iOS 16.4 could ditch NFC Car Key support for older iPhones and Apple Watches

Apple iPhone with BMW car key
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's latest iOS 16.4 beta appears to suggest that Apple is getting ready to remove NFC support from its Car Key technology.

Apple Car Key allows people to lock, unlock, and start their compatible cars using nothing more than an iPhone or an Apple Watch. But some of those devices will lose support for the feature in the future if code found in iOS 16.4 beta 3 is any indication.

If true, NFC-based Car Key support will be removed, leaving only devices with Ultra Wideband (UWB) chips working.

No NFC for you

9to5Mac reports that it has discovered code in IOS 16.4 that suggests a future software release will drop support for NFC further down the line. "More specifically, new strings added to the iPhone operating system say that a 'car is not compatible with this iPhone/Apple Watch model' for devices that are NFC-only compatible," the report says.

If this comes to fruition it will mean that a number of devices will be cut off from Car Key support if they update to the new software. Only the iPhone 11 and newer and the Apple Watch Series 6 and newer have UWB chips inside, and they're the ones that will be needed for continued Car Key functionality.

That also means that the iPhone SE won't be supported, a phone which is rumored to be getting a refresh of its own — possibly with a UWB chip built in. If that's the case, buyers won't need to pick up Apple's best iPhones or Apple Watches just to unlock their cars.

It's important to note that this doesn't appear to suggest that iOS 16.4 will be the cut-off, and the change isn't live in this latest third beta. But the groundwork is there for the change to take place in a future update, possibly iOS 17. If all goes according to previous calendars we can expect Apple to announce iOS 17 during WWDC in or around June.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.