Apple Developing iPhone for Japan with Transit Fare Integration

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Apple is working on an iPhone specially designed for Japan that will allow owners to use their handset to pay for their mass transit ride instead of using physical cards, reports Bloomberg. To do that, Apple needs to embrace the Japan’s proprietary mobile tap-to-pay technology standard called FeliCa, which was developed by Sony.

Since the iPhone 6, Apple’s handsets have come with an NFC chip supplied by NXP Semiconductors. On its dedicated FeliCa microsite, Sony explains, that its proprietary technology is actually NFC-F which is supported by all NFC devices. Mobile phones equipped with NFC — and that includes the iPhone — can “exchange data with NFC-F-based IC cards and devices, Therefore, the wide introduction of NFC mobile phones in the global market can be considered as the expansion of the NFC-F infrastructure,” Sony explains.

While the technological challenges are yet to be addressed by Apple, the company is said to be in talks with multiple transit card providers, such as Suica and Pasmo networks. If the discussions are successful, Japanese users of the next generation iPhone will be able to store their transit passes in the Wallet app.

Japan and its high penetration of FeliCa payment terminals represent a great business opportunity for Apple, as the company’s market share is pretty high there.

The Bloomberg report also highlights an important design change Apple is planning for the 2017 iPhone, while suggesting that the transit fare collection feature may be pushed back for next year’s anniversary iPhone:

Apple is already at work on a major redesign of the iPhone for 2017 that focuses more heavily on the display by removing the Home button, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Apple is expected to unveil the next generation iPhone on September 7.