Last month Apple accidentally leaked one of its best iPhone upgrades in years. And now Apple has unwittingly told us more about it.
Apple iPhone 12 concept render
The culprit is iOS 14, which cannot stop revealing Apple secrets and, thanks to the eagled-eyed 9to5Mac, the first real-world plans have been learned about Apple’s ambitious CarKey iPhone upgrade. CarKey will allow owners to unlock and even share their cars with others via their phones, and now it appears Apple has landed one of the biggest car makers in the world as its launch partner.
03/25 Update: another secret Apple project has leaked today via the increasingly prolific Jon Prosser with news that Apple is trying to revive its failed AirPower wireless charging mat for iPhones, AirPods and the Apple Watch. The crucial consequence of this is for the iPhone, with Prosser indicating that Apple prefers to make its future iPhones port-less, rather than switch out the Lightning port for USB-C. Interestingly, Prosser says Apple is using the same ‘Callisto’ codename for the revival of AirPower (which suggests the company never truly considered it dead), and is moving to a design with “less but larger transmitter coils than V.1” as it attempts to reduce the overheating side-effects which derailed the project originally. Apple’s success or failure with this looks set to have far reaching consequences on iPhone designs for years to come.
9to5Mac explains the Apple iOS 14 beta code it attained makes it clear that BMW is going to be the first CarKey partner. The carmaker also issued no denial when quizzed about its involvement in the project by 9to5Mac and even directed the site to its plans to work with the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) which, as keen observers will already know, has partnered with Apple.
And here’s where things get really interesting: CCC partners also include General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen as well as LG, Panasonic and Samsung who appear to be working on the third-party systems to fit into any make of car. So what gives Apple the lead on this? Ultra-Wideband (UWB).
The CCC states it is “developing a [smart car key] specification based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in combination with Ultra-Wideband (UWB) to enable passive keyless access and to allow secure and accurate positioning.” Only three smartphones in the world have a UWB chip: the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Apple CarKey app found hidden inside Apple iOS betas
Apple has long teased that UWB is “going to lead to amazing new capabilities” without delivering anything particularly amazing, until now. But CarKey would fulfil that promise in fine style: a universal, biometrically secure digital iPhone car key that can work across brands. It has the potential to kickstart a revolution in how car hire and car sharing (both within families and entrepreneurially) can work. Tesla has a similar system with its smartphone app, but that is limited to Tesla.
So how long do we have to wait for this seemingly Sci-Fi tech? About six months. While evidence of CarKey was first found in a beta of iOS 13.4, that launched today with no references to CarKey whatsoever. So, understandably in the current climate, it looks like Apple has pushed it into the release of iOS 14 in September.
And while Apple’s 2020 launch plans are ambitious, with an all-new $399 iPhone 9 and supercharged iPhone 12, for the millions of iPhone 11 owners already out there I think their best upgrade this year will come for free and it could change how you use your car, forever.
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