Ford Schools Apple With Clever Phone Login App...Wait, What?

Ford wants to promote their keyfree car entry, so they created an app that solves password management on Macs.

I can’t pretend to understand the logic. Ford, like many other auto manufacturers, has embraced NFC key fobs, allowing you to unlock your car without fiddling with pesky keys. And to demonstrate it, they created one of the most awesome password tools for computers ever—one that has nothing at all to do with cars.

Ford Keyfree is a Chrome extension that stores passwords for Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Then, whenever you’re near your Mac using a pre-approved smartphone, the app can "unlock" these sites automatically via Bluetooth. Your phone serves as your ID, thanks to the unique identifiers already in Bluetooth.

In an actual use case scenario, this means you can sit down to your computer, and without hitting any buttons at all, log in to your social networks. It’s freaking magic.

I’m a diehard LastPass user, loving the service that autofills uniquely generated passwords into all websites for me. But now I’m incredibly jealous of this one-off app being marketed by a car company. Why can’t a LastPass app handle the entire process for me? Actually, scratch that, if I already own an iPhone and a Mac, why isn’t Apple doing this on its own? Talk about incentive to have a closed ecosystem…though, if two iPhone owners walked into a room with one Mac, exactly what would happen?

I have no idea why Ford, backed by Ogilvy Paris, released this app (other than to have stories like this written about it, of course), but I’m sure glad they did. Because Ford Keyfree is an elegant piece of work, no matter who’s behind it. And besides, all those tech companies are getting way too cocky for their own good.

As of today, the release is by Ford France, and I’m not spotting how exactly you can download it. An international version should be coming soon.

[Update: Many have noted, very reasonably, that Bluetooth isn’t the most secure of connections—Bluetooth IDs can be cloned/copied—which honestly may or may not matter in practice, depending on the tech-savviness of your family and coworkers, and whether your purpose of using a password is to protect your accounts from peers around you or complete strangers across the internet.]

[Hat tip: psfk]

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  • Reginald Perrin

    Apple didn't invent it? Because Steve Jobs is dead.
    Why did Apple make such mess of Final Cut Pro X? Steve Jobs was dying.
    Why did Apple make such a mess of the universally ridiculed release of the iphone 4s? Steve Jobs was dying.
    Why did apple make such a mess of their Lion version of OSX Server? Steve Jobs was dying.
    Why is Apple about to make the disastrous move of abandoning their professional users altogether by announcing the cancellation of the Mac Pro line? Because Steve Jobs is dead.
    Expect more idiocy from Apple soon.

  • Turingtest

    Let's examine that statement:
    1. Your phone should already have lock code and you should be using it if you are using your phone to access information you want to protect.
    2. Someone who steals your phone is more likely interested in its re-sale price on Craigslist than accessing your Facebook account. It will be wiped before being re-sold. 
    3.Don't know about Android, but IPhones can be wiped remotely if lost or stolen.
    4. Apple and other phone makers are planning to use biometric security on future models; more secure than lock codes. Your data even safer.

    This is an elegant and practical use of NFC that should be enjoyed and developed. Props to Ford for being an innovator.  

  • Geoff Rice

    This is a good start. Think about this one. In the future  you will purchase a car
    that  comes with all the options(fully loaded). The cost of the car will be around the mid-price point. The car company will sell you a subscription to use all the different options that come with the car. In order for you to use the options you must download an app that activates the option.
    They will give you a 60 trial for each option and once you get a taste you will either pay outright or pay a few dollars a month to keep using them.

  • Thibault Milan

    keyfreelogin just use bluetooth id, who is really easy to spoof . 2min search on google and you got it. Also it works only on mac osx AND google chrome AND store your password in CLEAR TEXT in a config file.

    So great ;)

  • Stephen Beck

    If you have to install the Chrome extension, chances are this is only ever useful on your own computer. So, don't most people either stay logged into Facebook and Twitter, or at very least, have 'remember me' set? Why do you need your smartphone to log you into websites on your computer? This seems like a bit of a useless product.

  • bonchampion

    This is only useless if you always leave your computer on (which is a bad thing). When I restart my computer, I have to log back in to services.

  • Brian Lowe

    No doubt the creative techie people at Ford are constantly coming up with smart innovative ideas that never see the light of day because nobody recognizes how broad a reach an idea might have if it could be applied outside of the car-shaped box.

    Some recently published research (can't think where - probably a bank) showed that keys and wallets rank less important than mobile phones in the "things I would never be without" stakes, so using the BlueTooth in a phone as a pseudo key seems like a good idea. I can see that they were probably thinking about an alternative to a car key, but the idea carries to any lock that can be 'unlocked' electronically or digitally.

    My Mazda has had NFC for years and I'm horrified that the list price for a replacement key runs to hundreds of pounds, when a BlueTooth pair would be a few pence. 

    I'm uncomfortable with the idea that a single token, whether it be a physical key, remembered password or digital code, could give a crook access to everything I own and my online identity, I'm happy with the notion of having my workstation computer bypass its usual request for a password when it can recognize that I'm close by. I'd still want another level of security when I access my online bank.

  • Sean Nel

    I agree with this one... Scary to think that if you walk into a coffeeshop, your phone gives access to anybody sitting near enough to you and opening up facebook...

  • Thibault Milan

    not only for french , it's just this is the ford french division who launch the product ;)

  • xahdica

    It would be kind of awesome to sit down at your computer, your phone locks, and you have to unlock your phone to allow these websites.

  • lefty.crupps


    So, basically it connects NFC IDs with a password manager.  Why do i want this?  So you can steal my keys, my car, and my online identity all at once?

    Only Apple Fanbois seem to like trading convenience for, well, anything else.


  • Thibault Milan

    it connect bluetooth Id, like mac adress, not only for iphone, you may can use a headset to do this things. 

    And thank for your constructive comment, it's so easy to bully creative and innovating people.

  • Annie Monfort

    It makes a lot of sense conceptually as a form of promotion for this feature. They are getting people familiarized with the idea of just walking up to a locked "device" and immediately having access. It's also solving a common problem and annoyance in everyday life, which gives me perceptions that Ford as a brand is working to make my life more convenient and that they have great technology capabilities that I may not have been as apt to believe before. Ford has holistically added new perceptions about their brand by looking at metaphorical similarities between their features and every day life. It's really quite brilliant in a subtle way.