BMW Digital Key: iPhone as car key

5 min reading time
In cooperation with Apple, BMW is the first car maker in the world to offer customers a digital car key on their iPhone. In the future, you will be able to set up a car key on a compatible iPhone and share it with up to five friends. Here’s how the BMW Digital Key works.

2 December 2020

How does this sound?

You can also listen to this article via Changing Lanes, the official BMW podcast. 

Apart from this and other narrated articles, Changing Lanes offers you fresh new episodes every week, packed with exclusive insights on tech, lifestyle, design, cars, and more – brought to you by hosts Sara and Jonathan. 

Find and subscribe to Changing Lanes on all major podcasting platforms.

Activate push notifications

Innovative mobility, exciting trends for the future and high RPMs: Subscribe now to get notified of new content.

Subscription successful.

Subscription failed.

If you need help follow the link for support.

A milestone in sheer driving pleasure: you can now use your Apple iPhone as a key for your compatible BMW, while enjoying maximum security and data protection. Read on to find out more about the new BMW Digital Key.

What is the BMW Digital Key?

The digital car key on your compatible iPhone allows you to conveniently and securely lock, unlock, and even start your BMW.

From now on you can use your iPhone as a key with a compatible BMW, with maximum security and data protection guaranteed. If your iPhone happens to run out of battery, you can still unlock and start your vehicle for up to five hours. If you turn your iPhone off manually, the BMW Digital Key will only work once you turn your device back on.

How and where can I get the BMW Digital Key?

The following vehicles built from summer 2020 or later are compatible with the BMW Digital Key (not all models are available in all markets).

  • The 1
  • The 2
  • The 3
  • The 4
  • The 5
  • The 6
  • The 8
  • The X5
  • The X6
  • The X7
  • The M3
  • The M4
  • The M5
  • The M8
  • The X5 M
  • The X6 M
  • The iX3

The following devices are compatible with BMW Digital Key: iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max or later, and Apple Watch Series 5 or later. BMW Digital Key will require iOS 13.6 and WatchOS 6.2.8. or later.

To see whether your vehicle is compatible, you can use the My BMW App. Use your compatible iPhone to log into the app with your BMW ID and add your vehicle to your account, if it is not already shown on your account. If you see a section marked “Digital Key” on the ”Vehicle tab”, then your vehicle is compatible. After you setup Digital Key, you will still be able to use your Digital Key even if you uninstall the My BMW App.

How do I set up the BMW Digital Key?

If both your iPhone and your car are compatible, you can set up a Digital Key. If your BMW is not already linked to a BMW ID, use the My BMW App to add it to an existing BMW ID or to create a new BMW ID. First, create a BMW ID and use the My BMW App to add your vehicle. To begin the setup process, access the Digital Key menu in the app. For security reasons, you must be sitting in your car and have both of your regular car keys with you in order to prove that you are the owner. 

Press the Start Pairing button, follow the instructions in the My BMW App menu, and place your iPhone in the smartphone tray with the NFC sensor, and you’re done! Your Digital Key will then be stored in the Apple Wallet app.

How does the BMW Digital Key work?

In order to unlock the driver’s door using the Digital Key, you must hold the top of your iPhone near the door handle (around 1.5 inches) until you see “Done” and a checkmark on the display”. Your iPhone will only unlock the driver’s side door. 

Using your BMW Digital Key for the first time is easy. Just place your iPhone in the smartphone tray of your vehicle and press the start/stop button.

Thanks to the preset Express Mode, your iPhone doesn’t need to be unlocked before opening the door or starting the car. You can disable this function manually, in which case identification via FaceID, TouchID or passcode is required to unlock and start the BMW.

And if someone else wants to drive your car, you can authorize up to five other people to use your BMW. All you need to do is send them an invitation from your iPhone’s Wallet App to add them as a user. You can revoke this permission at any time. Only the original driver’s key (“main key”) can be shared; shared keys cannot be passed on to others”.

When you share your BMW Digital Key, you can choose the type of access you grant to others. You can also modify the access you grant others when you share your BMW Digital Key with them. You can grant full access or, if your son or daughter is learning to drive for example, you can check a box to limit their access. They will then have a restricted access, which limits how fast they can go and ensures that the Dynamic Stability Control and Intelligent Safety cannot be deactivated. The restrictions available vary depending on the vehicle you have.

Safety and data security: how safe is the BMW Digital Key?

The digital key is saved in the Secure Element on your iPhone. The near-field communication technology guarantees a high level of data protection, since the sender and receiver must be in close proximity to communicate.

BMW Digital Key: 5 FAQs

What are the requirements for the digital car key? Is a permanent internet connection necessary? And what happens if your iPhone’s battery runs out? We answer the most important questions.

What do I need for the BMW Digital Key?

The Comfort Access option (SA 322), active Connected Drive Services on your BMW, a compatible iPhone and an established link between your BMW vehicle and your BMW ID (via the latest version of the My BMW App). 

The list of compatible iPhones and operating system versions may vary for different car models and software. You can view the list on the BMW website. You only need an internet connection to set up the Digital Key. Once it has been set up, no active internet connection is required in order to unlock the driver’s door and start the engine. After you’ve opened the door, you must place your iPhone in the smartphone tray to start the car.

Can I use more than one iPhone as my main key?

No. Each user can only have one iPhone as their main key. But you can authorize up to five other people to use your BMW by simply sending them an invitation from your iPhone. Every user who has access (i.e. the owner of the car and up to five others) can also activate an Apple Watch that is linked to the iPhone as an alternative key. In this case, two keys for the invited friends are displayed in the key list in the vehicle.

What happens to the Digital Key when I sell my car?

Before you sell your car, you should reset the Digital Key in your car under “Settings”, “Doors and Windows”, “Digital Key.”

I’ve lost my iPhone or I’d like to remove another user. What do I do?

If you still have access to the vehicle, you can reset the digital key there, which deletes the key. Just go to “Settings”, “Doors and Windows”, “Digital Key.” There are three ways you can remove other users. Each user can delete themselves. The owner can delete users through their iPhone. In this case, the deleted user’s key will be deactivated as soon as another person’s key is used. Users can also be deleted directly from the vehicle’s menu.

How do I use the KeyCard?

The KeyCard can be used independently of the digital key on your iPhone. The KeyCard is deactivated when it leaves the factory. In order to reactivate it, you need a regular car key or an active digital key. Just place the KeyCard in the smartphone holder and follow the instructions on the vehicle’s display.

Photos: BMW; Author: Markus Löblein