- Image: BMW Press.

Let's talk about Apple CarKey: Would you trust your phone to unlock your car?

At their recent WWDC event, Apple revealed that iOS 14 will enable you to unlock your car with your phone!

2d ago


Apple recently announced at their WWDC 2020 event an addition to Apple Wallet called 'CarKey' - a new feature that is being integrated into iOS 14. The car and tech communities have been split regarding whether they think it's a good idea to unlock your car with your phone or not. In this article, we'll be taking a look at both sides of the argument, and deciding whether Apple CarKey is a good idea, or a silly gimmick.

How does it work?

Before we decide whether CarKey is going to be a good idea, let's talk about how it works.

Cars that are compatible with the CarKey feature are currently being produced by Ford and BMW, but more manufacturers will be added in the future after the technology is perfected. These new Ford or BMW cars will feature NFC (Near-Field Communication) chips in the door handles to be able to communicate with your iPhone.

Your digital keys will be stored in your Apple Wallet, which is activated by pressing the Home Button twice on iPhones with a home button, or double-pressing the lock button on the notched-iPhones. You will then be prompted to use Touch ID or Face ID (depending on the phone you have), and tap on the card with your car's model name on it.

Image: BMW Press.

Image: BMW Press.

Once this has been authenticated, the user simply has to tap their phone on the door handle, and the car will unlock. The user then has to put their phone on the small charging pad in front of the gear stick, and the car will be able to start via a push-to-start button. Interesting stuff!

This feature will be released in September as a part of iOS 14 and will be compatible with the iPhone XR, iPhone XS/XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max, the iPhone SE (2nd Edition) and the Apple Watch Series 5.

In a press release, BMW said "BMW is excited to announce the availability of Digital Key for iPhone in 45 countries for a broad range of models: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4 if manufactured after July 1st 2020."

Now, let's take a look at some of the good reasons as to why you would choose to use Apple CarKey!

The Positives

Firstly, you will no longer be required to take your keys everywhere you go - much like how Apple Pay doesn't force you to take your credit card with you everywhere. Most people carry their mobile phones with them anyway, so using this feature means there is one less thing that you have to carry with you.

Another benefit to using Apple CarKey is the ability to share your keys with other family members via iMessage. Instead of driving to your local dealership, iMessage will securely send the key to a contact of your choice. The original key owner can set restrictions on the key, or give full access; meaning some family members may only be granted permission to unlock the car, while others may be granted access to unlock the car, and drive it!

The security of CarKey is stored in the internals of the iPhone where all of your personal, private data is stored, such as the 'Health' app's information. This means that the data from your car is in a secure vault, making it extremely unlikely that hackers can access your car.

Finally, CarKey gives users the option to turn off your keys remotely via iCloud if you were to lose your phone, or if anything else were to happen!

The key to your car is now stored in the Apple Wallet, alongside your credit cards, debit cards and old plane tickets you never deleted! Image: BMW Press.

The key to your car is now stored in the Apple Wallet, alongside your credit cards, debit cards and old plane tickets you never deleted! Image: BMW Press.

Overall, Apple Carkey has a lot of positives in the form of giving extra convenience to car owners - but is it a good enough replacement for regular keys?

The Negatives

As with all new features, there are some negative points that can be considered with Apple's latest feature.

Firstly, what would happen if your phone died while you were out, and you didn't have your keys or a power-bank on you? Would you have to go to a store and ask for a charger? Would you be completely stuck? Emily Schubert, a senior manager for Apple's Car Experience Engineering claims that this is a feature that means you can leave your keys at home - though it doesn't seem to be a risk I would be willing to take! Obviously there is the user responsibility that they should charge their phone up before they leave the house; but it is still a factor to consider as phones can be used in all sorts of different ways.

Furthermore, what implications would there be if your iCloud account was hacked, perhaps due to an insecure password? Could the hacker remove keys from the account and leave you stranded? Could a hacker send themselves a key? Make sure your passwords are secure, everyone!

