BMW to become the first automaker to use iPhone as a fully digital car key

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Leaving the house used to involve a mandatory 15-minute search for car keys. You will soon be able to grab your phone. Apple has announced a new digital car key solution for iPhone, and BMW will be the first brand to introduce it to drivers.

Announced at Apple’s annual World Developers Conference on Monday, the new system is compatible with iOS 13 and the upcoming iOS 14, and will be introduced for the first time in the BMW 5 2021 series in July. While keyless technology isn’t exactly new, this new iteration does more than just remotely open your bimmer’s door.

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The BMW Digital Key, which will live in a BMW application within the iPhone Wallet, uses a short-range wireless technology known as near-field communication (NFC). This allows drivers to simply touch the vehicle with their iPhone to gain access and start the engine by placing the phone on the charging tray.

BMW Apple Digital car key
BMW Apple Digital car key

But, the real game changer is that owners can share the key with up to five people through iMessage. By sharing, you can determine whether to grant full access or a restricted driving profile. Go for the latter and you can control the car’s top speed, horsepower, maximum radio volume and more, which is perfect if you let your kids try the new 5 series.

You also don’t have to worry about running out of juice. Thanks to a special power reserve function, BMW says the key will continue to work for up to five hours, even if the iPhone turns off due to a low battery. The key is also compatible with the Apple Watch if you find the iPhone cumbersome.

BMW Apple Digital car key
BMW Apple Digital car key

Apple is already working to make the system compatible with more cars and, unsurprisingly, it’s focusing primarily on security. The company is implementing secure hardware to ensure that the encryption keys that make the phone or watch talk to the car remain on the actual device. That means that no one else, not even Tim Cook, has access to that data. Digital keys can also be disabled directly from the phone, and if your phone is lost, vehicle access can be revoked through iCloud.

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