The 2020 iPhone 12 has already leaked extensively and it details the biggest internal overhaul in generations. But now Apple has accidentally revealed something with even bigger repercussions for millions of iPhone and Apple Watch users.
Picked up by 9to5Mac, Apple accidentally left code in its newly released iOS 13.4 beta for ‘CarKey’, an unannounced all-new service which has the potential to transform the automotive landscape by enabling iPhone and Apple Watch owners to use their devices as digital car keys.
Strings of code inside iOS 13.4 explain that CarKey will work just like Apple Pay with a user authenticating via biometrics then holding their iPhone / Apple Watch to a reader in the car. Further code strings in iOS 13.4 also show CarKey is at an advanced stage with options for a CarKey Express Mode for quick unlocking (possibly for use in an emergency), CarKey sharing with others, an app interface (below) which looks similar to Apple Pay and detailed lines of setup instructions. As 9to5Mac notes, this looks ready to roll out officially with iOS 13.4 in the next 4-6 weeks.
How could Apple be ready to launch something which appears to require cars with specific CarKey-compatible hardware? Because Apple is already a member of the Car Connectivity Consortium, which is working on a universal standard for NFC-based digital car keys. Other CCC members include BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen as well as LG, Panasonic and Samsung which would presumably be working on third-party systems to fit into all makes of cars.
Looking for a smoking gun? The CCC states it is “developing a [new] specification based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in combination with Ultra-Wideband (UWB) to enable passive keyless access and to allow secure and accurate positioning.” The only smartphones in the world right now with UWB? The iPhone 11 range. To date, Apple’s UWB chip has caused more problems than solutions, but the company has long promised it is “going to lead to amazing new capabilities.”
And the potential here is mind boggling. Not just for personal car ownership (where you can already find similar technology in apps from Tesla and others) but as a universal Apple car key across multiple brands for car hire, car sharing and more.
So forget the iPhone 12, the most exciting iPhone upgrade of 2020 could well be the one you’re about to receive for free in a few weeks.