Apple Brings Tap-To-Pay To Japan’s Public Transportation

As the countdown to the big launch of the newest redesign is ramping up, Apple is jumping on the customization bandwagon for the iPhone line of products.

According to reports out this week, in Japan, that customization will include some tweaks to Apple Pay that will make it easy for users to pay for their mass transit rides with a tap of their phone. IPhones able to do this will need to come equipped with FeliCa, a mobile tap-to-pay standard developed by Sony. FeliCa is a largely unknown technology in the Americas and Europe, where NFC and QR codes tend to dominate, but in Japan, it is a dominant factor, with 1.9 million payment terminals nationwide.

The FeliCa chip comes recommended for its speed and relative flexibility. It is able to process a transaction in 0.1 seconds, according to Sony.

A coming iPhone upgrade will make this possible by playing a FeliCa chip into the phone, thus making it capable of interacting with the system. Those interactions — when applied to transit needs — will allow customers to purchase and store their tickets on their phone. Reports also indicate that, in an attempt to push this into the hands of as many mobile-enthused Japanese consumers as possible, Apple is casting a wide net when it comes to the transit card providers. Major participants in the discussions are the Suica and Pasmo networks.

Apple has every reason to pursue the Japanese market vigorously, given that Japan alone represents 8 percent of the firm’s total revenue and almost 11 percent of operating profit in the most recent quarter.

Whether the transit card upgrade will make the next model remains to be seen. Negotiations are ongoing, according to those familiar with the matter, and thus the upgrade could be held until the next iteration if discussions with Japan’s payment networks can’t yield results that are amenable to all involved.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple has had some recent success in Japan, striking a deal with Japan-based phone carrier KDDI to allow customers to bill iTunes purchases to their phone service bill instead of directly to a credit card.