The 2020 iPhone 12 has already leaked extensively and it details the biggest internal overhaul in generations. But now Apple has accidentally revealed something which may just convince millions of iPhone and Apple Watch users there’s no need to upgrade.
Apple iPhone 12: Everything We Know So Far [Updated]
Picked up by 9to5Mac, Apple accidentally left code in its newly released iOS 13.4 beta for ‘CarKey’, an unannounced all-new service which has the potential to transform the automotive landscape by enabling iPhone and Apple Watch owners to use their devices as digital car keys.
02/07 Update: despite Apple releasing iOS 13.4 beta 1 with sparse release notes, a deep dive finds that this is shaping up to be a significant release. CarKey is the obvious hidden headliner, but there’s also the long awaited return of iCloud Folder Sharing (which was shelved after featuring in early iOS 13 betas), a redesign of the Mail UI (which reverses the bizarre decision in iOS 13 to position the reply and delete keys together) and new Memoji stickers. Finally, a big one: iOS 13.4 will introduce universal iOS/macOS/tvOS app purchases letting developers bundle together apps for all three platforms for a single, discounted purchase.
02/09 Update: the leak of CarKey in iOS 13.4 couldn’t have come at a better time because if you had planned to upgrade to Apple’s next new iPhone (the iPhone SE2), bad news has broken over the weekend. Nikkei reports that plans by Foxconn (Apple’s largest manufacturing partner) to reopen its factories on Monday has been rejected by Chinese authorities concerned about the continued spread of the Coronavirus and, in particular, the potential of close-proximity factory environments to accelerate this. Apple has also extended the closure of its own Apple stores in China until at least February 15. At this stage, the launch of the iPhone SE2 (also dubbed the iPhone 9), is understood to be still going ahead next month but major questions have to be asked about potential stock levels at launch. The good news is iOS 13.4 should arrive before then and the arrival of CarKey might just make you feel better about holding onto your current model at little longer.
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Strings of code inside iOS 13.4 explain that CarKey will work just like Apple Pay with a user authenticating via biometrics then holding their iPhone / Apple Watch to a reader in the car. Further code strings in iOS 13.4 also show CarKey is at an advanced stage with options for a CarKey Express Mode for quick unlocking (possibly for use in an emergency), CarKey sharing with others, an app interface (below) which looks similar to Apple Pay and detailed lines of setup instructions. As 9to5Mac notes, this looks ready to roll out officially with iOS 13.4 in the next 4-6 weeks.
How could Apple be ready to launch something which appears to require cars with specific CarKey-compatible hardware? Because Apple is already a member of the Car Connectivity Consortium, which is working on a universal standard for NFC-based digital car keys. Other CCC members include BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen as well as LG, Panasonic and Samsung which would presumably be working on third-party systems to fit into all makes of cars.
Looking for a smoking gun? The CCC states it is “developing a [new] 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.” The only smartphones in the world right now with UWB? The iPhone 11 range. To date, Apple’s UWB chip has caused more problems than solutions, but the company has long promised it is “going to lead to amazing new capabilities.”
And the potential here is mind boggling. Not just for personal car ownership (where you can already find similar technology in apps from Tesla and others) but as a universal Apple car key across multiple brands for car hire, car sharing and more.
So forget the iPhone 12, the most exciting iPhone upgrade of 2020 could well be the one you’re about to receive for free in a few weeks.