Apple CarKey lets you share your car keys by sending a text

iPhone 11 Pro Max
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple has just released a new beta for iOS 13.4 that includes a new AppleKeys feature that lets users unlock, lock or start their cars using their iPhone or Apple Watch. The most interesting part? You can share these virtual keys.

As spotted by MacRumors an in-progress ‘CarKey’ feature will allow you to open and start cars that are equipped with NFC sensors, using a virtual key stored in the Apple Wallet app. This feature first in Beta 1 of iOS 13.4, but now there is more details.

With iOS 13.4, you are also able to share keys via the Messages app, although this feature looks to be disabled for group conversations. These keys can then be used via an iPhone or Apple Watch, and can be given permanently to someone you trust, or temporarily if the person you’re sending the key to doesn’t need or shouldn’t have permanent access.

Like Apple Pay, you authorize the CarKey with your phone’s biometric sensor. That will be Face ID in the case of recent iPhones including current iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, or Touch ID on older models. There’s also an ‘Express Mode’ that doesn't require authentication, much like you can use Apple Pay on certain public transport networks without unlocking the phone.

Naturally, Apple will need to work with vehicle manufacturers to make this technology work. The good news is that because the CarPlay interface is found in hundreds of vehicles, Apple has existing relationships with many of the world’s major car companies, so this shouldn’t take too much effort to persuade them to add the requisite NFC pads for unlocking and starting their cars.

Apple as part of the Car Connectivity Consortium, is well placed to use the industry group’s latest digital key standards, which make use of the U1 ultra-wide band connectivity chip found in the iPhone 11 series.

There’s going to be an Apple event held on March 31, or so the rumors say. This could be the time Apple gives CarKey and its other iOS 13.4 features a proper introduction, along with the iPhone SE 2. Otherwise, it’ll likely be WWDC 2020 in June where Apple debuts it alongside a more significant operating system refresh.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.