Affiliate Disclosure
If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read our ethics policy.

Google improves support for physical security keys on iOS

NFC and USB security keys will now work on iOS and iPadOS with Google login

Physical security keys are nothing new on iOS, but a new update announced Wednesday expands the use of keys with NFC and other new technologies for Google authentication.

Google has updated its apps and sites to support the latest W3C WebAuthn implementation for two-factor authentication, which has been supported natively by iOS since December. Following the update, users can utilize physical keys with the latest technologies to authenticate logins to their Google account.

The use of physical keys secure accounts has been commonplace for high-risk individuals like officials or journalists for a while, though not all services support them. Physical security keys look like small USB sticks, and can support a variety of connection types like USB-C, USB-A, Bluetooth, and NFC.

With Google's update, you can now utilize any of those devices, including ones made for Lightning ports, to natively authenticate logins on your iPhone or iPad. Adapters like the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter allow keys to work on devices without the proper ports as well. Previously, Google's services only worked with its own Bluetooth-based Titan key, which was only compatible with devices that had the Google Smart Lock app installed.

Google allows users to register their iPhone or Android device as a physical security key as well, which utilizes an app called Smart Lock. Apple itself introduced broad support for WebAuthn in Safari and WebKit browsers in iOS 13.3.

Google promotes use of its own Titan Security Key, which has built in NFC, but third party options like the YubiKey will work just as well.