Someone Invented a Phone Accessory That Replaces Your Car Key

PhoneFob design 6 photos
Photo: Kickstarter
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I know what you think: why use a phone accessory to replace the car key when you can use the phone itself for the same thing?
Digital car keys are slowly taking over, but it's not a secret that their adoption is low. UWB technology is already available on most modern phones, but digital car keys also require a new car model to offer support for this feature.

As a result, carmakers working with companies like Apple and Samsung bring digital car key support only to new-generation models. However, the tech costs big bucks and is typically offered only on premium cars.

Someone on Kickstarter believes that a phone accessory replacing the traditional car key is a better option. A recent project brings us a phone accessory called PhoneFob. Its purpose is brilliant, and I'm surprised the campaign didn't reach its funding goal on day one – maybe the design isn't the best, but I'm obviously subjective.

Before delving into details, here's why the PhoneFob inventors believe that a phone accessory makes more sense compared to digital car keys. While the shortcomings of traditional car keys are obvious, as losing them is still everybody's main fear, digital car keys could let you down when you need them the most. The PhoneFob creators explain that digital car keys have one major drawback: when you run out of phone battery, you could lose access to your car – some phone makers have resolved this problem by allowing the digital car keys to work even when running on the power reserve.

PhoneFob design
Photo: Kickstarter
However, they claim that having your car key attached to your phone is the most convenient approach because you already carry the device with you wherever you go. People are more prone to lose their car keys than the mobile device, and accessories like a smartwatch make it easier to find a lost phone.

Their proposal is the Magnetic PhoneFob, a phone accessory that attaches to the back of your phone and replaces the traditional car key.

How it does that is not everybody's cup of tea. PhoneFob needs you to transfer the car key's internals, including the mainboard and the chip, to a specially designed accessory that is then integrated into the device. PhoneFob attaches to the back of the phone magnetically, but the parent company says it's also working with another company to create a dedicated phone case that can be used with phones that do not offer this option – such as iPhones with MagSafe.

PhoneFob design
Photo: Kickstarter
Once PhoneFob is attached to the back of the phone, you can use it as a traditional car key. It is not connected to the mobile device, so it doesn't eat up its battery, but it only stays there to make sure you won't lose it. You can press every physical button like on a traditional car key.

PhoneFob was designed with Tesla models in mind, but the internal design can be customized to accommodate the components of any traditional car key. The parent company says it will prioritize the designs based on demand once mass production begins.

While the design looks awkward, I'm surprised by how thin PhoneFob can be, especially considering it uses the internals of a traditional car key. It shows that carmakers don't spend much time optimizing the design of their keys – I use a Renault key card, and it's fairly thin, albeit its dimensions are a major pain in the neck, especially when not carrying my wallet with me.

PhoneFob design
Photo: Kickstarter
However, while PhoneFob is a good idea whose design needs further polishing – and this is possible if the crowdfunding campaign succeeds and the parent company raises the necessary funds to start mass production – the biggest challenge is to make the transition from a traditional car key to the phone accessory. Transferring all internals isn't an easy job, albeit it may seem so for tech-savvy people. PhoneFob can't become a widely adopted product without finding an easy way to transfer all components, and maybe the company should create detailed video tutorials to assist customers whenever they create a new model.

Meanwhile, PhoneFob is far from its goal of entering mass production. The parent company hoped to raise $88,000 as part of this Kickstarter campaign, but it could only raise $6,300 thanks to 29 backers. The campaign still has 17 days to go until it ends, but all signs suggest that PhoneFob might need to come up with an improved design to convince netizens to support the idea.

If you want to secure your PhoneFob, you can join the campaign with a $39 donation for the magnetic phone case. The magnetic PhoneFob can be yours for $79, and the owner says donors must mention the year, the make, and the model of their car when making a pledge. This is the only way to adapt the design to each car.

If everything goes according to the plan, PhoneFob should start shipping in September this year.
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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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