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Smartphone as digital car key: Samsung collaborates with Audi, BMW, Ford and Genesis

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series of phones will serve as a digital key to unlock car doors on certain models of automobiles.

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The new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Image: Samsung

Soon, anyone with a Samsung Galaxy S21 series phone will be able to remotely open their car door if they drive an Audi, BMW, Ford or Genesis vehicle. Samsung announced on Thursday, as part of Samsung Unpacked, that it is working with those auto manufacturers to enable a digital key for Galaxy S21 series devices.

The availability of this feature will begin in “the near future” according to a Samsung press release. Cars will need to be equipped with either NFC or UWB (Ultra Wideband). The Galaxy S21 series of phones—the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra—are available starting Jan. 14 for pre-order and will start shipping on Jan. 29.

SEE: Samsung Galaxy S21 series: A guide to everything you need to know about the Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21+ Ultra (TechRepublic)

According to a Samsung press release, “With precise distance calculation, Samsung’s UWB-enabled digital key sends short pulses between the mobile device and the paired car, unlocking the door once you reach it. Without UWB, users will be able to use their compatible smartphones as a car key through NFC.”

Steven Hawk, director of product management for Samsung, said in an earlier briefing with the press, “UWB is an emerging technology that continues to evolve and develop. In August, we introduced Ultra Wideband technology on the Note 20 Ultra…Now, we’re expanding UWB, the digital key support on Galaxy S21 Ultra. Soon, you’ll be able to use Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy S21+ to automatically unlock your car doors without pulling out your keys. Thanks to our partnership with Google, we’ll be introducing another car integration as well.”

Hawk said, “We’re combining the Android Auto experience with SmartThings, for a seamless and comprehensive connected-car experience. Before arriving home, you can turn on the porch lights and even raise the temperature of your thermostat for a warm welcome on your arrival. “

Users will be able to share their digital key across smartphones regardless of brand and platform, according to the Samsung press release.

Pre-orders for the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ begin January 14 at 11 am ET. Between Jan. 14-28, consumers who pre-order can get $100 Samsung Credit with a Samsung Galaxy S21 and $150 Samsung Credit with a Galaxy S21+. All pre-orders will also include a free Galaxy SmartTag, which is the new tracking tag that Samsung also introduced at Unpacked. The phones will start shipping on Jan. 29.

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