Your Galaxy S21 will be able to find and unlock cars from Audi, BMW, Ford, and Genesis

Your Galaxy S21 will be able to find and unlock cars from Audi, BMW, Ford, and Genesis

The smartphone has all but replaced the traditional wallet, and it’s about to replace your car keys, too. Samsung on Thursday announced plans to collaborate with a variety of automakers to enable a digital key experience on the new Galaxy S series.

Samsung said it’s partnering with Audi, BMW, Ford, and Genesis to allow Galaxy S21 series owners to unlock their car door with nothing but their phone. Simply approach a compatible vehicle and it will unlock. The process is made possible by UWB, but NFC is also supported.

“With precise distance calculation, Samsung’s UWB-enabled digital key sends short pulses between the mobile device and the paired car, unlocking the door once you reach it,” Samsung explained. “Without UWB, users will be able to use their compatible smartphones as a car key through NFC.”

Samsung Galaxy S21 series digital key image

Only the Galaxy S21 Plus, Galaxy S21 Ultra, and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra support UWB in Samsung’s lineup, which is required for more precise location tracking and the augmented reality “find my car” feature; the Galaxy S21 doesn’t include UWB, although you’ll still be able to unlock your car by tapping it to an NFC receiver on your car’s door handle, much like you do at a tap-to-pay terminal.

Samsung is working with industry consortia to standardize UWB and digital keys, including the Car Connectivity Consortium, where Apple is a leading member, and the FiRa Consortium, so these features won’t be exclusive to Samsung devices. Digital car keys should work with iPhones and other Android devices, too, and be able to seamlessly share digital keys across brands; it’s just a matter of standardizing the features and getting automakers onboard.

Apple previously adopted a digital key feature in partnership with BMW that used NFC, but it was only available in one model. The automaker actually today announced a new Digital Key Plus feature that will support UWB with the electric BMW iX. Once UWB becomes more widely available, we can expect more devices and vehicles to support digital keys, finally allowing consumers to ditch bulky key fobs.

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Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.