New iOS Update Brings Hong Kong-Specific Features To iPhone And Apple Watch

Apple’s newest iOS update (version 13.5.1) brings two new features that are specific for Hong Kong users. The first is Apple Wallet support for Octopus, the contact-less digital payment card that is ubiquitous in the city with over 99% penetration rate among Hong Kong’s seven million-plus residents. The other is real-time transit information for Apple Maps.

Let’s start with Octopus support, which has been an open secret for months for those who care about these things, as a line of code showing support of Octopus card (along with Japan’s counterpart the Suica card) was discovered by the tech blog Atlas Distance last July. Apple later confirmed the news, but the rollout was delayed until today.

The official announcement of Octopus support technically didn’t go live until 11 a.m. in Hong Kong, but the software update rolled out in the early hours, and I was able to successfully test it at 8 a.m. this morning.

To set up Octopus on an iPhone requires users to also install Octopus’ iOS app and link their card. Once completed, adding Octopus to Apple Wallet requires just two taps, the same setup as adding a credit card.

Once it’s set up, using the digital Octopus is as simple as using the card: just tap the iPhone or Apple Watch to an Octopus reader and be greeted with the familiar “doot” beeping sound all Hongkongers know by heart. Apple even gives users an optional extra layer of protection that the original card doesn’t even offer: it’s possible to require biometric authentication—face or fingerprint scanning, depending on the iPhone model used—before payment can be made.

There is a major caveat: once the Octopus card has been linked to the Apple Wallet, it becomes entirely digital—the physical card will cease to work. This shouldn’t be an issue, as most of us carry our phone with us at all times.

Value can be topped up digitally via any Hong Kong-issue bank or credit card, or they can add value the manual way via cash at a 7-Eleven or MTR Customer Service Centre. 

 As for Apple Maps, Hong Kong has been fully integrated into Apple’s navigation system. Type an address or name of business and both MTR and bus routes are provided. Users can even ask Siri in Cantonese or English and receive turn-by-turn navigation instructions. 

Apple introducing features catering just for the Hong Kong market—Octopus cards are not used in mainland China—is a continual trend for the American tech giant, which in recent months had introduced Cantonese-specific Siri phrases.


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