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iPhone X bug causing Apple Pay problems for Suica users in Japan

A months-old iPhone X bug is causing error messages and system failures when owners attempt to employ Apple Pay's NFC functionality at transit terminals in Japan, an especially troublesome situation for users of the popular Suica platform, prompting some to seek replacement hardware.

According to local blog Ata Distance, which has been tracking the issue over the past four months, iPhone X users are seeing error messages on their device, in-store terminals and transit gates when attempting to pay with the Suica mobile transit card system. As seen in the video below, users can be denied access to railway gates, a major snag for busy urban areas like Tokyo.

Complications began with the launch of iPhone X in November. At the time, customers who upgraded to Apple's flagship from iPhone 7 and 7 Plus noticed compatibility issues with Suica Express Transit, an NFC-enabled transit card system operated by JR East. Customers complained of slow response times, while others reported the platform was unusable.

Ata Distance points to numerous social media posts describing unsuccessful scans at transit gates, including those run by JR East, as well as in retail stores that accept Suica payments.

The subsequent release of iOS 11.2 exacerbated the situation by introducing a new notification fault. Those troubles were rectified with iOS 11.2.5, but Suica Express Transit authentication is still a problem as of the latest iOS 11.3 beta.

Whether the issue is related to software or hardware is unknown, but circumstantial evidence suggests the bug is limited to iPhone X. Interestingly, not all users are impacted.

Apple does not appear to have an answer for the predicament. Some iPhone X owners have taken their device in to regional Apple stores for replacement, a method that seems to work in most cases. However, Apple does not have a dedicated resolution procedure in place, as some users were denied a device swap and told by staff that they are simply holding the phone incorrectly.

Apple rolled out Apple Pay in Japan with the launch of iOS 10.1 in 2016. User adoption of Suica was so rapid that Apple's payments solution failed just hours after launch due to an apparent system overload.