BMW Leads Industry with Digital Key for iPhone

 Caleb Cook

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Photo: BMW

Drivers of selected new BMW models can now take advantage of Digital Key for iPhone to unlock a vehicle’s doors and start the engine.

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Digital Key technology securely connects smart devices with vehicles through the use of Near Field Communication, or NFC. Some automakers already offer this capability for Android devices, but BMW is the first one to extend it to the iPhone.

According to BMW, certain cars and SUVs that were built July 1 and after come with Digital Key for iPhone support. Eligible vehicles available in the U.S. include:

  • The 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8 Series
  • The X5, X6, and X7
  • The M5, M8, X5 M, and X6 M
  • The Z4

BMW’s Digital Key tech is compatible with devices dating back to iPhone XR. Apple Watch Series 5 and newer devices are also compatible.

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How to use BMW Digital Key for iPhone

To access Digital Key, drivers need to activate ConnectedDrive Services, have the regular keys on hand, and associate their vehicle’s BMW ID with the BMW Connected App. From there, it’s easy to pair an iPhone. The key itself will show up in the Apple Wallet app. It’s saved in the phone’s Secure Element to ensure privacy and protection.

To use Digital Key for iPhone, users can simply hold the device about an inch away from the driver’s side door handle. Once the vehicle is unlocked, a checkmark and a message reading “Done” will show up on the screen. To start the engine, all drivers need to do is put the iPhone in the vehicle’s smartphone tray and push the start button.

BMW Digital Key for iPhone
Photo: BMW

The iPhone doesn’t need to be unlocked to perform either of these tasks. However, if additional security is desired, drivers can change the settings to require unlocking via facial recognition, fingerprint, or passcode. For extra peace of mind, Digital Key also works for up to five hours after the iPhone’s battery dies.

BMW Digital Key for iPhone can be shared with up to five other drivers. To do this, the owner must send an invitation from Apple Wallet. To ensure security, invited users can’t share their Digital Key copies with anyone else. The vehicle owner can revoke access to shared keys as well.

Digital Key for iPhone offers plenty of extra convenience for existing BMW owners, but its importance goes beyond that. With millions of iPhones in use across the U.S., this new technology is likely to provide BMW with a significant advantage in the highly competitive luxury vehicle market.