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Apple's iPhones and Apple Watches have supported NFC for some time now, and in the future, those NFC capabilities will be used to allow Apple users to lock, unlock, and start compatible NFC-enabled vehicles using the iPhone or Apple Watch in lieu of a physical key.

Apple calls this upcoming feature "CarKey" and this guide covers everything we know about how CarKey will work once it's released.

What is CarKey?
CarKey is a digital protocol that lets an ‌iPhone‌ or ‌Apple Watch‌ with NFC capabilities unlock, lock, start, and otherwise control an NFC-capable vehicle.

Cars do not have NFC functionality by default, so this is a feature that needs to be implemented by automobile manufacturers much like CarPlay.

What can be done with CarKey may vary by car manufacturer, but at a minimum, it seems to be able to unlock your car, lock your car, and start your car, which are the features available with a physical key.

How does CarKey work?
Many newer cars these days have key fobs that unlock and start a car just via proximity, and CarKey is a lot like that. CarKey is a digital version of a car key that's stored inside the Wallet app.


Staff member
It says it is for iPhone 11 or newer, running iOS 14.x - if and when automakers implement it.

How does this differ from keyless unlock/entry?