BMW First Automaker to Use Apple as Car Key

BMW has reinforced its partnership with digital giant Apple to be the first automaker to offer vehicle owners to use their iPhone as a fully digital car key.

The BMW Digital Key for the iPhone claims to allow customers to just tap to unlock and start driving by placing the phone in a dedicated cabin tray and pushing the start button. Car owners can also share access with up to five friends including a configurable car access option for young drivers which restricts top speed, horse power, maximum radio volume and more. Management of access can be done from inside the car as well as through Apple Wallet.

Additional features of the digital key include:

  • Storage in the Secure Element of the iPhone and access through Apple Wallet;
  • Power reserve for the phone where car keys will still function for up to five hours if it turns off owing to low battery;
  • Ability to share access with up to five friends via iMessage;
  • Apple Watch compatibility.

Both companies say they have been working closely with the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) to press ahead with the establishment of global standards. The digital key specification 2.0 for NFC has been released in May 2020 while the next generation of key using Ultra Wideband technology is already well underway.

BMW says the availability of the digital key for iPhone applies to 45 countries and for a broad range of its models including: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4 if manufactured after July 1st 2020. Compatible iPhone models will be iPhone XR, iPhone XS or newer and Apple Watch Series 5 or newer.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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