Monday, June 18, 2018

The iPhone X Suica Problem

Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

The iPhone X Suica problem is an issue that causes transit gate errors when using Suica Express Transit on iPhone X. Errors occur with any transit gate or any reader device. Overall iPhone X Suica transit gate performance is sluggish. iPhone 8 / 8 Plus and Apple Watch Series 3 are free of the Suica problem and work reliably. It’s not clear what the cause of the problem is: iOS 11 software or a iPhone X NFC related hardware flaw.

Joel Breckinridge Bassett (via Meek Geek):

It’s a problem in Japan because transit cards like Suica require much higher performance than low performance EMV contactless credit cards. Transit gates are not cash registers. EMV was developed for slow pokey credit card payments at your local supermarket, not whizzing through a transit gate at Tokyo rush crush hour. This is why EMV sucks at transit.


I believe that Apple’s inability to fix the iPhone X Suica problem despite multiple iOS 11 updates is proof of a iPhone X NFC related hardware problem: if it was just software it would be fixed by now.


Whatever the outcome, Apple’s complete silence and non-action regarding the iPhone X Suica problem has left iPhone X Japanese customers saddled with an inferior product that does not work with Apple Pay in Japan.

Previously: iPhone 6 Bendgate and Touch Disease.

Update (2018-06-19): Friedrich Markgraf:

FWIW I had great trouble pairing a Sony Alpha 7 III with iPhone X via NFC. It took me multiple minutes, but eventually it worked.

Update (2018-06-23): Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

iPhone X users with Suica problem units have no reliable way to obtain a good unit because Apple Support has no method to identify bad units or supply good units for exchange.

Update (2018-07-16): Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

The bad news: iOS 11.4.1 does not fix the iPhone X Suica Problem.

Update (2018-07-24): Joel Breckinridge Bassett (tweet):

Enough nonsense, if Apple can’t call it I’m calling it: iPhone X units produced before April 2018 have a NFC problem.

Update (2018-07-27): See also: iPhone X Suica Problem Q&A.

Update (2018-08-17): Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

As you can see below, the reader feedback iPhone X production tally suggests Apple made production changes in April 2018 that fixed iPhone X NFC hardware issues. I call these NFC error free units Revision B iPhone X. Readers report that Rev-B iPhone X NFC performance is substantially better and immediately noticeable.

Update (2018-09-03): Apple:

Apple has determined that a very small percentage of iPhone 8 devices contain logic boards with a manufacturing defect. Affected devices may experience unexpected restarts, a frozen screen, or won’t turn on. Apple will repair eligible devices, free of charge.

Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

Hopefully it will not be long before the other shoe drops and Apple issues a iPhone X Logic Board Replacement Program for the “very small percentage” of iPhone X units with defective NFC. The iPhone 8 Replacement Program came first because its logic board is much easier to replace, not so for iPhone X which is considerably more complex, and costly.

Update (2018-09-07): Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

The feel of Apple Pay Suica on a Rev-B iPhone matches what readers have been reporting: NFC performance is snappy with none of the problem iPhone X lag or errors going through the transit gate. The difference will be noticeable if you are familiar with Apple Pay Suica performance on iPhone 7.

Update (2018-09-11): Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

A reader in America took the iPhone X Suica NFC problem unit replacement challenge and shared his experience. He had to go to the Apple Store Genius Bar but was able to obtain an exchange for a 2018 Production Week 32 Rev-B iPhone X.


It’s very disturbing that Apple has internal support docs acknowledging the iPhone X NFC issue but refuses to acknowledge the issue publicly.

Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

To me 7 months of faulty iPhone X production (September 2017~March 2018) is a huge design failure. NFC on iPhone X was a dud. There is no way around it. There is no other excuse or explanation. The worst part is that Apple willingly sold iPhone X devices they knew were bad up to the April 2018 Rev-B iPhone X production switchover. The internal support doc is Apple’s attempt to limit a potentially huge number of iPhone X exchanges to something manageable: problem iPhone X devices using Apple Pay Transit in Japan and China.


Do not expect Apple to issue an exchange program: the internal support doc and iPhone X production tally prove the iPhone X NFC problem is too big and unwieldy to conveniently window down to a “very small percentage”of devices.

Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

More bad: Docomo source said they knew about iPhone X Suica problem but told to keep quiet

Update (2018-10-24): Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica bugs are causing headaches for some users getting exchanges for iPhone X Suica problem devices (a NFC hardware problem across all iOS versions): users find they have the same Suica problems running iOS 12 (iOS 12.0 specific software bugs) on NFC hardware problem free Revision B iPhone X devices. Unfortunately for iPhone X users the 2 issues merge in a perfect storm. It’s confusing and only natural to assume nothing is fixed and yet another Apple Support runaround iPhone X exchange is needed to fix it. If you are using iOS 11.4.1 on Apple Pay Suica iPhone X, I suggest staying with it and not updating to iOS 12 just yet.

Update (2021-10-19): Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

One of the weird aspects of the saga is that I’m almost certain it was an Apple employee who emailed and suggested that I gather and compare iPhone X manufacturing dates to find the cause. That and the internal Apple Support doc says all that you need to know: Apple knew iPhone X NFC was defective but chose to ignore the problem and ride it out.

Apple chose this path of inaction because: (1) it was only a problem in Japan as Japan was the only country with Apple Pay Express Transit at the time, (2) Apple considered the Japanese market expendable enough to hang out and dry because Japanese customers don’t complain loudly like American and European customers or at least enough to cross the language barrier (so convenient that), (3) the IT tech press wasn’t competent enough to catch and report the issue.

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This is a typical example of why Apple sucks when it comes to customer service related to a hardware or software bug. Their customer service is great when there's nothing wrong with their products (on a deep level) and the user just needs a little bit of help or you have an atypical hardware failure. But when the product itself is broken as a result of software or hardware bugs, Apple almost always remains silent.

If you take it to an Apple store and talk to a "genius" about a problem like this, they will just shrug their shoulders and say "that's interesting" or they will set you up for a product replacement and you'll just end up with the same defective shit anyway. And if you call their customer service number you will get basically the same treatment ("We've never heard of this issue before..." -- yeah right!). And I've commented about how opaque and useless Bug Reporter is in another post.

I have run across hardware or software bugs that are similar to this Suica bug in the past (repeatable, common, and show-stopper), and honestly the only thing that 'worked' was just waiting several months or years until Apple finally got off their lazy ass and fixed it... (example, I filed a radar about a bug in Mac OS 10.8 related to Quicklook (10.7 was fine) and Apple didn't fix it until 10.12!!!)

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