Samsung Galaxy S21 Phones Could Replace Your Car Keys

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series of phones is finally here and soon you will be able to do more than just write text or browse social media with the new smartphone. Samsung is working with Audi, BMW, Ford and Genesis (the luxury division of Hyundai) to use the Galaxy S21 as a “digital key” instead of a traditional key fob.

Thanks to digital key technology, a paired smartphone can automatically unlock the doors when it is near a vehicle. Plus, a car can be started and driven as long as the phone is on board. It is similar to the keyless entry systems already offered by many automakers, but without a separate key fob.

The advantage of this technology is that it is completely hands-free and allows users to share access to a car with other people much more easily than by exchanging physical keys, Samsung said in a press release.

This function is already available for a handful of vehicles, including Tesla electric cars and the SUVs Aviator, Corsair, Nautilus and Navigator of the Ford luxury class Lincoln and the Hyundai Sonata from the parent brand of Genesis. Volvo demonstrated a digital key system years ago but is only now introducing it on certain models. Other automakers have apps that can remotely unlock a car and start the engine, but require a key fob to actually drive.

Samsung’s digital key will be based on Ultra Wideband (UWB) signals, the company said. Short pulses are sent between the device and a paired car to unlock the door. “Precise distance calculation” is used, added Samsung, presumably so you don’t accidentally unlock someone else’s car. Without UWB, drivers can also use near field communication (NFC), according to Samsung.

No specific startup timeline was mentioned for the Samsung Galaxy S21 digital key. The company only stated that it was working with its automaker partners to standardize UWB and other aspects of the interface. It is also unclear whether the digital key feature will be generally available or limited to certain models. Lincoln has at least shown that the technology can be easily added to existing models, with both Nautilus and Navigator receiving the brand’s “Phone As A Key” feature as part of relatively minor updates.

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