Your iPhone is about to become a BMW car key

By topgear, 24 June 2020

Calling all iPhone owners – Apple has announced that as of next month you’ll be able to use your phone (or watch) as a car key.

BMW is the first manufacturer to support the new ‘Digital Key’ tech, which uses NFC and ought to work with most cars it builds from 1 July specced with ‘Comfort Access’ and ‘Connected Drive Services’. You’ll need an iPhone XR/Apple Watch Series 5 or newer.

We already tried the whole authorise/unlock/start car shebang with an Android phone last year, and it works a treat... check it out in the video above.

And while loads of other manufacturers have apps for unlocking/starting their cars, Apple's is apparently different because it’s baked into the iPhone’s operating system and uses the native Wallet app. This gives much better security and integration.

For example, you can share access to your car with up to five people through iMessage, and for each ‘key’ limit top speed, radio volume and so-on. You can deactivate these other keys at any time, and if your phone goes missing revoke access to the car entirely through iCloud.

You do have to use BMW’s app to set it up. But once that’s done you just tap your phone/watch on the door handle and authenticate with your face or thumb print, just like you would using Apple Pay to buy something in a shop. To start the car, simply pop your phone on the wireless charging pad.

Apple is working on a new standard to make the tech work more seamlessly (so you don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket or bag) and with more cars. It’ll use ‘Ultra Wideband’ tech and be available sometime next year.

Confused? Us too.

STORY Tom Harrison

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