iOS 11 NFC Switching Activates Apple Pay for Older iPhones in Japan [u]


Update Nov. 1/17: Joel from Ata Distance contacted us to note a correction in his story:

The kind folks at went out of their way to conduct tests and contacted me that my post reported incorrect information, I am very thankful they did so. The official Apple Pay Japan page lists iPhone 6, 6s and SE models as incompatible with transit and store purchases in Japan.

There have been rumors that Japanese card issuers are investigating adding NFC Pay support but these remain rumors. I should have done a better research job before posting and apologize both for the error and any confusion resulting from it.

iOS 11 introduces NFC switching, allowing switching from various NFC modes, such as NFC-A, NFC-B and NFC-F. This new addition in iOS 11 means Apple quietly launched Apple Pay for older iPhone models in Japan, reports Ata Distance (via NFC World):

With the NFC switching capabilities of iOS 11 Apple Pay Apple quietly activated Apple Pay Japan for older non-FeliCa NFC capable iPhones such as iPhone 6S. Surprised users with Japan issue cards that support JCB J/Speedy and Mastercard Contactless can add them to Apple Pay and use them at stores with EMV NFC-Pay ready readers.

Japan issue American Express cards should be good too but I have not confirmed them in the field yet.

Iphone7 plus jp watch2 wallet suica balance

IOS 11 Apple Pay Diagram 2

Apple first added FeliCa (NFC-F) support last year for iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Apple Watch Series 2 sold in Japan. FeliCa is a faster form of RFID used in Japan, primarily for subway ticketing systems, where NFC A/B are too slow at busy stations.

With iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, Apple quietly implemented Global FeliCa (NFC-F) support for all of these devices sold worldwide, meaning anyone visiting Japan can now use their supported device for Apple Pay, such as the Japanese transit card Suica. Apple documents how users can transfer a Suica card to Apple Pay, here.

Iphone7 plus ios11 jp wallet adding suica

NFC switching in iOS 11 means Apple Pay now automatically switches between various NFC modes, to accommodate users based on where they are using the mobile wallet. This allows both Japanese iPhone users and visitors to the country to use Apple Pay seamlessly both inside and outside the country.

If you’re visiting Japan, check out the guide by Ata Distance on setting up Apple Pay and Suica.


  • It’s Me

    So, does this mean that Suica cards can work with North American iPhone 7 now? If so, that would have been handy when I was there 2 weeks ago. Having to use up my cash to keep topping up my card was a PITA.

    I assume this only allows other Apple Pay and not Suica.
    Edit: I see now that it says non-FeliCa so no Suica.

  • My understanding is iPhone 8/8 Plus and Series 3 will now support Suica, regardless of where they were purchased.

  • It’s Me

    Hmm. My understanding when I was looking into it last week after getting back from Japan the week before was:
    A) iPhone 7/Plus made for the Japan market worked with Suica because it had the required hardware
    B) All iPhone 8 worked with Suica because it had the required hardware.

    I even forwarded the Apple help docs about this a few days ago to a friend that goes to Japan a couple times a year. This doc, last updated Sept 26, said all iphone 8 and japanese iPhone 7.

    Here’s what you need to transfer a plastic Suica card to your iPhone:2
    An iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus purchased in Japan (model A1779 and A1785)
    An iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus
    The latest version of iOS
    Device region set to Japan
    A plastic Suica, My Suica, or Commuter Suica Card

    Guess I’ll dig out my Suica card and see if it might work with my 7+.

  • It’s Me

    Does not work with Canadian purchased iPhone 7 Plus. Changed device region to Japan, tried to follow instructions for adding Suica card but it was never presented as an option. Oh well. Will hopefully have a newer phone for next trip to Japan.