CarKey Screenshots Reveal Digital Keys in Wallet App, BMW Likely to Support Feature at Launch

MacRumors recently discovered that Apple is developing a new "CarKey" feature that will allow an iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock, lock, and start an NFC-compatible vehicle. Just like credit cards and boarding passes, users will be able to add a digital car key to the Wallet app, eliminating the need to use a physical car key or key fob.

CarKey will allow users to approach their vehicle, hold their iPhone or Apple Watch near an NFC reader in the vehicle, authenticate with Face ID, and have the vehicle unlock automatically. Similar to Apple Pay at transit turnstiles, Express Mode would be an option, eliminating the need to authenticate with Face ID or a passcode.

Earlier this week, screenshots of what appears to be the CarKey interface surfaced on Twitter, providing us with our first look at the upcoming feature.

carkey screenshots


As expected, a digital car key appears as a card in the Wallet app. Tapping on the card reveals info such as the car model, issuing automaker, a toggle switch for Express Mode, and an option to share a car key with other users. When sharing a car key, the primary user can provide others with three levels of access, including the ability to unlock the trunk only, unlock the vehicle, or unlock the vehicle and drive it.

MacRumors uncovered that users will be able to share CarKeys using the Messages app. Shared access to CarKeys can be permanent for trusted individuals, such as a family member or friend, or temporary for someone like a valet driver.

It appears that Apple will be partnering with automakers for this initiative, suggesting that CarKey could roll out in a similar manner as CarPlay. Based on the screenshots above and iOS code strings seen by MacRumors, it looks likely that luxury car brand BMW will be one of the first automakers to support the feature, as 9to5Mac noted earlier.

BMW teased the future of digital keys in a press release last year:

Today, it is already possible to lock and unlock the vehicle, start the engine and share the key with others using the BMW Digital Key as part of BMW Connected on the smartphone. But this is only the first step in a global technological transformation being shaped and led by the BMW Group.

Apple is a member of the Car Connectivity Consortium, which recently announced an NFC-based Digital Key 2.0 specification that it said would be made available by the end of 2019. The consortium said this specification establishes a secure connection between mobile devices and vehicles using NFC, even when a compatible device's battery is low.

Next, the consortium is developing a Digital Key 3.0 specification based on both Bluetooth LE and Ultra Wideband to enable passive, location-aware keyless access. This would allow you to leave your iPhone in your pocket or backpack when accessing or starting your vehicle. iPhone 11 models are equipped with an Apple-designed U1 chip with Ultra Wideband support, so Apple could choose to offer this functionality.

It is unclear when Apple plans to make CarKey available to the public. The feature is not activated in iOS 13.4, released earlier this week. CarKey could be introduced in a future update to iOS 13 or held until iOS 14, which should be previewed in June.

Top Rated Comments

ersan191 Avatar
15 months ago
Idk about these screenshots, it’s not like Apple to misspell “trunk”. Spacing is all messed up too.

“Express mode” is a terrible name and the description just makes it even more confusing.

These are pretty obviously fake.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Led-zep Avatar
15 months ago
Finally have a reason to drive my I8
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
incoherent_1 Avatar
15 months ago
I really really hope this feature gets extended to all NFC keycards and fobs for accessing buildings too.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Anonymous Freak Avatar
15 months ago

1. Why isn't this in all cars already?! Cmon Apple, BMW first? For real? How about you pick a company that starts with a more blue collar kind of demographic?
Probably because that's who was willing to work with them early.

I own the "least BMW BMW" - the funky city electric i3. I'd love to have this, but knowing BMW, it certainly won't be coming to existing vehicles, only new ones. (I mean, they charged an annual fee to use CarPlay until just a couple months ago.)
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
now i see it Avatar
15 months ago
Finally. Using an actual key has been such a burden for 70 years
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BWhaler Avatar
15 months ago
I want this to come to the Apple Watch. That would be amazing.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
tracking disabled ios 14 5

Analytics Suggest 96% of Users Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

Friday May 7, 2021 1:51 am PDT by
An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple's App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5. According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
snapchat dark mode

Snapchat Rolls Out Dark Mode on iOS

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:17 am PDT by
Nearly two years following the release of iOS and iPadOS 13, which included native, built-in, and systemwide dark mode, Snapchat, one of the world's most prominent social media networks, has finally rolled out a dark mode theme for iOS users. Snapchat began testing a dark mode theme of its app design late last year with a small group of iOS users. Now, Snapchat says that as of this week, it...
netflix sign up

Apple Discussed 'Punitive Measures' Against Netflix for Dropping In-App Purchases

Wednesday May 5, 2021 11:03 am PDT by
As the Epic Games v. Apple trial progresses into its third day, Apple's internal documents and communications with various companies are continuing to surface, giving us some insight into the dealings that Apple has had around the App Store. Back in December 2018, Netflix stopped offering in-app subscription options for new or resubscribing members and instead began requiring them to sign up ...
iphone 12 preorder purple

Apple Begins Transition to Randomized Serial Numbers With Purple iPhone 12

Wednesday May 5, 2021 9:17 am PDT by
MacRumors previously reported about Apple's plan to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021, and this transition has now started with the new purple iPhone 12 model in multiple countries. With assistance from Aaron Zollo, host of the YouTube channel ZolloTech, we can confirm that the purple iPhone 12 released last month has a new 10-character serial...
airtag 1

AirTag Anti-Stalking Measures 'Just Aren't Sufficient' Says Washington Post Report

Wednesday May 5, 2021 6:03 pm PDT by
The safeguards that Apple built into AirTags to prevent them from being used to track someone "just aren't sufficient," The Washington Post's Geoffrey Fowler said today in a report investigating how AirTags can be used for covert stalking. Fowler planted an AirTag on himself and teamed up with a colleague to be pretend stalked, and he came to the conclusion that the AirTags are a "new means...
iphone 13 pro max dummy notch

iPhone 13 Pro Max Dummy Model Depicts Smaller Notch

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 13 models are expected to feature a slimmed down notch, marking the first major change to the TrueDepth camera system since it was introduced in the 2017 iPhone X. We're still months away from the launch of the iPhone 13, but Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy managed to get an iPhone 13 Pro Max dummy model that represents what we can expect from the new 2021 device. Dummy...
iPad Pro July Shipping

12.9-Inch iPad Pro Now Delivers as Late as Mid-July

Wednesday May 5, 2021 7:10 am PDT by
While the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is set to launch in the second half of May, orders placed today are estimated for delivery as late as mid-July on Apple's online store in the United States — some two months later. The new 11-inch iPad Pro is faring better so far, with some configurations available for delivery in the last week of May. The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro features a Liquid Retina XDR ...