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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

WWDC 2021: Who needs keys and a wallet when you have an iPhone?

Last year Apple introduced Car Keys, which allows Apple devices to unlock and start cars that are equipped with the proper technology. While it was clear that the first wave of cars to support this feature would use the same NFC reader technology used by Apple Pay, it was also obvious that Ultra Wideband (UWB) would be the technology that would ultimately be more predominant.

Here we are a year later, and Apple will officially support UWB car keys in iOS and watchOS, for all devices equipped with a U1 chip. Because UWB can provide much more precise position data and longer range than NFC, they’ll be able to work while you keep them in your bag or pocket. UWB-equipped cars will even know which device is entering the car through the driver side-door, to unlock personalized settings like seat and mirror positioning, and won’t allow the car to be started unless someone with a valid key is inside the car.

UWB’s enhanced range and location savvy will also allow cars to react when you are getting close, but aren’t yet within unlocking range, to do things like turn on headlights and start climate control. Likewise, cars can set out a “lock zone”, to automatically lock your car when you step a certain distance away.

Though UWB is vital in determining positioning, most data transfer between the car and the iPhone or Apple Watch comes over Bluetooth LE, including initial authentication and exchange of cryptographic keys. Car Key can also use that data connection to provide access to remote keyless entry controls right within the Wallet app.

And since Apple is a part of the Connected Car Consortium industry group, all this work is based on standards that should mean that in a few years, lots of cars will support this technology.

Also forthcoming later this year is support for Home Key, which appears to be very much like Car Key was last year: an NFC-based way for iPhones and Apple Watches to unlock your front door with a tap. I’m looking forward to that, not just because I suspect that many existing smart locks will be upgradeable via a new NFC-savvy module, but because it’s a lot cheaper to buy a new lock than a new car.

What’s not in your Wallet?

Expired passes remain, but are hidden.

Speaking of the iPhone and Apple Watch replacing things that would otherwise live in your pockets, Apple’s rolling out updates to Wallet and Apple Pay this fall.

If you’ve ever laboriously downloaded individual passes for an airplane flight or a concert or sporting event ticket, you’ll be happy to hear that Apple is finally supporting the downloading of multiple passes in a single file. Behind the scenes, it’s literally just a Zip archive full of individual passes. But the net result is, you should eventually be able to click once and get all your tickets.

Wallet in iOS 15 will also hide expired passes. (Relax, people who keep old passes as souvenirs, they’ll still be there, and accessible via a View Expired Passes link at the bottom of the screen. I still have my pass for Game 5 of the 2014 World Series, so I’m one of you.)

Apple Pay updates for this fall include a new Apple Pay interface built in SwiftUI. Apple has added a simplified way to add a payment card right from the Apple Pay sheet, which is pretty important since once someone has decided to pay, the last thing you want to do is make them cancel out of that screen! Payment information has been expanded to include discounts and subtotals, and you will be able to enter coupon codes during the payment process—another way to keep people from exiting the Apple Pay screen when they’ve already decided to pay.

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