Among many other things, the Apple iOS 16.4 release introduced a change in how iPhones are able to communicate with cars’ access management systems, granting access to the vehicle. Introduced originally with iOS 13.6, the protocol would use the Ultra Wideband and NFC (as with the iPhone wallet) protocol to operate communications between the smartphone and the vehicle. However in iOS 16.4, there is suspicion that Apple may drop its support NFC protocol. In this post, we will review in details how Apple Car Key has changed and what it involves for the user.
What is Apple CarKey and how does it work?
In essence, the Apple Car Key is a digital key that’s stored in the Wallet app on your iPhone. This key allows you to unlock and start your car without the need for a physical key. To use the Apple Car Key, you simply hold your iPhone near the car’s door handle or keyless entry system, and the car will unlock automatically. Once inside the car, you can place your iPhone on the car’s wireless charging pad or in the cupholder, and the car will recognize the presence of the phone and allow you to start the engine with the push of a button.
One of the most significant benefits of the Apple Car Key is its convenience. With this feature, you no longer need to carry around a physical key or fumble around in your pocket or purse to find it. Instead, you can simply pull out your iPhone and unlock your car with a tap. This can be especially helpful when your hands are full or when you need to unlock your car quickly.
Another advantage of the Apple Car Key is its security. The digital key is stored securely in your iPhone’s Wallet app and uses Face ID or Touch ID to authenticate you before allowing access to the key. This means that only you can unlock and start your car, even if someone else has access to your phone. Additionally, the digital key is stored in the Secure Element, a hardware-based security feature that’s used to store sensitive information like credit card details.
Which cars are compatible with Apple Car Key?
To date, Apple Car Key is mostly available on BMW cars but the brand is developing more partnership with other car manufacturers. Below is a comprehensive list of compatible models:
- BMW 2 Series. (2021 to current)
- BMW 3 Series (2021 to current)
- BMW 4 Series (2021 to current)
- BMW 5 Series (2021 to current)
- BMW 6 Series (2021 to current)
- BMW 7 Series (2021 to current)
- BMW 8 Series (2021 to current)
- BMW X5 (2021 to current)
- BMW X6 (2021 to current)
- BMW X7 (2021 to current)
- BMW X5 M (2021 to current)
- BMW X6 M (2021 to current)
- BMW Z4 (2021 to current)
- BMW i4 (2022 to current)
- BMW iX (2022 to current)
- BMW i7 (2023 to current)
- GV60 (2022 to current)
- G90 (2022 to current)
- Niro (2022 to current)
- Telluride (2023 to current)
What’s changing in Apple Car Key as of iOS 16.4?
Car Key was introduced in 2020 as an extension to the Apple Pay technology, using that same NFC technology to unlock cars (compatible ones, that is) remotely. With iOS 16.4, Apple has dropped NFC support to the benefit of an Ultra Wide Band (UWB). A newer, more secure protocol which would operate with the firm’s Own U1 chip as UWB is more accurate than NFC in estimating the distance between an iPhone and a given car.
In case the iPhone is not compatible with the UWB protocol, the device will display a message say that the iPhone is not compatible with Apple Car Key.
Which iPhones are compatible with Apple Car Key in iOS 16.4?
The change from the NFC protocol to a more bespoke one through the U1 chip means that only devices equipped with the U1 chip would be apple to operate the Car Key feature. At the time of writing, the compatible devices would the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, iPhone 12 and 12 Mini and Pro, iPhone 13 and 13 Mini and Pro, as well the iPhone 14, 14 Mini and Pro.
Apart from the iPhone, the other compatible devices are the Apple Watch Series 6, 7, 8 and Ultra. As well as HomePod min and AirTag.
Apple’s move to drop NFC to the benefit of Ultra Wide Band technology may look like a mercantile decision (forcing people to upgrade their devices in order to continue using the feature). While, there is probably a fair bit of that, it’s worth keeping in mind that cars are valuable goods and the purpose of this move is also to guarantee some better level of security against the threat of theft. By using large radio frequency ranges, the Ultra Wide Band protocol is more secure and more precise. Allowing higher level of accuracy in identifying the smartphone and coupling it to the right car.