During Apple’s iPhone 6 event back in September, Apple announced that the new smartphone and the upcoming Apple Watch would be able to unlock your hotel room door at select Starwood hotels. The rollout for the feature begins today.
It isn’t a full rollout just yet, but Starwood says that hotels under the Aloft, Element, and W Hotels brand will be seeing the technology starting today.
Since the technology to digitally unlock hotel room doors uses Bluetooth LE, all iPhones as old as the iPhone 4s can take advantage of this feature, as well as the Apple Watch when it eventually releases next year in the spring. This means that you don’t necessarily have to be an iPhone 6 owner in order to wirelessly unlock your hotel room door at a number of Starwood Hotel locations.
It’s certainly interesting that Apple and Starwood decided to use Bluetooth LE and not NFC to unlock hotel room doors, but considering that more devices can use the feature if it’s Bluetooth-enabled, it certainly makes sense that Bluetooth is the technology of choice, especially since the iPhone 6’s NFC chip is locked down to only use Apple Pay right now. However, that could change in the future.
It’s said that Apple is currently in talks with various companies about expanding NFC functionality, but potential uses have yet to be determined, although it’s said that Apple has already talked with HID Global and Cubic, who make electronic keycards for secure building access, as well as transit fare systems.
This could really only mean that the iPhone 6 could soon come with the ability to unlock hotel room doors using NFC and even pay public transit fares using the NFC chip as well.
This isn’t too surprising, considering the Apple partnership with Starwood Hotels allows iPhone users to unlock their hotel room door, which looks to be the wave of the future.
For now, the NFC chip inside of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is meant for use with Apple Pay only for now. Apple Pay allows you to store your credit card information on your iPhone and use it to buy stuff at any store that supports Apple Pay. The iPhone 6 has an NFC chip that allows you to tap the pay terminal at a store to instantly buy goods. Furthermore, doing this doesn’t give the store your credit card information, so you’re less susceptible to store hacks that steal credit card information, similar to the recent Home Depot and Target hacks.
Apple Pay also works with mobile shopping apps, allowing you to pay with a single touch of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in shopping apps that support the feature.
However, the new payment system has already seen its fair share of problems thus far. Some users have been getting double-charged when using Apple Pay at stores, with one user claiming he was charged twice while shopping at Whole Foods using his Bank of America debit card through Apple Pay. Bank of America notes that this particular problem is on their end and have been working on a fix.
Hopefully we do see more uses for the NFC chip in the iPhone 6, but for now, it seems Apple Pay will be the only use for a while.