Google preps Digital Car Key support with latest Play services update

Google preps Digital Car Key support with latest Play services update

In March this year, Google formed the Android Ready SE Alliance to drive the adoption of digital keys and driver’s licenses. At I/O 2021 in May, Google then announced that it was adding Digital Car Key support in Android 12 to help you unlock your car with your phone. While the company gave us a brief overview of the feature during the event, we haven’t seen any mentions of it in Android 12 beta releases so far. But that might change soon.

An APK teardown can often predict features that may arrive in a future update of an application, but it is possible that any of the features we mention here may not make it in a future release. This is because these features are currently unimplemented in the live build and may be pulled at any time by the developers in a future build.


The latest Google Play Services update (v21.39.15) includes several new strings related to the Digital Car Key feature. This leads us to believe that Google might release the feature when it starts rolling out Android 12 stable builds to Pixel devices later this month.

<string name="dck_alerts_channel_description">Get alerts about digital car key</string>\n<string name="dck_alerts_channel_title">Important updates</string>\n<string name="dck_applet_aid">Owner</string>\n<string name="dck_hce_service_description">DCKF over NFC</string>\n<string name="dck_notification_name">System</string>\n<string name="dck_offhost_applet_service_description">Owner</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_download_check_internet_text">Check your internet connection</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_download_check_storage_button">Check storage settings</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_download_check_storage_text">Make sure you have enough free space</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_full_module_download_failure_non_retryable_notification_content">Get the latest version of Google Play services</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_full_module_download_failure_notification_title">"Couldn't install update"</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_full_module_download_failure_retryable_notification_content">Tap to check device settings</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_full_module_download_in_progress_notification_title">Updating your phone</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_module_incompatible_content">"This digital key isn't available on this phone"</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_module_incompatible_title">"Phone isn't supported"</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_module_unavailable_content">"This digital key isn't available in your region"</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_module_unavailable_title">"Region isn't supported"</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_synchronous_download_page_button_label">Update phone</string>\n<string name="dck_stub_synchronous_download_page_content">"This will install the digital car key service on your phone. You'll get a notification in a few minutes to continue setting up your key."</string>

As Google highlighted earlier, the strings confirm that the Digital Car Keys feature will use NFC to help you unlock your car. The code also reveals that the feature will only be available on select devices in specific regions at launch. Once it rolls out on compatible devices with a future Google Play Services update, users will see an update notification to help them set up the feature. Tapping on the notification will bring up a pop-up that states: “This will install the digital car key service on your phone. You’ll get a notification in a few minutes to continue setting up your key.”

The following string further reveals that users will be required to set up a screen lock on their devices to use the Digital Car Key feature.

<string name="tp_secure_keyguard_prompt_dck_body">"For your security, all cards and digital keys will be removed from Google Pay if you don't set a screen lock in the next 5 minutes."</string>

Interestingly, this string mentions that “all cards and digital keys will be removed from Google Pay if you don’t set a screen lock in the next 5 minutes,” suggesting that your digital car keys will be securely stored in the Google Pay app.

Google has previously confirmed that the Digital Car Keys feature will make use of both NFC and UWB. While the NFC implementation will require you to tap your phone on the car’s door to unlock it, the UWB solution will let you unlock your car without pulling your phone out of your pocket. The company has also confirmed that the feature will be available on select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy smartphones. We expect Google to share more information about the feature at the upcoming Pixel 6 launch event.

About author

Pranob Mehrotra
Pranob Mehrotra

A Literature and Linguistics graduate with a keen interest in everything Android. When not writing about tech, Pranob spends most of his time either playing League of Legends or lurking on Reddit.

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