According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple is planning a new iPhone model for Japan that includes support for a technology called FeliCa. FeliCa, for those unfamiliar, is a tap-to-pay standard in Japan that allows users to pay for things like mass-transit rides with their mobile device.
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FeliCa was developed by Sony and allows users to store train and bus passes in their mobile devices. With an iPhone that supports the feature, users will be able to store their passes within their iPhone, something that hasn’t been available in the past.
While FeliCa is the standard on which mobile transactions in Japan are performed, with 1.9 million payment terminals supporting it, there are several different providers of transit payment cards in Japan. Apple, according to today’s report, plans to work with multiple providers in an effort to support as many customers as possible. The two major options in Japan are Suica and Pasmo.
In addition to transit support, FeliCa also supports mobile payments and Apple is said to be in negotiations with at least one major financial institution in Japan to support e-money transactions. Currently, e-money is supported at a wide-array of vending machines and stores in Japan.
During the company’s earnings call last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that Apple Pay accounts for a small portion of Apple’s revenue, though a launch in Japan would definitely help increase the revenue from mobile payments for Apple.
In 2015, FeliCa payment transactions accounted for 4.6 trillion yen, or $46 billion.
Today’s report claims that Apple will introduce FeliCa support in Japan with the next iPhone models. The feature addition is continent upon smooth negotiations with payment networks in Japan, though, so if talks fall apart, the launch could be pushed into 2017 with the iPhone 8. It’s important to note, though, that Apple has already finalized hardware for the iPhone 7, so the FeliCa technology will presumably be included either way, with only a software update being required to enable it.
This wouldn’t be the first time Apple catered specifically to Japan. In the past, Apple has launched specific versions of devices like the iPad to support Japan’s NTT DOCoMo carrier.
Apple’s apparent decision to add FeliCa support to the iPhone in Japan comes as the company continues to face competition from smaller up-and-coming manufacturers in countries like Japan. Additionally, the latest Gartner data showed Japan continuing to have growing demand for smartphones, despite the global slowdown.