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Japan Apple Pay launch marred by apparent system overload

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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.