Secret App Proves Apple Wants iPhones to Kill Off Car Keys ASAP

The adoption of Apple's Car Key stagnates 6 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
The new app that's now on the App StoreThe new app that's now on the App StoreThe new app that's now on the App StoreThe new app that's now on the App StoreThe new app that's now on the App Store
We’ve known for a while that Apple wants iPhones to replace traditional car keys, but given that work on this front hasn’t made the expected progress, a new app recently published on the App Store is supposed to help this strategy gain traction.
Called Car Keys Tests, the new application is specifically aimed at automakers who want to integrate digital car key functionality into their vehicles.

Launched in July 2020 with much fanfare, the digital car key push was seen by many as a game changer for the automotive industry. Apple joined forces with BMW to showcase the Car Key feature, promising that more carmakers would jump on this bandwagon and give up on traditional keys for an iPhone.

This didn’t happen, as the adoption of the Car Key feature is still making progress at an unexpectedly slow pace for an Apple product. At the moment, only select Hyundai and Kia models feature digital key support in addition to the BMWs that were used to pioneer this innovative functionality.

Apple Car Key allows vehicle owners to unlock the doors with an iPhone instead of traditional keys. Depending on the car, the feature may also support starting the engine.

Due to slow adoption, Apple is now trying to make it more enticing by bringing the official testing app to the App Store. Called Car Keys Tests, it showed up on the App Store this week after previously being distributed directly to carmakers who expressed their interest in this technology.

As Apple explains, the application’s main role is to allow carmakers to test and validate the connection, performance, and other requirements for the adoption of the digital car keys technology. In plain English, any automaker interested in eventually bringing this feature to their cars can now install the app and test the functionality without having to reach out to Apple to request access. Apple requires companies to be enrolled in the Made for iPhone program to adopt the company's digital car key technology.

The app does not appear in searches conducted on the App Store, so carmakers can reach it only with a direct link.

The recently discovered app shows that Apple is not pleased with how the adoption of this innovative piece of technology went over the last years. The company likely sees Car Key as a way to accelerate its expansion in the automotive sector, especially as it’s also believed to be working on its own vehicle.

Apple Car is expected to launch in 2025, at the earliest, with an announcement projected to be made either this year or in 2024.

In the meantime, Apple isn't the only company investing in digital car keys. Samsung has also brought UWB tech to its phones, but its push is experiencing slow adoption as well. Samsung's technology is available on just one model from Genesis, the GV60.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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