It’s been nearly three years since Apple first announced that it would be turning your iPhone into a car key. Given that the tech only worked on a few select BMWs until Kia and Genesis adopted it last year, it’s safe to say the project hasn’t exactly been a rousing success. But Apple hasn’t given up on CarKey, and in fact seems to be doubling down — building a whole new app to try and entice automakers into its digital ecosystem.
Recently, a new app popped up in the iOS App Store, a secret one that you won’t find by searching. It’s a testing app, designed to help automakers ensure their cars are playing nice with Apple’s near-field communication tech — and, in turn, help ensure Apple functionality ends up in new models. It seems Apple is trying to lower the barrier to entry for automakers. Perhaps, if CarKey integration gets easier, more companies will take the plunge.
But just because automakers can implement this functionality, will they? The NFC standard used by Apple’s CarKey really only works within about two inches from phone to receiver — drivers would actually have to tap their phone to their car, rather than just walking up to the door with a proximity key in their pocket. True, you could throw the app on your Apple Watch and leave your phone safely tucked in your jeans, but are you really going to spend hundreds on a watch when you already own a car key?
Apple’s doing everything it can to entice new automakers to the CarKey ecosystem, but the simple truth is that the ecosystem itself might the problem. It’s a bit of a solution in search of a problem, one that isn’t really better than any other existing option.