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How Apple CarKey works and Which iPhones and Cars will be Compatible

Apple has now released iOS 13.4 update to the public along with new features such as iCloud Drive Folder Sharing, new Memojis, and plenty other minor features. However, references to a ‘CarKey’ API found by 9to5mac.com in the early beta releases of iOS 13.4 code is not shipping as a feature of with this update.

Apple CarKey could be a feature of the upcoming iOS 14 update which will likely release at WWDC 2020 to the developers.

Read → iOS 13.4 Review: It’s a friendly update for iPhone

What’s so interesting about this CarKey, you ask? The Apple CarKey feature will make it possible for you to use your iPhone and Apple Watch to lock, unlock, and start your car. CarKey will be usable with NFC-compatible cars. So users will only have to hold their iPhone or Apple Watch near their car and it will enable them to use it as a key.

How will Apple CarKey Work?

Users will be able to use CarKey through the Wallet app with cars that support Near-Field Communication (NFC). The pairing process will be fairly simple. You will require the car manufacturer’s app installed on your phone to complete the setup though. The users will be required to place their phones on top of the NFC Reader to begin pairing. Once the pairing is complete, the CarKey will be available in the Wallet app, from where it can also be added to Apple Watch.

Leaked Apple CarKey screenshots from iOS 14 by DongleBookPro

Another interesting feature that CarKey might have is that you will be able to share it with other people. So you can set up access for other people like family members and friends to have Unlock or Start privileges which will be available on their own iOS devices.

Also, CarKey on your iPhone will work even when your it is out of battery, much like how Express Transit Cards work on your iPhone and apple Watch.


Which iPhones will be Compatible with CarKey?

As the use of CarKey requires NFC, any iPhone models that can read/ write NFC tags should be compatible with CarKey.

  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus

iPhones have had NFC capabilities since 2014, but back then it was exclusive only to Apple Pay. But with iPhone 7, Apple introduced in-app NFC read capabilities with the help of 3rd party apps. Users of iPhone XS, XS Max, XR, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max don’t require a 3rd party app to read NFC since they have NFC reading capabilities right from the Home screen. All the models from iPhone 7 onwards also have NFC write capabilities with the help of an associated app since the fall of 2019 with the release of iOS 13.

Has
NFC
Card
Emulation
NFC
Payments
Reads
NFC
Writes
NFC
iPhone 11, 11 Pro,
11 Pro Max
iPhone XS,
XS Max, XR
iPhone X, 8,
8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus
✓*
iPhone 6, 6 Plus,
6S, 6S Plus, SE
iPhone 5S, 5C,
5, 4S, 4, 3GS, 3G
Data via: bluebite.com

So, it stands to reason that all users of the iPhone 7 and onward should be able to use CarKey.


Which Cars will be Compatible with CarKey?

Since CarKey is based on NFC (Near Fields Communication) tech, all cars with a fully implemented system for the same should be compatible with CarKey. But in addition to that, the cars should also have an app from the manufacturer for your iPhone that will support CarKey. So, the cars that already have NFC will not require any new hardware if the manufacturer updates their app to support CarKey.

It is also being speculated that Apple would be working with automobile makers to make CarKey a factory-installed feature like CarPlay. It is still early to say anything, but CarKey is expected to be released to the public with the release of iOS 13.4 later this year.