Bloomberg reports Apple is planning a special version of the iPhone for the Japanese market that will include a technology called FeliCa, a popular mobile tap-to-pay standard in Japan developed by Sony Corp.
The FeliCa chip will let customers in Japan store their public bus and train passes on their iPhones. Users would then be able to tap their phones against the entrance scanners instead of using physical cards. While the FeliCa chip is the standard technology underlying the service, there are several different providers of transit payment cards based on the type of transit and areas within Japan.
While Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, such as that which powers Apple’s mobile payments solution, Apple pay, is popular in North America, Europe, and Australia, the FeliCa standard dominates Japan. The Bank of Japan says there are currently 1.9 million FeliCa-compatible payment terminals in the country, which handled .6 trillion yen ($46 billion) in transactions in 2015.
Bloomberg’s sources indicate Apple intends to work with multiple transit card providers to offer the payments service to iPhone users. The source indicated that virtual transit passes would be stored in the iPhone’s Wallet app, and would offer the usual as-needed and monthly access packages for transit access.
While Bloomberg’s sources indicate Apple had planned to offer the new feature in this year’s iPhone, due to debut in September, the transit card feature may not make it into the iPhone until next year, if discussions with Japan-based payment networks bog down.