Apple's Digital Car Key Feature Will Soon Work With Your iPhone in Your Pocket

The Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that its Digital Key 3.0 specification with support for Ultra Wideband and Bluetooth LE connectivity is finalized and now available to members, including Apple.

bmw car key photo
In 2020, Apple introduced a digital car key feature that allows users to unlock and start a compatible vehicle by holding an iPhone or Apple Watch near the driver-side door. The feature is powered by the NFC-based Digital Key 2.0 specification, and once Apple moves to Digital Key 3.0, users will be able to unlock and start a compatible vehicle without needing to take their iPhone out of their pocket or bag.

The improved Ultra Wideband version of Apple's car key feature would require devices with the U1 chip like iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models.

Digital Key 3.0 also improves security, as Ultra Wideband's precise location awareness is said to prevent relay attacks, where the radio signal between the iPhone and vehicle is jammed or intercepted by another party. NFC support is maintained to ensure backward compatibility and, in Apple's case, the ability to use the car key feature to unlock a vehicle for up to five hours after an iPhone has run out of battery power.

Similar to credit cards and boarding passes, digital car keys are stored in the Wallet app on an iPhone or Apple Watch running iOS 13.6 or watchOS 6.2.8 or newer. So far, the feature is only compatible with select BMW models manufactured since July 2020, but a Korean report claimed that Hyundai plans to start offering the feature later this year.

Apple previously said the new version of its car key feature with Ultra Wideband support would be available in 2021, but the company did not provide an exact timeframe. BMW previously said its first vehicle with support for Digital Key 3.0 would be available in Europe starting in late 2021 and in North America by early 2022.

Top Rated Comments

Hajj.david Avatar
2 weeks ago

FWIW, if I approach my BMW with its BMW key in my pocket, The door(s) will unlock when I touch the door handle. It can be set to unlock all doors or just the driver's door. When I get out and walk away, the doors, will lock without me having to do anything but walk away.
Hard to see the iPhone/watch digital key improving on this.
Not having your key is the glaringly obvious improvement. One less thing to carry
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Saladin12 Avatar
2 weeks ago

Disagree...MORE KEYLESS ENTRIES=MORE HACKABLE ENTRIES=NO THANKS
I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure modern day car keys are more at risk of ‘hacking’ than this new digital key…
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmcbhi Avatar
2 weeks ago
FWIW, if I approach my BMW with its BMW key in my pocket, The door(s) will unlock when I touch the door handle. It can be set to unlock all doors or just the driver's door. When I get out and walk away, the doors, will lock without me having to do anything but walk away.
Hard to see the iPhone/watch digital key improving on this.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rymc02 Avatar
2 weeks ago

Disagree...MORE KEYLESS ENTRIES=MORE HACKABLE ENTRIES=NO THANKS
Keyless cars are stolen all the time in our neighborhood. They usually do it with a relay/repeater. One person stands near the house door and picks up the car key signal which most people leave near the door. A second person stands near the car that picks up the relay and sends it to the car. Boom, car is unlocked and ready to start. These devices are not expensive. If you only use your phone as your key, your primary car keys can always be kept in a safe place, preferably an aluminum box.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macpro2000 Avatar
2 weeks ago
A lot easier for your phone to die than your key.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Cheesehead Dave Avatar
2 weeks ago

A lot easier for your phone to die than your key.
One of the features of the specification is that it will still work even when your phone's battery is low, similar to express transit cards.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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