iPhone and Apple Watch Becoming Digital Car Keys, Feature Rolling Out to BMW Customers Next Month
Following several leaks and rumors, Apple today confirmed that iOS 14 and watchOS 7 feature support for NFC-based digital car keys, allowing users to unlock and start their vehicle with a compatible iPhone or Apple Watch.
Similar to credit cards and boarding passes, digital car keys are stored in the Wallet app. To unlock your vehicle, you will simply need to bring your iPhone near the driver's side door. Once inside the vehicle, you will be able to place your iPhone on a reader or wireless charger to start your vehicle and drive, according to Apple.
For peace of mind, a power reserve feature allows the digital car keys to work for up to five hours after your iPhone battery runs out.
Apple says the feature will start rolling out to BMW customers next month, with support for the new 2021 5 Series at launch, and Apple hopes to expand the feature to other automakers over time. Apple will also make the feature available on iOS 13, and presumably watchOS 6, so that users can take advantage of it as soon as possible.
Apple also announced that it is already working on the next generation of digital car keys based on Ultra Wideband technology, which will allow users to unlock future car models without removing their iPhone from their pocket or bag. Apple expects this feature, which will utilize the U1 chip in iPhone 11 models, to become available next year.
iOS 14 and watchOS 7 are available in beta for registered Apple developers today, with public betas to follow next month. The free software updates will be released in the fall for the iPhone 6s or Apple Watch Series 3 and newer.
Update: BMW has announced that Apple's digital car key feature will be supported on a wide range of its vehicle models manufactured after July 1, 2020. Compatible devices include the iPhone XS/XR or newer and the Apple Watch Series 5 or newer.