iOS 16.4 points out that the Car Key feature drops NFC support

Car Key was introduced in 2020 with iOS 13.6, and as the name suggests, this feature allows car owners to 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. Here’s what the latest beta of iOS 16.4 suggests.

Car key may no longer work via NFC in new cars

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

For those unfamiliar, NFC (or Near Field Communication) is the same technology used for Apple Pay, which requires holding the device close to the reader to establish a connection and send 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 on the basis of Ultra Wideband technology.

When it comes to car key, the feature works with iPhone XS or newer and Apple Watch Series 5 or newer 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 need a device with the U1 chip, namely:

  • 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 excludes not only older iPhone and Apple Watch models, but also iPhone SE and Apple Watch SE, as neither has the U1 chip. Of course, it may be a while before this change takes effect, but Apple is already preparing its operating system for that.

Car key

More about iOS 16.4

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

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

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