At its annual Google I/O event in 2021, Google announced the launch of Android digital car key, which would come as part of the Android 12 OS update. While the ability to use a compatible Android phone to lock, unlock, and even start a vehicle has been around for some time, this new feature available in the "coming months" would make it possible to do so without even having to take out your phone.
How does Android digital car key work?
With an Android digital car key, your phone becomes a digital key for a compatible vehicle. It works using Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology, so you can hold your phone up to the door handle to lock or unlock the vehicle. Once inside, you can also place the phone on the car key reader and press the "start" button to get the engine running.
With Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology and compatible phones, which the Android digital car key will soon support, you would be able to accomplish this without holding the phone up to the lock or key reader.
Which phones and cars work with an Android digital car key?
Android digital car key currently only works with select Google phones, including the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro, which we dubbed the "best $900 phone you'll find anywhere." Both must be running Android 12.
It also works with select Samsung Galaxy S21 series phones when running Android 12. The only Galaxy S21 series that currently feature UWB technology is the Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra. Other S21 series Galaxy devices, however, would work with Android digital car keys using NFC.
In terms of vehicles, the Android digital car key only works with BMWs, including models made from 2020 to the present. However, it should work with most, if not all, BMWs made over the last couple of years.
Google confirmed it plans to make more phones and cars compatible with Android digital car keys later this year, but there's no specific launch date or models announced at this time. With that said, there aren't many other Android phones sold in the U.S. that support UWB, aside from the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 2, as well as the Google Pixel 6 Pro. Future Google Pixel phones are expected to include it as well. Android digital car key, however, could still theoretically work with other Android phones, but only using NFC.
Your new car remote
Lock, unlock, start
Lock, unlock, and even start your compatible BMW vehicle using a Google Pixel 6 Pro, which effectively acts as a key for the car.
More than a phone
Control your car
Along with being a stellar smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ is among the few with Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology to work with the new features of the Android digital car key.
How can Android digital car key come in handy?
Android digital car key will come in handy if you have one of the best Android phones that works with the feature. The official list includes all of the compatible models from Google and Samsung. Rather than fumbling for your car keys or even car key fob, magically unlock the door once you're in proximity to the vehicle. Granted, this works with many key fobs on higher-end and even some mid-level cars already. But it's one less thing to bring with you and potentially lose or misplace.
It also gives more power to your phone, which acts not only as a communications device, a portal to the internet, and a digital wallet, but also your trusty car key.
While the feature only works with select BMW vehicles right now, it will become available on more cars and even more phones as it expands. It will also become commonplace to use your phone as a car key.
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Christine Persaud has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's working on her latest fitness program, binging a new TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets she's reviewing, or spending time with family and friends. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.