If you’ve ever tried to use your smartphone as a hotel room key, it hasn’t been the best experience. First, you need to unlock your phone, open an app, then activate the room key to use it.
Now, with a new iPhone feature called Room Key in Apple Wallet, the process is much more streamlined, making the phone even better than plastic.
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First, you need to authorize your phone one time to use the new feature. This links up the Hyatt app with your device.
From there, you can check into your room right from the app. Your phone will let you know when your room and room key are ready.
Once you get a notification that your room is ready, you get the option to add your room key to Apple Wallet. This is the same place that stores your airline boarding passes, reward cards and credit cards.
Once your key is in Apple Wallet, you can see your room number on the key.
My first test of the new system came in the elevator, where I had to tap my room key to access my floor. Historically, with an app, this process has been tricky. You need to have the app opened and the card activated just in time before the doors close or the elevator starts moving.
With my room key in Apple Wallet, I didn’t even have to unlock my phone. I just held it near the reader and it instantly recognized my key.
If you’re worried about security, you can toggle Express Mode in the settings, to require you to unlock your phone before using the key. Personally, I believe this is unnecessary because if someone got ahold of your phone they wouldn’t be able to see your room number unless the phone was unlocked anyway.
Next, I made it to my room, pulled out my phone and unlocked the door. The process takes just a fraction of a second and it’s much easier than fumbling with a plastic room key.
The process works the same way if you have an Apple Watch, and the digital key can also be used to unlock other doors in the hotel like the gym or pool.
Overall, it’s going to be tough to ever use a plastic key again after trying out this new method using the iPhone. There’s no plastic key to lose and there’s no worry that your key will be demagnetized and stop working.
Also, you might leave your plastic key behind in the room, but you’re unlikely to leave your phone behind, which means your key is always with you.
And, if you’re worried about your phone battery going dead and being locked out of your room, they’ve thought of that too. The iPhone has a feature called Power Reserve which will continue to power your digital room key for about 5 hours after the battery on your phone dies.
Add it all up and it’s clear, the days are numbered for plastic room keys.
The transformation won’t happen overnight. It takes a bit of effort for hotels to upgrade their lock systems to take advantage of the new system, which will eventually be offered by Android as well. This new and improved system uses NFC, as opposed to Bluetooth, which powers digital keys inside hotel room apps.