back.

    On the way back, I replaced the SIM with extreme caution. Opened it up, removed the AT&T SIM, made sure the original Japanese SIM was undamaged, and put it back in. The phone accepted it, showed the carrier as KDDI, and everything worked great.

    Until I got back to Narita—and the phone refused to recognize a carrier. No Service, it claimed. I removed the SIM, checked everything, put it back in. No Service. KDDI Au has a store in Narita, so I took it there. They checked it, and told me it was broken. They pointed out that under Settings > General > About, while the Carrier listed as “KDDI 23.0,” if you tap on that line it should read “PRL 9.” Mine didn’t; it jumped to “ERI 1.” Have no idea what those mean, but the “PRL” was missing, and so they said it was broken.

    I took it to my neighborhood Au shop when I got back from the airport. They went so far as to swap out the SIM with a new one. Same result. No Service. DOA, sorry. You’ll have to go to Apple, probably get a replacement. (The device worked fine otherwise, just no phone service.)

    I tried to make an appointment with Apple, and spent 30+ minutes hassling with Apple’s maddeningly broken web reservation system and then just as maddening Japanese staff, before I discovered that no Genius Bar in Tokyo had an opening until 3 days later. I finally got an English-speaking Apple rep (based in Australia) to tell me I could take it in to non-Apple service center certified by Apple. By this time, 2 days had passed, still “No Service.”

    The next day, I planned to take it in… and suddenly, I got a carrier signal. It worked, and has worked since then. I have no idea what that was about… but am not anxious to fool around with that SIM slot again!!

  8. Glad it worked in the end!

    I did notice after I got back to Japan that I had to reset the phone (hold the power button and home button down until you see the Apple mark). After that everything was fine right away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.