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Apple's fancy home unlock feature won't support existing smart locks

Apple Home Key iOS

One of the party tricks Apple talked about at this year's WWDC is the ability to unlock your front door without tapping your Apple device on the smart lock. The iOS 18 update will support hands-free unlocking through the Home app, where you can simply walk up to the door with your iPhone or Apple Watch in your pocket.

The smart home feature will use Apple's U1 chip (available since iPhone 11) to unlock compatible smart locks automatically. Apple explained the feature in its own words:

For an effortless home entry experience, hands-free unlock with home keys leverages Ultra Wideband technology to allow users to instantly open supported entry locks as soon as they are six feet away from their door.

However, the reality of the hour is that there aren't any compatible smart locks fitted with a UWB (Ultra Wide Band) chip to support Apple's hands-free unlock feature, which is known to exist on the market. Multiple smart lock manufacturers, including Aqara, U-tec, Yale, August, Level, Lockly, and SwitchBot, confirmed to The Verge that their existing smart locks don't support UWB.

One of the makers, U-tec, told the publication that it's working on a new version of its Ultraloq smart lock with UWB support, which is expected to launch in the fourth quarter. Apple isn't the first company to bring hands-free unlocking to smart homes; the tech has been around for years in different versions. August Home was the first to develop the capability in 2013, the publication notes.

What's different in Apple's case is it uses a combination of UWB and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) in place of BLE, Wi-Fi, GPS, and a third-party app used in other solutions. The UWB chip allows an Apple device to talk directly to a compatible smart lock, eliminating the need to verify the location before unlocking the door.

The functionality is already available for Apple's digital car key, where the UWB chip is used to detect your presence near the car. Depending on the model, you can approach your car with an iPhone in your pocket, and it will unlock.

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