Another issue that could be found with Apple CarKey is the ability for signals to be intercepted. While we don't know exactly how the feature is coded (and we likely won't, since Apple would never release this information publicly), it is unknown whether the NFC signals are going to be encrypted or not. Since privacy is important for Apple, I expect the signals are encrypted; but what would a hacker be able to do if they intercepted a signal with their own NFC reader? Would they be able to unlock the car by re-sending these signals? Perhaps the app re-rolls a random number so that every time your car is unlocked via CarKey, a different signal is used? As I said, we will never know how this works, but we have seen hackers steal signals from physical keys in the past - we'll have to wait and see what happens when the feature is released to the world.

Closing thoughts

To close things off, I would like to mention a conversation I had with a family member when we were discussing CarKey after the Keynote. My family member asked 'What would happen if someone attacked you in the street? They could attack you and force you to scan your finger or face and steal your car!'

And while this is a valid point to be concerned about, you can also argue that CarKey would be more safe in this situation. If someone attacked you and took your keys, this person would be able to unlock and drive your car whenever they wanted to. Whereas, the CarKey feature would require you finger or face to be scanned to unlock the car every time, which is not something they could do even if they stole your car and phone.

And to conclude, my honest thoughts are that CarKey seems to be a bit of a gimmick. While the concept is useful, I can't see myself leaving my house without my keys - just in case my phone dies. Sure, this feature may be useful if you are taking a quick drive to the shop or into town; but I wouldn't rely on this feature for everyday driving...

Thank you for reading - be sure to let me know what you think of CarKey by voting in the above poll, as well as leaving a comment below! If you enjoyed this article and would like to see more from me, click here to see my profile. Why not check out my recent post 'Introducing the SCV12: Lamborghini's limited edition hypercar' by clicking here? Remember to stay safe, and stay inside.

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Comments (12)

  • Another day with another way to steal your belongings,

    What is next unlock your home doors with mobile phones,

    Are they making the people's life easier or making them all hell broke loose kind of situation here,

    Literally it looks like these people would even open the doors of our houses for the thieves and would command a welcome song with alexa or google home,

    It looks like after controlling everything the harraser would say to the victim,

    shall we play a game,

    through the Alexa and google Home,

    Day by day in the name of convenience they are compromising the personal life of a human being so that they can live under a constant fear of loosing some personal belonging with these types of untested unproven methods which instead of providing security making or paving way for thieves to make their lives easier and make their job even more easier so that they can make a successful career by stealing someone's hard earned belongings in a matter of seconds,

    Looks like after sometime the meaning of convenience would change,

    What is convenience,

    It is a matter of fooling yourself to the core by believeing these tech companies which would compromise the day to day activities of an individual,

    By introducing new tech features which are known to be convenient but in actual sense it is an compromise of an individual's belongings and a proper sense of convenience for the thieves and burgulars to escape in thin air by easily breaking in these machines and loot everything and escaping in thin air,

    So a convenience for thieves and a compromise for the customer should be the tagline for these tech company features shenanigans in the market,

    Day by day the meaning of convenience is becoming an antonyms,

    Or these tech companies are making people believe in their foolishness but in actual sense what the tech company meant is the opposite of what they introduce in the market,

      22 hours ago
    • Maybe these tech honchos would discuss or launch a book title their mistakes,

      Where they would discuss of how they didn't improve upgrade or rectify their core issues,

      But instead of that they in the name of features which is half baked at...

      Read more
        21 hours ago
    • There is also HomeKit for Your home doors to open using iPhone.

      Why is it always the nickable cars!! Damn it BMW WTF, your keycard lock/unlock doesn’t work properly on my car why medal with this shit.

      So we have a car that unlocks it’s self,...

      Read more
        12 hours ago
  • As an optional to the normal keys it would be a good idea. But as with other cars, we already have keyless cars that detect they key in the proximity of the car or inside the car. A phone will be more cumbersome than the remote key. Also, it will put more strain to the battery of the phone.

    It sound like the phones with infrared. Nice when you do not have the control for the tv but not better than a physical remote control. As with the key, it would be nice in case you forgot the keys inside or you want to have many keys inside in case a family member forgot a key, but not that practical.

      23 hours ago
  • Get ready for car theft to become a lot more violent. Heads and hands being chopped off.

      9 hours ago
  • This is probably one of the stupidest ideas from Apple. How much time would it require to unlock the car with this nonsense vs the current key? 5 seconds, 10 seconds? Good grief!

      13 hours ago
  • Yes. I have my phone on me at all times. Makes sense. I'm not a boomer

      13 hours ago