Apple and Google Push Support for Digital Car Keys

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“Phone, keys, wallet,” is the essential list of items that people check for as they’re about to leave the house. A few tech giants and leading automakers have taken initiative on making digital car keys more common, which may soon reduce the list to, “Phone, wallet.”
Apple and Google recently made announcements that will make digital car key support more widespread. Now, you can use your smartphone as a car key.
Person in a gray business suit and white shirt holding a mobile phone.
Digital car keys let you unlock your car with your smartphone | Twenty20

Apple and Google work to make digital car keys mainstream

Gizmodo reported that earlier this month, Apple revealed that they would release new updates for digital car keys in iOS 15. This would allow iPhones to connect to cars through ultra-wideband (UWB) in addition to existing NFC support.
Google announced similar plans for Android 12, which will improve the range that digital car keys can reach. These updates from Apple and Google will likely happen later this fall, but they’ll be limited to certain vehicles and devices.
For Android users, the Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra will support UWB. The standard Galaxy S21 was not included since UWB would drive up the price of the phone. For Apple users, UWB support is available for iPhones beginning with the iPhone 11.
Currently, BMW and Tesla are the two leading automakers in terms of digital car key capabilities. Ford and Hyundai have recently started exploring digital car key support as well.

How do digital car keys work?

Digital car keys allow you to lock or unlock your car, or start your engine once your smartphone or other compatible device is authenticated. Typically, you’ll set it up using an app associated with your vehicle, and unlock your car door by holding the device near the door handle. J.D. Power reported that companies have taken different approaches to digital car keys.
Lincoln lets you set up a backup passcode through the infotainment system to start your car in case you lose your device or the battery dies. Some vehicles also come with a backup key that looks like a credit card which you can keep in your wallet.
UWB lets you unlock your car door and start the engine from more than 100 feet away. You’ll be able to turn on the AC in the car even when you’re inside the house. Digital car keys may be convenient, but they do have some drawbacks.

Other considerations for digital car keys

Tesla released their Model 3 with only a digital car key at the start, but they started to offer physical key fobs as a result of customer demand. Digital car keys may increase security concerns among owners, since it’s possible for this technology to be hacked. It may also mean that if a person steals your phone, they can access your car and everything in it.
Another potential drawback is that it will cost much more to replace digital or smart car keys than it would to replace traditional car keys. Edmunds reported that keyless entry remotes can cost several hundred dollars to replace. However, digital car key technology is still new, and it will likely improve as time goes on.
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