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Apple iOS 13.4 beta offers CarKey feature, lets you unlock your car from your phone

It's unclear if the feature will also extend to starting or turning on your lights like some manufacturer apps do.

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Apple's latest iOS 13 beta is bringing a new CarKey feature that will let you unlock your car's doors -- if it's compatible.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

More and more cars are beginning to offer the ability to lock and unlock doors, start the engine or honk the horn using manufacturer-designed apps. Tesla and Volvo were relatively early adopters in this. One thing we haven't seen yet is those features being baked into your smartphone.

According to a report Wednesday by 9 to 5 Mac, that could be about to change. Specifically, the publication says it's found a new feature called CarKey in the iOS 13.4 beta that was released on Wednesday, which makes use of your phone's near-field communication system (NFC) to communicate with compatible cars.

Because the feature is a part of iOS and uses existing hardware, it should -- in theory, anyway -- work both with the iPhone and, maybe even more conveniently, with your Apple Watch. Unfortunately, the iPad doesn't have NFC capability, so we're being cruelly denied the joy of watching people furiously wave their iPad Pro in front of their car's door handle.

An interesting quirk is that like transit passes stored in your Apple Wallet, the feature won't require the phone to be unlocked with Face ID. This seems like an unusual choice for Apple to make, and we wouldn't be surprised if this gets changed. However, as it is, this feature would work with a phone with a dead battery, which would be a good thing in some situations.

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