Japan Apple Pay launch marred by apparent system overload

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2016
Less than one day after launch and Apple Pay is already facing difficulties in Japan. A number of Japanese users on Tuesday complained of issues with Suica transit cards, a major regional benefit for the payments solution, while Apple itself reported ongoing problems lasting more than five hours.




Both Apple and JR East, which markets and maintains the Suica mobile transit card system, earlier today noted Apple Pay-related system failures on their respective websites, reports local blog Ata Distance.

According to Apple's system status webpage, "some users" have been impacted by undisclosed system complications starting at around 9:20 a.m. and are ongoing as of this writing, a span of more than five hours. A separate report from NHK, however, cites JR East as saying mobile Suica issues surfaced at around 7:30 a.m., a peak hour for commuters in Tokyo and its surrounding environs.

Specifically, customers using Apple Pay's Suica capabilities are unable to recharge transit card funds, potentially leaving them stuck at the gate if their balance is below fare. Problems also extend to purchasing, as users are currently unable to buy express tickets via the Mobile Suica system.

It appears Apple Pay integration is to blame for Suica's woes, as Suica IC cards remained fully functional during the outage, JR East says. The cause of today's downtime is unclear, though the timing suggests Apple's iCloud backend was unable to keep pace with the region's daily onslaught of rail commuters.

Apple Pay debuted for the Japanese market with the release of iOS 10.1 on Monday. Alongside traditional NFC protocols, all iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Apple Watch Series 2 models sold in Japan support FeliCa Type-F NFC contactless technology, with initial support extending to Suica and tap-to-pay solutions from Docomo and QUICPay.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    Startup problems. 
    watto_cobrajbdragonlostkiwi
  • Reply 2 of 13
    As Billy Joel says,
      "Get it right the first time, that's the main thing.
        Get it right the next time, that's not the same thing."

    This will pass... but first impressions are important.
    boredumblostkiwi
  • Reply 3 of 13
    Not saying the new system shouldn't have worked properly, but Japan does itself a disservice with so many uniquely national standards and systems. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    JR is hardly a bastion of reliability...
  • Reply 5 of 13
    The good news is that they will be able to take this experience and turn it into a killer Godzilla movie.
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 6 of 13
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,416member
    badmonk said:
    The good news is that they will be able to take this experience and turn it into a killer Godzilla movie.
    LOL
    And, oooh, that just has so many excellent ad possibilities!
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 7 of 13

    Specifically, customers using Apple Pay's Suica capabilities are unable to recharge transit card funds, potentially leaving them stuck at the gate if their balance is below fare. Problems also extend to purchasing, as users are currently unable to buy express tickets via the Mobile Suica system.

    It appears that the issue is not being able to pay with ApplePay -- rather, an unrelated backend app to make funds (credit) available to the credit source -- similar to an app that pays your credit card bill so that you have enough available credit to buy things.

  • Reply 8 of 13
    roakeroake Posts: 648member
    Too many people trying to use their product was Apple's biggest problem.

    As for Samsung, note this zinger from national political news.

    “The president recently compared Obamacare to a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and he's right: this disastrous law is blowing up. But at least you can return the phone,” Rep. Ryan added.

    Obama's comments were actually on the topic of the Note 7 catching fire, stating that "you don't repeal smartphones" and "go back to rotary phones."  Instead, he says, "you go fix the problem."

    That all seemed a little complicated, so instead I just scanned the FAA's list of hazardous materials and bought the phone that WASN'T listed as burning planes.

    I'm quite happy with the iPhone 7.
    watto_cobracalilostkiwi
  • Reply 9 of 13
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,982member
    Not saying the new system shouldn't have worked properly, but Japan does itself a disservice with so many uniquely national standards and systems. 
    Just like pretty much every other metro transit system with contactless charge cards then.  See London, Hong Kong, Beijing, San Francisco.

    The ISO 14443 standard which covers these kinds of cards is very new, and doesn't define some of the back end functions of this particular kind of top-up card, which seem to be the problem with this failure.
    edited October 2016
  • Reply 10 of 13
    misamisa Posts: 827member

    Specifically, customers using Apple Pay's Suica capabilities are unable to recharge transit card funds, potentially leaving them stuck at the gate if their balance is below fare. Problems also extend to purchasing, as users are currently unable to buy express tickets via the Mobile Suica system.

    It appears that the issue is not being able to pay with ApplePay -- rather, an unrelated backend app to make funds (credit) available to the credit source -- similar to an app that pays your credit card bill so that you have enough available credit to buy things.

    Which any user of a transit system could tell you is business-as-usual.

    Out here in Vancouver, no Apple Pay yet (the Compass card can only be used for transit, and the transit fare gates only accept the card) the entire system was delayed for years just because of latency for tapping out on buses, so the solution was to make all the buses one zone and forgo the tapping-out requirement on the buses.

    In Japan, they actually upgraded from older RFID-based standards on their transit networks, likewise they only rolled out LTE services in 2010 after having a mashup of CDMA, UMTS and non-GSM networks.

    So it wouldn't surprise me if Japanese users are more willing to blindly trust that their transit card auto-top-up's than Transit users in North America. One of the prevailing issues in the US and Canada is that you can not trust mobile phone carriers, which ends up extending to the devices sold by them. In Japan their telecom networks are actually competitive, not collusive like they are in North America. 

  • Reply 11 of 13
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,149member
    Seems like it was a HUGE Hit on day 1. Overloaded the servers with all the unexpected traffic so fast. That was both good and bad at the same time. It wasn't a ramp up as more and more users tried it out. it was like everyone had to try it out at once and BAM! The problems will get fixed on the back end. Just like with iOS and it's long Beta Testing, everything seems perfect and then you bring in MILLIONS of new users and NOPE, there's more bugs. Why didn't you find these?!?! So the group of Beta testers using this system, it worked just fine, including Tim Cook, and then you throw in Millions of new people and sure enough, you have issues.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    brakken said:
    JR is hardly a bastion of reliability...
    You have no idea what you are talking about.
    First, there is no entity called JR.  There are five regional private separate passenger operators called: JR East, JR West, JR Central, JR Kyushu, JR Hokkaid, plus a freight carrier called JR Freight.
    Second, in terms of operational reliability of passenger services, on-time departures and arrivals, lack of accidents, all these companies top the world's other operators.
    Third, they also operate the suica mobile payments system. JR East's suica service alone has more than 70 million card holders and processes trillions of yen each year without problems. It has been a huge and successful technology.
    So before you post again, check your facts and don't bore us with random "noise".

    loopy3tokyojimu
  • Reply 13 of 13
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,504member
    I wonder if the systems are entirely housed in Japan, or if they are relying on overseas connections to Apple's systems in the Americas? That would be silly, if they launched with that.
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