Car Key Fobs Are Being Rendered Useless by Apple Pencils’ Wireless Charging Frequencies

Think your key fob battery's dead? Think again, you might be carrying an Apple Pencil 2 on you.

If you’re a creative (or Apple fanatic), you may have purchased an Apple Pencil to use alongside your brand new iPad Pro. While there are many happy users who have no issues with their devices, a small group of people must have noticed a problem when trying to unlock their cars—enough of a problem to prompt Apple to update its support site to warn second-generation Apple Pencil owners of a new feature bug that prevents automotive key fobs from working when in the vicinity of the writing utensil being charged.

Specifically, here’s what Apple’s support documentation has to say about the phenomenon:

“If you’re charging your Apple Pencil (second-generation) with your iPad Pro and your car’s keyless entry device (key fob) is nearby, signal interference might prevent you from unlocking your car with your key fob.” 

The documentation later continues, “When Apple Pencil is finished charging, any resulting signal interference will cease.”

The Apple Pencil 2 charges wirelessly when placed against the iPad Pro, via Apple

Unlike the original Apple Pencil (which charges after it is plugged into the lightning port of an iPad), the Apple Pencil 2 charges wirelessly when magnetically attached to the latest generation iPad Pro. This actual act of charging is what Apple says is the culprit behind the interference.

According to a patent filed by Apple, the Apple Pencil 2’s wireless capacitive inductive charging may operate at a “frequency of 900 MHz or greater to produce wireless power,” far from the 315 MHz used by key fobs for North American-made cars and 434 MHz in European and Asian cars. However, when conflicting frequencies are generated during charging, some key fobs (which aren’t identified by the support article) simply can’t communicate effectively with their cars.

Though no permanent fix is offered, Apple recommends that users experiencing this problem move their key fob away from the iPad and charging Pencil, or store the Apple Pencil separately from the iPad Pro.

I can’t help but to reminisce to 2010-esque Apple when “antennagate” had a similar fix: just stop holding the phone wrong.