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iOS 16.4 hints at Car Key feature dropping NFC support

Car Key was introduced in 2020 with iOS 13.6, and as the name suggests, the feature lets car owners use their iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock the doors and even start the car. Currently, Car Key works with both NFC and Ultra Wideband (UWB) technologies, but Apple may drop support for NFC in the future. This is what the latest beta of iOS 16.4 suggests.

Car Key may no longer work via NFC with new cars

Code from iOS 16.4 beta 3 seen by 9to5Mac hints at Car Key dropping support for NFC technology in the future. More specifically, new strings added to the iPhone operating system say that a “car is not compatible with this iPhone/Apple Watch model” for devices that are NFC-only compatible.

For those unfamiliar, NFC (or near-field communication) is the same technology used for Apple Pay, in which the device needs to be held close to the reader to initiate a connection and transmit data. UWB, on the other hand, is a more modern and intelligent technology that can precisely measure the distance between two devices.

UWB is also more secure than NFC. Apple’s AirTag is an example of a device that works based on Ultra Wideband technology.

When it comes to Car Key, the feature works with iPhone XS or later and Apple Watch Series 5 or later as these devices are all equipped with NFC background tag reading technology. However, devices equipped with the U1 chip can take advantage of UWB technology for a better Car Key experience.

If new cars do indeed drop NFC support for Car Key, those vehicles will require a device with the U1 chip, which are:

  • iPhone 11 models
  • iPhone 12 models
  • iPhone 13 models
  • iPhone 14 models
  • Apple Watch Series 6
  • Apple Watch Series 7
  • Apple Watch Series 8
  • Apple Watch Ultra

As you can see, this not only excludes older iPhone and Apple Watch models but also iPhone SE and Apple Watch SE since neither of them features the U1 chip. Of course, it may still take time before this change takes effect, but Apple is already preparing its operating system for that.


More about iOS 16.4

iOS 16.4 comes with multiple new features. This includes dozens of new emoji, updates to the Music and Podcast apps, 5G Standalone support, new HomeKit architecture, previews of Mastodon links in Messages, and more. The update is expected to be released to the public sometime in March or April.

Spot any changes in today’s release of iOS 16.4 beta 3? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @9to5Mac.

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