Apple tries to jump-start virtual Car Key feature


Apple tries to jumpstart virtual Car Key feature
Apple wants to make your iPhone into your car key, if it can get automakers to cooperate.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

Remember Car Key digital car keys? Possibly not. Because ever since Apple announced the feature — which would let users unlock and start their cars with iPhone or Apple Watch — in 2020, it’s gone essentially nowhere. But a new Car Keys Tests application seems to indicate that the company wants to make its virtual car key system more widely available.

For that, it needs the help of automakers. The new app is part of that drive.

Apple hopes to crank up its virtual Car Key feature

Car Key uses NFC to allow iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock automobiles. If the car supports it, that is. The list of supported vehicles is short, including only a handful of BMW and Kia models.

Clearly hoping to increase availability, Apple added Car Keys Tests to the App Store this week. It’s a private listing that can only be reached by direct link.

“Use the Car Keys Tests app to test and validate connection, performance, and other key requirements for the certification process of the vehicles you develop that incorporate Apple digital car keys technology,” says the official description.

Only time will tell if Apple will be able to convince more automakers to adopt its virtual car key tech. But they might be reluctant to do so considering Cupertino is working hard to go into direct competition with them with the upcoming Apple Car.

iPhone Wallet app could replace everything

Replacing car keys with an iPhone or Apple Watch with a digital version in the Wallet app is all part of a larger plan to cement Apple devices into users’ everyday lives.

For instance, the long-term intent of Apple Pay is to replace credit cards and cash with the Wallet app. And U.S. states can replace driver’s licenses with digital versions in the Wallet app.

If Apple gets its way, someday instead of loading your pockets and purse with items you’ll need during the day, they’ll all be on your iPhone or Apple Watch.



Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.