Japanese news site Nikkei reports Apple is partnering with Sony to bring their Apple Pay contactless payments service to Japan. The new report jibes with previous rumors that Apple will make future versions of their iPhone, (possibly even the iPhone 7, due to be unveiled later today), compatible with Sony’s FeliCa technology, which allows contactless payments at FeliCa terminals in Japan.
FeliCa is Sony’s e-money system that has been widely adopted in Japan, and allows users to quickly pay for railway and bus tickets, as well as purchases at vending machines, cafes, and other locations that accept the FeliCa system. The technology is extremely fast, processing transactions in under a second, making it extremely popular for transit fee payments. iPhone users account for over half the Japanese smartphone market, so FeliCa compatibility for Apple Pay could prove quite lucrative for Apple.
Users will also be able to store train tickets on their iPhones, letting them enter gates with a wave. Other proposed uses for the technology include integrating membership cards and replacing security key cards. Apple’s foray into Japanese smartphone payment services will promote broader adoption of compatible terminals at retailers and event venues. Foreign travelers may be able to use foreign iPhones to make payments as well.
Well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier this week, the iPhone 7 handsets sold in Japan will include FeliCa capabilities, so we can expect to hear a mention of that at today’s event. However, due to Apple’s need to negotiate fees with Japanese financial institutions and bring FeliCa retailers into the Apple Pay fold, the service isn’t likely to launch in the country until sometime next year.
The Apple Pay contactless payments system is currently available in nine countries, including United States, United Kingdom, China, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Hong Kong, France, and Singapore. Additional countries in Asia and Europe are on the expansion list, and we’ll share those with you as we learn more.
Nikkei notes Google parent Alphabet plans to introduce its rival Android Pay service to the country as early as this fall, through a partnership with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.